If you live in Spalding, or visit as a tourist, you’re bound to make a beeline for Ayscoughfee Hall. It dates from the mid-15th century and is a Grade I listed building. Whilst the hall features a museum and is home to many events and exhibitions, its gardens are often the main draw. There’s nothing better than taking a seat in Ayscoughfee Hall Cafe whilst admiring the beautiful gardens. There’s a splendid yew tree walk dating back to the 1720s, a peace garden, tennis courts, bowling green and children’s playground. The ornamental lake features, at its head, a war memorial designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
At the beginning of September, Dougie and I popped into Ayscoughfee Hall gardens and headed to the cafe. It was a hot day so we thought we’d just buy an ice-cream. We hadn’t realised Ayscoughfee Hall Cafe was under new management: Ellie Clay and Sarah Hall had taken over the reins since the beginning of July.
After drooling over the menu for a few minutes, we decided we could have ice cream anytime. Instead, Dougie ordered tiger prawns with cherry tomatoes and I chose a delicious chicken and bacon salad with seriously good dressing. This was posh nosh at sensible prices. We lapped up the food and soaked up the views.
We’d been planning to return to try out the winter menu when I noticed the cafe was sporting a new website designed by local company, 79DESIGN. Customers can now see the available menus and check out photos of the food. 79DESIGN gave my blog a makeover a few years ago and its director, Simon Lewis, has given me excellent support with the running of my site ever since. Ayscoughfee Hall Cafe’s new website is in very good hands. Chatting to Simon about the new site, we arranged to meet at Ayscoughfee for a cuppa. An ideal opportunity to chat to my website guru and be introduced to the team behind the new-look cafe.
Sitting with Ellie and Sarah in the revamped interior, they have a clear vision of what they want the cafe to provide for customers. The white, bright decor is fresh and chic. The girls are passionate about serving fresh, locally-sourced produce. With bread from local favourite, Pacey’s Bakery and meat from Spalding’s own Bennetts Butchers, customers can be reassured that the food is top quality.
Together with talented chef, Paul Boulding, they have created a fabulous breakfast and lunch offering. You can start the day with a full English or maybe smashed avocado. Pop in at lunch time and try Italian tascas with a side of chunky chips. There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. The team are happy to cater for food intolerances – just give them a call to check.
All the dishes are made from scratch. Paul even makes his own crisps: I checked them out and they were superb. He also, incredibly, has his own baked beans recipe for the breakfast menu.
The cafe operation is quite the family affair. Ellie’s mum, Sarah, can be found in the kitchen and the family farm, J.C. Clay of Whaplode, provides the potatoes and onions. Paul’s wife, Nicola, is the domestic goddess behind all the sweet treats on offer. There were some tempting Christmas-themed cakes and biscuits available when we visited: ideal accompaniment to the excellent coffee and teas.
Sarah and Ellie have plans to increase the size of Ayscoughfee Hall Cafe in the winter months by adding a gazebo-style ‘snug’. In the meantime, if you want to be sure of a table, it might be best to book, especially at weekends.
The girls explained they are very doggie-friendly: biscuits are available for the discerning pooch in your life. Cyclists are also very welcome as bikes can be securely parked outside. Who wouldn’t want a pit-stop after a dog walk or bike ride in these idyllic surroundings.
I can’t wait to take Dougie back to try out the winter specials, though I’m tempted to give the new Afternoon Tea a go. Either way, we’re assured of delicious food and drink and warm hospitality.
If I’ve given you food for thought, you can find opening hours, menus and tasty snaps on the new Ayscoughfee Hall Cafe website: www.ayscoughfeehallcafe.co.uk. The cafe is closed now for the Christmas period, reopening on 6 January 2020. I might have to make it my New Year’s resolution to have regular helpings…