Heathfield Farm is a relatively new chain pub/restaurant just off the roundabout at the top of Whitehall Road as you head toward Birkenshaw.
It’s all very neat and freshly landscaped, so at the moment it still actually looks like its brochure pictures, although I am sure as time passes it will develop that more comfortable ‘lived-in’ look.
It’s in a good spot, too, as there is plenty of on-site parking and if that’s not available, there’s a side road which has thusfar escaped the dreaded double-yellers.
Scenically, too, it gets another tick, because directly opposite is an actual bona fide farm, with horses roaming in a field and a donkey in the distance, all of which makes you feel as though you’re half way to being in the countryside. So far, so good.
Before I tell you what I actually think of Heathfield Farm, let me tell you what I thought I’d think as I walked in. It put me in mind of the Lawnswood Arms or perhaps the Toby Carvery in Horsforth. Carpeted floor, identikit food, kids everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Lawnswood or the Eleventh Earl, because they do a great job (and they get my custom on a fairly regular basis, because I know that if I’ve got the kids with me, the service is going to be fast, the food good and there’s always a shed load of napkins when it comes to the point in the meal where one of the little darlings spills their juice.
So, I thought Heathfield was going to be a bit like that: functional.
When my ploughman’s came, I cannot tell you how happy I was
Functional it is but it’s also so much more. For starters, there’s the service, which is top notch for a place which is relatively new to the scene. Staff are not just polite but actually good at their jobs - it feels like they’ve been there for years.
We were shown to our table immediately and this made for the first surprise of the day, because it meant walking past a cake cabinet like no other. I know some restaurants like to do big showpiece cakes but they’ve taken this to a new level here, with cakes the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk wouldn’t sniff at. I counted FIVE TIERS on somed, with cream and chocolate in between. Seriously, they are gargantuan. So, as I reluctantly peeled my eyes away from them (making a mental note to definitely get one), we passed the carvery, an equally impressive mish-mash of all the usual Sunday dinner suspects.
For some reason, however, I wasn’t in carvery mood (although my wife was, so I shall report now that hers was superb, with an option to have two Yorkshire puddings and two full-size pigs in blankets, all in at £8.99).
But I wanted to test them and I have to say I was tempted by the minted lamb shank pie, the giant sausage and mash, the concept crushing ploughman’s burger (yup, it’s a ploughmans and a burger in a bun) and many other dishes from the a la carte menu.
In the end, though, perhaps it was the fact it was a hot, summer’s day or that we could see the horses frolicking in the field opposite our window, I went for the Ultimate Ploughman’s: hand-carved gammon ham, sausage roll and wedges of Stilton and Cheddar served with pickled onion chutney, piccalilli, pickled onion, apple, dressed salad garnish, coleslaw and a cottage loaf with butter.
Now, I’ve had plenty of ploughman’s in my time and I have to say that most of the time, they’re a letdown. Some places try to get away with giving you half a pork pie or a few wedges of apple or a teeny weeny bowl of coleslaw.
When my dish came, I cannot tell you how happy I felt. Part of me just wanted to stare at it for a long time. (Yes, I took a picture). It was HUGE. The sausage roll was handmade, the pastry flaking away to reveal a hot, well peppered sausagemeat interior, the ham was fresh cut from the carvery and there didn’t scrimp on it either. There was a whole apple and a pickled onion almost as big, with two massive chunks of cheese, a proper portion of coleslaw and an entire loaf of bread (a small one, but still), all of which made for one of the most enjoyable and impressive dishes I’ve eaten in a long time. The fact it appeared in what I had mistakenly thought would be a run of the mill chain restaurant makes it even more praiseworthy. And just £7.99! Bargain.
Afterwards, I was the opposite of famished. Now, because we were going out directly afterwards and it was a hot day, this meant I was unable to take them up on their ‘cake away’ offer, even though I sorely wanted to.
I neglected to mention we also had starters (Southern Fried Chicken Goujons, £4.49 and Prawn Cocktail, £4.69), a kids double cheeseburger (£4.29), kids jacket potato (£3.99)and a dessert to chare: the lemon cheesecake (£4.49) and get this: all that for £38.93. The whole meal, with drinks only came to a smidge over £50, which is exceptional, astonishing value.
The staff were eagle eyed, attentive, focused and went out of their way to be helpful. I’ll be going back and not just for the colossal cakes.
FACTFILE - HEATHFIELD FARM, BIRKENSHAW
Address: Whitehall 26 Business Park, Heathfield Lane, Birkenshaw BD11 2HW
Opening times: Mon-Thurs 10am-9pm, Fri-Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 8am-9pm
Telephone: 01274 449974