« We’re a book shop that has a coffee shop, » said Astley Book Farm owner Vivienne Mills.
For 18 years, the attraction located in the lanes between Nuneaton and Bedworth has become a fixture for people wanting to pick up anything from a children’s book to a George Eliot novel.
At any one point in time, there’s 80,000 books on-site and a further 150,000 in storage facilities.
While we would later spend time walking through the two levels of literature, we weren’t here to pick up a paperback or peruse the hardbacks.
As Vivienne informed us, the drive and focus of the business will also be in the written word, but their coffee, cakes and food have developed a strong reputation in its own right – and that was before it revealed its latest new attraction.
A 30-foot wide yurt has been assembled in the courtyard next to the cafe and a single photograph loaded onto the book farm’s Facebook page attracted more than 1,000 likes and 500 comments.
It struck a chord with people on social media and created intrigue, so I went along to see it for myself.
From the outside, it’s not particularly extravagant. It reminded me of a smaller pod at a musical festival and didn’t give much away as to what you would experience inside.
Not a whiff of pretence
Once you step through the doorway, the attention to detail is all around you. From the hardwood flooring to the formidable tables and chairs plus the log burner in the centre that rises to the top of the yurt.
It’s light and homely, with not a whiff of pretence. It’s in keeping with the feel of the venue, which is part of the Arbury estate.
« I think people only associate our kind of offer with the south of the county, » added Vivienne. « But we’re very much in the north.
“The yurt was hard to source as everyone wanted to do this kind of thing when the Covid-19 regulations changed but this is something we’ve had in mind for a long time and hasn’t been created because of the pandemic. »
There’s certainly a feel of permanence inside the yurt. This wasn’t a hastily erected covering to get punters back in. Each person who arrived, you could see a smile appear on their face as they took in their surroundings and looked up to the natural light pouring in from above.
The hot drink menu isn’t extensive but covers the main areas and we had no complaints with our flat white and caramel latte we ordered inside that were then brought out to us in a matter of minutes.
Similarly with the hot food menu, there isn’t an abundance of choice and nor is it particularly in line with modern food trends, but I actually found it appealing to not see a sourdough, avocado or dirty fries option in sight. Instead, the focus is on simplicity, quality and execution.
I kept it simple for our brunchtime arrival with their ‘award-winning back bacon’ sandwich on granary bread (white is an option) while my partner opted for the double cheese toastie while our daughter had the sausage sandwich – with her dad hoping she left a quarter for review purposes!
The quality of the lightly-buttered granary bread was perfect for the three rashers of delicious bacon within. It’s hard to wax lyrical about a feed that has only three ingredients (with a pot of sauce on the side), but it really felt like a treat, especially eating it in the unique surroundings.
My partner’s toastie had contrasting shades of melted cheese oozing out of the side that combined perfectly with the fluffy and light granary bread that was equally as appealing when heated.
Served on a chopping board, you get a plate full too with a large side salad, a pot of coleslaw, crisps and a pot of pickles. Priced at £8.95, you get value for money before factoring in the setting.
You’d be selling yourself short if you visited Astley Book Farm and didn’t sample a treat from their gigantic cake display.
We opted for the salted caramel and carrot cake and it was a battle of three forks until every last scrap was gone. In particular, the carrot cake was pure indulgence, with the kind of buttercream to cake ratio I applaud!
There’s plenty of room to sit inside the cafe, and there’s tables outside too which is a great spot when the sun is shining, but the yurt just added an extra dimension to our visit.
We left content having perused the book farm too, with a couple of new bed-time reads for our daughter to enjoy.
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