Northney appears to be pure 1950s’ Britain. Crossing the Hayling Island bridge and turning left you are transported to a gentler world where plentiful cows graze and chickens scratch.
True to form, Northney Farm is a 100-year-old family-run business specialising in cows, milk, fine ice cream and eggs. But these are not just any old cow, they’re Ayrshires, a big, bold creature with a capacity to produce 6,000 litres of milk per year.
The Pike family has 120 of the beauties and sells their produce locally as well as in their handsome red-tiled, dark wood barn – the Northney Tea Rooms, which is now in its third year.
The Tea Rooms are run by James, one of three Pike sons. Sit outdoors with views of cows and sea or in the barn boasting a pitched roof, oak-beamed ceiling and walls, three chandeliers, daffodils and pictures of family farming, both past and present.
The farm also produces peas, maize and wheat – some of which is exported to Italy for pasta.
You can taste the farm’s potatoes here too, as jackets loaded with fillings including coronation chicken, and maybe in a soup with home-made bread, are on offer.
You can enjoy home-made quiche, buck rarebit, and a ploughman’s lunch with local cheeses from Hampshire (Loosehanger), local ham and homemade chutney with salad and some of the tearoom’s own bread.
Many vegetables and fruit come from its sister business, Stoke Fruit Farm. James also offers Three Harbours beef from Langstone, Chichester and Pagham in the shape of a beefburger with salad. The beef from the free range cows is raised on salt-tinted, herbal-rich marshes and is sold locally for those seeking quality, local meat.
As a fan of Three Harbours, this had to be tried. Made to order, it took a while to make it to the table but it was certainly worth the wait.
The dense, thick, scrumptious patty demonstrated that most burgers are a pale imitation of the real thing. The bun was excellent as was a perky, crisp salad with snappy red pepper and cucumber – a tasteless tomato was the only downside.
Ice cream is the thing here to follow such luscious meat. A range of flavours are on offer including vanilla, rum and raisin, chocolate and mint.
A gelato I endured recently demonstrated that the maker was unfamiliar with the genre, resulting in iced wateriness.
Here, Tim, the ice cream maker, understands the art of the real McCoy.
Creamy, rich, thick, and made with full fat milk and cream.
My rum and raisin outscored the vanilla, which was hardly present.
Neither scoop was too sweet either, a distinct bonus which allowed the flavours to come through.
There are home-made cakes and scones to choose from, as well as proper coffees including ristretto.
Prices? From £3.95 for soup and quiche to £4.95 for that burger, my bill coming to £9 including a beer.
Many farmers have had to think laterally to survive. Farm diversification by turning to other forms of income outside the sphere of traditional farming practices. This is alive and well on Hayling Island, as amply demonstrated by the entrepreneurial Northney Farm. Doing it in style is even more tricky to achieve but the Pike family has.
Northney Farm St Peter’s Road, Hayling Island, Hampshire, PO11 ORX (023) 9246 7607.
Open from 10am–5 pm daily. Breakfasts from 10am–12am.
Disabled access: Fine.
How to get there: follow the signs for Hayling Island off the A27 and turn left after the bridge, following the road until the farm is reached on the left. Car parking available.
Ratings (maximum *****)