Café case study - The whole nine yards

Café case study - The whole nine yards

I couldn’t have chosen a better day to explore a Faversham eatery that perfectly blends three of my favourite things: art, music and food. Walking through this market town’s authentic olde worlde cobbled streets, with the weakening September sun peeking through the grey smudges that had taken residence overhead, was clear to see it’s a place that takes its local food culture seriously. A food and drink festival was in full swing, complete with whole roasted hob, smoking rib shacks, European pastry stalls, steaming pots of chai, and even a medieval jester who looked like he needed some refreshment from the converted airstream camper cocktail bar.

Tucked away down a quaint cobbled lane sits The Yard. Despite its successes (currently sitting pretty atop the local TripAdvisor scoreboard and winning a Kent Life Food and Drink Award a couple of years back) this thoughtful eatery only opened in February 2015 – but is already a firm favourite with locals and visitors to the area. Operated by Elenor Lambert, who herself started out as a local market trader, peddling artsy items and some foodie bits, The Yard is an honest celebration of local foods within walls adorned with art, supplemented by the odd musical performance.

“The Yard was never meant to just be about good food and drink,” Lambert tells me. “We have various local artists’ work displayed on our walls, and we hold spoken word and acoustic music events. We’ve had film nights, comedy nights, hold regular book clubs, yoga classes, kid and adult craft classes – ‘crafternoons’ if you will. We’ve showcased local brewers, DJs and supper clubs. This space is all about community and providing a space to be nurtured, inspired and nourished – in all senses of the word.”

On my Sunday morning visit for some brunch, the charming building that was once a mill producing coffins was packed with families passing around breakfast bites, colourfully clad gentlemen sipping on coffee over newspapers and couples cosying up over a steaming pot of tea and piled high plates. The entire ambience is as poetic as its occasional performers. And the food is just as bountiful as it is versed. “We designed the menu to celebrate simplicity and hoped that, while it might shine among the marketplace as being a bit different, it would have broad appeal,” Lambert explains.

The breakfast menu (served until midday) is laden with dishes including a Scottish potato pancake with buttery scrambled egg, smoked salmon and watercress; the full Kentish breakfast, comprising a pork and caramelised red onion sausage, smoked British bacon, poached egg, vine roasted tomatoes, homemade baked beans, herby mushrooms and a Scottish potato pancake (veggie option available); and grilled sourdough toast topped with avocado and poached eggs, drizzled with a sriracha savoury chilli sauce.

For the changing lunch specials, there’s usually a vegan soup of the day on the go; homemade daal with warm chapatti; the Yard chicken ‘burger’ made using local free-range chicken breast that’s tenderised and seasoned with thyme, parmesan and lemon, topped with prosciutto, and pan-fried; and other delights such as the baked whole goats’ cheese served melting over griddled ciabatta slices, mixed leaf salad, apples, grapes and walnuts.

“I try to create new wholesome, healthy vegan salads every few weeks, celebrating what’s in season and dreaming up new ways to nourish our diners,” says Lambert. “Grains and pulses aren’t used as much as they should be in our everyday diets. I think a lot of the time the view is that it’s a faff, but there really isn’t a better way of feeding your hardworking body with lean protein. We also do a lot of vegetable roasting here – the mornings are always a jostle for roasting trays and oven space.”

The hot drinks range hails from Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co with loose-leaf teas served by the pot, and the rich, aromatic coffee that pervades the air is a house blend from Micro Roastery Canterbury. There’s a healthy selection of cold drinks and local juices, and a raw smoothie menu with ingredients like banana, and blueberry; apple orange and carrot; and kale, apple and kiwi – all blended with coconut milk that can be exchanged for soya or cow’s milk if needed.

There are rich, spongy cakes and delicate pastries waiting by the door to either greet you or tempt you with a taste before you leave, and a decorative chalkboard that lists the diverse events that will make any visit there more wholesome. “We are constantly evolving,” Lambert says. “I like that fluidity. I would like to get back to the markets and festivals, as good quality street food is a huge passion of mine, but for now this little nook of Faversham keeps me out of trouble.”