Cafe of the Year: Great Food Club Awards 2023/4


Chosen by our judges:

The Harley Cafe, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire


The top public vote-winners:

The Harley Cafe, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire
Denby’s, Denby, Derbyshire
Bob’s, Corby, Northamptonshire
The Side House, Claypole, Lincolnshire

The winner is The Harley Café on the Welbeck Estate in North Nottinghamshire – a distinguished finalist in the GFC Awards across multiple years.

This is far from your typical café. Conceived within a building steeped in history, dating back to 1893, it shares its elegant courtyard with the esteemed Harley Gallery and the award-winning Welbeck Farm Shop.

It’s a haven for those who appreciate culinary creativity and locally sourced, award-winning ingredients, including delicacies from Welbeck Bakehouse and the nearby Stichelton Dairy.

Head chef Ricky Stephenson and his dedicated team create homemade, innovative dishes, ranging from the classics to seasonal specialities, ensuring every palate is catered to. Whether it’s a hearty breakfast, a late lunch, or a serene coffee and cake moment, the café promises a tranquil experience, away from the bustling crowds.

The Harley Café not only tantalises the taste buds with its diverse menu but also serves as a gateway to a cultural experience, being situated next to contemporary art spaces and museums showcasing historic art collections.

Visitors can also indulge in award-winning coffees, ales from Welbeck Abbey Brewery, and a curated wine selection, all served in a setting that is both aesthetically pleasing and historically rich. A worthy winner!

The other finalists

Denby’s, Denby, Derbyshire

Denby’s near Belper has quickly made a name for itself since its 2021 launch. This intimate 26-seat cafe is a finalist in our Great Food Club Awards for a reason.

Owner Lou Knight and her team offer a comprehensive menu, from hearty all-day breakfasts to sumptuous lunches. Their coffee, freshly ground from local suppliers, is a hit, as is their selection of teas, shakes, and smoothies.

What sets them apart is their commitment to local produce: the meat is supplied by family who are local butchers, ensuring peak freshness. Manager Jodie complements the menu with her irresistible cakes, scones, and pastries.

With its bright and welcoming atmosphere coupled with warm service, Denby’s is a must-visit for food lovers.

Bob’s, Corby, Northamptonshire

Bob’s Café in Corby is more than deserving of its finalist spot in our Cafe of the Year Award. Locally loved and revered for its excellent customer service, this eatery hits all the high notes.

Owners Chris and Keely, Corby natives, have curated a menu that’s a feast both for the eyes and the palate – from creative dishes like Bang Bang Chicken and Bao Chicka Wow Buns to a top-notch coffee selection.

Their breakfast special, the “Half Monty,” is a triumph of flavours featuring two varieties of sausage, several bacon cuts and Stornaway Black Pudding.

It’s not just the food that sets them apart; their commitment to sustainability is evident, as all their packaging is either fully compostable or 100% recyclable.

If you’re in Corby, Bob’s Café is the place to be for a meal that’s both tasty and community-minded.

Bob’s owners, Chris and Keely

The Side House, Claypole, Lincolnshire

Set in a century-old caretaker’s cottage in Claypole, The Side House Coffee Shop is a treasure at the Lincs/Notts border and a deserving finalist in our 2023/4 Café Awards.

Owned by longtime friends and village locals, Suzanne Stapleton and Kate Sharp, the café beautifully blends modern amenities with historical charm. The menu boasts an array of unique offerings like Bacon, Pear & Cheese Sandwiches and Smashed Avo & Chilli on Sourdough, not to mention the whiskey-embued Irish Barmbrack served with mature cheddar. Beyond food, they offer 200 Degrees coffee and an extensive range of other beverages.

With a commitment to local and seasonal produce, the café even recycles its coffee grounds into village allotments, later receiving homegrown produce in return. Complementing the eco-friendly theme, all packaging is sustainable.

The café, which also offers catering services, has turned a once-unloved building into a welcoming hub, complete with a shared garden and abundant outdoor seating.

The author: