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Didsbury Village Farm Shop Reviewed And Other Stories

Jonathan Schofield thinks we need to spread the love

Written by . Published on February 29th 2012.

Didsbury Village Farm Shop Reviewed And Other Stories

DIDSBURY VILLAGE FARM SHOP. I want one in the city centre. I want one in Manchester Airport.

This is an extension of the farmer's market but taken on to the High Street on a permanent site. 

This week and next is Manchester Histories Festival. One of the ambitions of such an event is to build a sense of place, a sense of identity. This in turn - you'd hope - builds pride and should lead to a more confident and contented population. Long term of course.

Food is one of the great identifiers.

Yet through a Northern, in particular it seems, fear of food failure, we seem to have forgotten that. Maybe it's a concern that the indigenous food culture of the region, which went underground for perhaps a century, wasn't worthy. It's only in recent years we've begun to value what we have. 

London Bus Available In Manchester AirportLondon Bus In Manchester AirportThis 'fear' possibly explains the failure in Manchester Airport to do what every airport in Europe seems to do - and I include Aberdeen in this - and that's show off and sell our best food and drink in a deli concession as a tourist souvenir. Instead we get a WH Smith in Manchester Airport selling London buses, Beefeaters and other Metropolitan memorabilia, which if nothing else must confuse passengers - "Eh, so was the plane diverted?" 

Didsbury Village Farm Shop for hams and condiments and tasty fancies would work a treat there, once they've sourced a good range of North Western cheeses and some potted and smoked fish.

It'd work a treat in the city centre as well. I'd never be out of the place. Put a unit next to Salvi's in Exchange Square, or in the empty shop formally occupied by Swarovski, on Exchange Street and it'd be rammed.

Mine, all mine, happy customer rushes from the shopMine, all mine, happy customer rushes from the shop

What Didsbury Village Farm Shop has done is provide a mix of deli with proper butchers on a tiny site. The hyperlocal, 'we're genuine and from round here', marketing is cunning but also meaningful. This is an extension of the farmer's market but taken on to the High Street on a permanent site. 

With their own meats as well.

Pete Ward, who was manning the tills on the Saturday of my visit is a ruddy cheeked farmer by trade, from an agricultural estate in Adlington with a name that seems dreamt up by a tourist board, Cherry Tree Farm.

Pete Ward, farmer on the right, Gary, a man with a good line in sheep brains anecdotes on the leftPete Ward, farmer on the right, Gary, a man with a good line in sheep brains anecdotes on the left

Ward uses his own cattle, slaughtered in a small abbatoir in Heald Green (I'm sure that's what Ward said, does suburbia know?), plus beasts and fowl from other farms such as Packington. The collective result is the Artisan Meat Company. By the way take a peek at the Packington website, there's a video of hens and geese, which feels shaky and a bit guerrilla, but is amusingly authentic. 

Didsbury 004Flesh, madam, flesh

You can talk a long while with Pete Ward but the upshot is rewarding food.

There are companies I've never heard of here including one called the Uppercrust Pie Company from Whitefield which supplied a richly flavoured packed meatloaf. Meanwhile the own brand herb cured rindless back bacon has to be one of best I've ever had.

The flavour is so full that one rasher, pan-fried to perfume the kitchen, then slapped between a couple of slices of bloomer smeared with salty butter makes the perfect bacon butty and keeps you going for a good half day. Sauce is not required - save that for limp imported Danish pig.

One rasher will do it for a bacon buttyOne rasher will do it for a bacon butty

A chicken and leek pie fed a family and was juicy and meat-filled, not gooey and empty of fowl, a leg of lamb performed the same function but with added flavour and sense of well-being, Cumberland sausages ditto. There was even a delicious snack in the form of a Scotch egg covered in breadcrumbs over black pudding, similar to Ben Holden's much talked about Manchester Egg, but moister. 

Happily Didsbury Village Farm Shop is part of a South Manchester trend with the clever Hickson and Black's deli in Chorlton and the fetching Taste of Honey deli in West Didsbury. Then of course there's the four decade old Barbakan in Chorlton, the king of bakers. We're lucky southside.

It'd be great to see the joy spreading. But the dread hand of demographic change and the ghettoisation of the urban rare cheese-eating middle classes into the southern suburbs, means much of north and east Manchester misses out. 

One of the best 'boards' aroundOne of the best 'boards' aroundI rounded off the day in the aforementioned Salvi's in The Triangle. We shared a board of hams and cheeses and olives that was better than the famous 'plank' in Jamie's new place.

£10.95, bread on the side, filled two of us, while a child ate a simple spaghetti, ham and tomato dish that was equally delicious, although Salvi's needs to cook that one quicker for say, workers on a lunch. 

But as I sat there I was thinking about food identities again. The hams on the board were a delight. So were the cheeses. So was the pride of the Italian boys behind the counter preparing the food.

But that pride is no different from Pete Ward's in Didsbury Village Farm Shop. Right now you could do something similar in terms of presentation by choosing well from there and other delis and suppliers across the region.

We just need the confidence to present our food that way. We need the mumbled platitudes of tourist agencies, suppliers and farmers to be translated into deeds so everybody can experience our local food culture. Then maybe the price might dip and north and east Manchester might get a look-in.

I dream of one day flying out of Manchester Airport with a more meaningful gift for our foreign friends than a gilt plastic model of Tower Bridge. A local beer, cheese, cured meat, jam, some fine condiment would probably say a little bit more about us.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Didsbury Village Farm Shop, 737 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, M20 6WF.

Shop rating: 18/20 

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Pies, lovely piesPies, lovely pies


Fruit and veg as wellFruit and veg as well


Eggs and good breadEggs and good bread

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42 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

I bought half a dozen goose eggs in there for Christmas at a cost of £12. Two of them were rotten. A toy London bus would have been cheaper and more use.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Conrad WalesFebruary 29th 2012.

Wow, so you judged the whole place from two bad eggs? Did you go back? Tell them? Try something else?

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

No, I didn't. I exercised my right as a member of the 'cheese eating-middle classes' and went instead to a shop that never sold me rotten produce.

SwiftyFebruary 29th 2012.

I've never had a problem with any of the fresh produce at The Didsbury Village Farmshop. Perhaps you should go back to the corporate moster Tesco? Luckily they've open one just for you!

ZbibizMarch 1st 2012.

You must be pretty unlucky - I get duck eggs from here about once a fortnight and have done since November. Never had a bad egg...

UUIFebruary 29th 2012.

Lord, you couldn't wait to jump on there could you fella? I love the place

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Me, too! In times like these we should support local shops against the big corporates! A welcome addition to the village, alongside other great shops we have. SHOP LOCAL PEOPLE!

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Don't get me wrong; I shop there too. As the main pic shows, it's one of the best places in Didsbury to get the 'indigenous food of the region' such as oranges, lemons and limes.

1 Response: Reply To This...
UUIFebruary 29th 2012.

That's just a silly comment

pollolocoFebruary 29th 2012.

don't think much of the beef to be honest.....tried the rump and it was tough and tasteless.

James KavanaghFebruary 29th 2012.

I had the bacon the other week and it was lovely. Nice people too, gets very busy on a Saturday though.

1 Response: Reply To This...
SwiftyFebruary 29th 2012.

My favourite is the black treacle bacon

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Isn't there DEFRA rules about taking food out of the country?

Helen KennedyFebruary 29th 2012.

If there are it seems that the cheese in Amsterdam airport escapes it. I was there yesterday

Frazer MunroFebruary 29th 2012.

Great timing! I was just wondering where to buy a nice steak, any other suggestions?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Both the farm shop and Axons have great steaks. But he farm shop could say where their beef came from where as Axons was a little vague.

AnonymousFebruary 29th 2012.

Great shop on the whole but the hot sandwiches are over-priced for what you get.

Richard MoretonMarch 1st 2012.

Another one of these 'farm shops' where the owners are not connected to a farm. A farm shop by name suggests you are buying direct from the farm, this isn't. Just pre-brought in meat. Stay shopping at Axons or Frosts - proper butchers.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Prince_HarmingMarch 1st 2012.

Erm, did you actually bother to read the article?

"Pete Ward...from an agricultural estate in Adlington with a name that seems dreamt up by a tourist board, Cherry Tree Farm.

Ward uses his own cattle, slaughtered in a small abbatoir in Heald Green...plus beasts and fowl from other farms such as Packington"

It's nice to see that cynicism and smugness can get in the way of actually reading something.

For my two penn'eth, it's a great shop with staff who are friendly and usually very well informed about the products they sell. I can get the fruit and veg cheaper and just as wonderful quality on Copson Street, down the road in Withington, but for a meaty treat or a good pie, this shop is superb.

pollolocoMarch 1st 2012.

I would think that the abbatoir is that of Nixons in Heald Green, who also have a farm shop. They sell decent meat at very good prices.

Chris BamfordMarch 1st 2012.

I live around the corner from the other one they have at Cherry Tree Farm, and we always get our weekend dinners from there, and they are always happy to supply more obscure cuts of meat which means we get to play at Masterchef (professional)! Great place, love it.

Can't imagine being able to take meats out to the US without causing problems at the gate though Jonathan...

Btw, I think that first "anonymous" comment should be deleted - it's just spiteful and rude, especially he/she isn't prepared to properly identify theselves.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldMarch 1st 2012.

Maybe not the US but certainly cured meats, smoked fish would be ok to the EU. Maybe even to the US. You certainly couldn't take fresh meat out of the country. But bottled beers, jams, condiments and so on would be fine anywhere.

Jonathan SchofieldMarch 1st 2012.

As for the rude comment, that's the problem with message boards, as is the cowardice of the 'Anon' comment

Chris BamfordMarch 1st 2012.

I can't understand why there are a few odd spiteful comments in here to be honest. Maybe a farm shop concept doesn't sit well with lefty vegetarians.

Steve ConnorMarch 1st 2012.

Don't blame the veggies! I'm a flag waving hard left vegan in Didsbury and am perfectly happy to have the Farm Shop on our High St... mind you, they had some forced rhubarb the other week though, might enrage the vegetable rights gang.

Chris BamfordMarch 1st 2012.

Haha! I once read somewhere..."Fruits and vegetables are sentient life forms that cannot defend themselves or flee from predators. Animals can. Who is really the victim here?"

Butcher BoyMarch 1st 2012.

I go here all the time for their pies. They're fab. Much better than the air filled rubbish you buy at the supermarket. Sausage rolls and roast beef baps were great too and unlike a previous post, I didn't find the latter overpriced, it was a meal in itself.

And my missus loves their chicken breasts.

Wasnt as keen on the sausages though so will stick to Axons (where I'm sure that Pete Ward chap used to work as well!).

suzyblewMarch 1st 2012.

This is a great shop and would work brilliantly at the airport. (They could take over the food section of all the WHSmiths for a start).
You really should start a campaign for the airport to do this. Currently the obsession they have with selling cheap booze does not reflect on us well and most of newer shops aren't even British let alone regional.

ZbibizMarch 1st 2012.

I love this place..all I'll say is you go to Tesco and you get a miniscule Cauliflower during the season for about £1 odd, go here and you get one twice as big as your head for 50p!!!
It's really very reasonable, a whole rabbit for less than a fiver, completely beautiful and get you practising your butchery skills and even better, the 28 day matured rib of beef...we got it for Christmas. it was awesome.
Pete is also great, really personable and makes such an effort with everyone. Axons are decent but agree, they can't always tell you where the goodies came from..though they are always lovely in the offering of bones for stock making, I'll give them that.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Ruth PriceMarch 1st 2012.

The Farm Shop will give you bones too...just ask.

MichellewMarch 1st 2012.

The food from here is the best around, I can personally say the Sweet Black Treacle Bacon is the best I have ever had, and never eaten so many bacon butties recently, there is no shrinkage or shed loads of water coming out. The cracked black pepper sausages are also a hit in our house and always try to have a stock in!

At Christmas bought a hamper for a friend, who was so pleased they now shop there. Staff are friendly and know what they are talking about....which is a winner in my eyes, along with the great food.

Narla KipMarch 1st 2012.

I've lived in Didsbury all my life and was chuffed to see this place pop up. The hot sandwiched were a bit overpriced and they only had white harms no wholemeal. The sausage wasn't as tasty as I though it'd be but that's probably down to personal taste. All of but 1 variety of the homemade cakes/loafs were sold out despite it being 10.30am. I also felt the people/owners(?) that were in the shop at the time weren't very friendly and gave me very odd looks! Maybe they're not used to seeing black people in their farm shop? It was enough to put me off going back anyway. Their loss, I'd have bought them out of cakes once a week easy!

1 Response: Reply To This...
ZbibizMarch 13th 2012.

I don't think it's fair to post an assumption that 'they're not used to seeing black people in their farm shop' when I go there every weekend, very obviously of a an asian ethnic background and have lovely conversations with the owners and staff and get on with them very well. That's a big thing to say and very unfair to the staff. If you have had a very obvious negative experience which can without a matter of doubt be in relation to your race then fair enough, but saying stuff like that on a message board is really out of order.

AnonymousMarch 1st 2012.

I wish a place like this would open up in Worsley/Walkden. I think a move back to butchers/grocers that source produce from local farms can only be a good thing.

AndyMarch 3rd 2012.

Shopped here quite a few times now, the hot roast beef sandwiches are the best. The staff are polite and knowledgeable when it comes to butchery, the steaks and black pepper sausages are superb. All in all I'd rather get my fresh meat from here than the local tesco or sainsbury.

Geraldine MitchellMarch 4th 2012.

The 'fetching' Taste of Honey deli in West Didsbury also deserves a review as the owner has worked so hard to bring a quality deli. with pleasant service back to Burton Road.....I'm just spreading the love here.....

David JenningsApril 29th 2012.

As per normal what happens in didsbury has unfortunately happened again. Having visited this shop on numerous occasions when first opened, i was overwhelmed with the variety of fresh cuts of meat, vegetables and the overall standard of the shop. Having been out of the country for 2months; i returned to this shop over the last couple of weeks to find that all of the above qaulities and standards have declined to such a state i will not be visiting this shop again. Shop dis-organized, cleanliness standard has dropped. meat on offer was no where near as good as to when it was first opened, and a certain member of staff i observed eating the carvery meats whilst stood behind the counter infront of other customers with his hands.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 10th 2012.

I don't agree David.
The shop has been busy whilst you have been away and I think happen to think the choice has improved.

If what you say is true, it wouldn't surprise me that the nibbling server wasn't frog marched off the premises by Chris or Mark and replaced immediately (or worse). Speaking of which I have noticed a couple of new staff in smart new uniforms and smiley faces offering delicious sausages or burgers to try, which is nice.

Last weekend I was persuaded to try 28 day aged rib of beef instead a usual rolled lamb leg for our Sunday Lunch and WOW was it lush.

I love this shop and everything it stands for!

AnonymousAugust 13th 2012.

Another new manager? What do they do with them all? The new guy Steve seems very good though, knowledgeable and helpful and most of all not a Scouser

AnonymousAugust 14th 2012.

We need somewhere like this in the city centre, Manchester is the only city centre I've visited or lived in that has little or no choice of good quality independent food retailers. Even m&s has downsized it's food department. Frustrating for a cosmopolitan city.

Swiss JamesAugust 14th 2012.

The convenience store on Tibb Street, next to Simple in the city centre has got an amazing selection of booze downstairs, and seems to listen when you suggest things for the groceries upstairs.

Until a good deli or farm shop opens in the city centre, I think any small producers of good foods reading this, should try to get their stock in there.

Simon TurnerJanuary 15th 2013.

15th January 2013; Didsbury Farmshop ‏@Dids_Farmshop

Thankyou to everyone for their support over the last 15 months,but unfortunately our Didsbury shop is now closed.

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