Today me and Dan ventured into town to pick up some ingreidnets for this weekend’s foodie fun. We made a bee-line straight to Castle Market where I picked up some bargain fruit and veg and pondered over whether or not I’d be able to kill and cook one of this poor little crab, which was sitting waiting to be eaten up one of the markets multiple sea food stalls.
We wandered from stall to stall, fascinated by exotic produce and unusual cuts of meat. Hidden away in a corner of the food area of Castle Market, we stumbled across a bakery and cafe with a twee white shop front, that wouldn’t look out of place on a cobbled street in rural Yorkshire. We were tempted in my the promise of bread and freshly baked cakes that were calling us in through the shop’s pretty windows. I was intrigued.
Whilst most cafes in Castle Market serve up builders brunches and are carbon copies of the 80’s style market cafes my Mum used to drag me to in the 90’s (all of which have their own unique charm) Sheaf Valley Bakery seemed softer and more serene. The decor spoke ‘country bakery’ without trying to be pretentious, and Tim and Ali who own and run the bakery, have clearly put their own character into the place. It’s refreshing to walk in somewhere so authentic.
When we entered the shop, there was just one chap sat at the table reading the paper. It’s a small cafe – just seven chairs, but it’s the type of place you’d go to and share tables with people.
We were served by Tim, and ordered a tea, hot chocolate and a toasted tea cake. I was surprised at the prices. I got all of these for £2.45 – you’d pay that for a coffee in Starbucks- it certainly offers fantastic value for money. We sat at a breakfast-type bar, on some awesome old school science stools, and Tim brought out food and drinks over to us. My teacake was delicious and fresh – too often I’ve eaten teacakes that taste too sugary and synthetic. It was crunchy and came with a huge helping of butter – just how I like it. Dan was impressed by his hot chocolate too – it was rich and made properly, with hot milk. We asked Tim what his secret was – he told us it’s all in the stirring.
Whilst we sipped on our drinks, we observed Tim and Ali serving customers as they dipped in and out of the shop. At one point there was ten of us in the shop – many of the customers regulars and many of them were clearly fans of Tim and Ali’s bread. They knew some of the customers by first name. I was touched when I saw one man come in to show them some bread he had made – out of his bag he pulled out a small loaf in a blue sandwich bag. Tim and Ali had clearly been giving him tips on how to make his own bread – they really cared and, even within a busy shop, gave him some of their time and even more tips for his next loaf. It was a real pleasure to witness the impact this young couple had made within the community at Castle Market – it demonstrates EVERYTHING a community bakery should be.
I spoke to the couple and asked them about their business when the shop quietened down. They make all their bread on site, usually heading into their shop between 1am and 4am, before opening up to serve through the day. Sheaf Valley Bakery opened in September 2010 and seems to be thriving. When I asked them what their plans were when the markets shuts down, they weren’t sure – maybe the new market, maybe somewhere on the high street. I sensed that as long as they were baking and working together, it didn’t matter – I’m sure they’ll do well whereever they end up.
Sheaf Valley Bakery sells bread and cake, alongside flours and seeds. So if you’re that side of town, I’d recommend popping in – if not for some bread, then a cup of tea and a read of the magazines and papers hanging on the wall.
I hope their Castle Market cafe and bakery is the start of something special for these two and that the closure of Castle Market leads to the next step in Tim and Ali continuing a thriving business.
It was a pleasure to visit Sheaf Valley Bakery – I hope to visit again soon!
Hayley Jayne xx