By Graham Chalmers
With the dappled sunshine flickering on your face and a light breeze in your hair, visiting the Hay Bale Diner is like being outdoors.
And, in a way, diners at this unique pop-up restaurant run by young chef Katy Holmes really are outdoors.
Located at Strawberry Farm on the rolling fields just outside Birstwith, this remarkable restaurant is actually an unused farm barn most of the time.
But for just four weeks each summer 30-year-old Katy, a farmer’s daughter who spends much of the year working as head chef for a luxury ski chalet in Val d’Isere, transforms this cheerful wooden construction into the Hay Bale Diner.
Let’s get this right. There are no actual bales of hay, though there is a fully stocked bar.
But, as you sit down to eat after a quick cocktail outside, it’s impossible not to feel you are still a part of this beautiful piece of Dales landscape.
That’s partly because the wide wooden windows are open, as is the door.
As a result, the countryside and all its charms simply rushes in.
The likable and dynamic Katy has been perfecting her menu over the winter in the Alps with the emphasis on fresh and light summer recipes.
The menu I enjoyed featured Miniature Croque Monsieur, Asparagus with crispy poached egg, lemon and parmesan, Chicken with chorizo, wrapped in Parma ham with broad bean hummus and roasted new potatoes and Chocolate fondant with honeycomb ice cream.
It’s all very unpretentious and tasty and, yes, fresh and light.
Never one to stand still for long, Katy changes the menu each week with most of the ingredients sourced locally and some the result of her own foraging efforts around the fields of Birstwith.
Perhaps reflecting its owner’s character, the atmosphere in the bunting and lengthy wooden tables of the Hay Bale Diner is informal and fun.
But, come the Grand Depart, when Yorkshire hosts the opening stage of this year’s Tour de France on the weekend of July 5-6, Katy and her Hay Bale Diner will be gone for another year.
In the meantime, to mark this rarest of sporting coups for Yorkshire, this rarest of restaurants will be serving up French wines and a partly French-themed menu at its remaining sittings.
It would be wise to remember that this remarkable eaterie is only open Thursday-Sundays until June 29.
Then the barn will once again become a barn and the countryside will return to being just the countryside.
For more information, see www.facebook.com/thehaybalediner