== Introduction ==
The south Shropshire town of Ludlow is famous for the quality of its locally produced food. Indeed, it was already well known locally for this reason long before the London papers got interested, and will doubtless continue to be once their grasshopper minds have flitted off somewhere else. Although a trip to the town itself is certainly to be recommended, one of the most convenient ways (for those with a car, anyway) to acquire Ludlow produce is to visit the Ludlow Food Centre on the A49.
== Layout ==
The Centre has a fairly large, free car park right in front of the main two-storey shop building. The Conservatory Barn Café (see below) is across the car park, along with clean and well maintained public toilets and a small post office/newsagent. The upper floor of the Centre is used for conferences and the like and is not generally open to the public, but there's plenty of space downstairs on the main retail floor, so this is not likely to be a problem. There's even plenty of grass outside for kids to run around on, though as there's a pond, and neither pond nor car park is fenced off from the grass, they'll need to be supervised.
Pausing if you like to pick up a basket or a trolley (both of which are given somewhat rustic, wood-flavoured designs) you pass whatever happens to be on display in the entrance - and the inevitable ream of tourist leaflets! - and enter the main hall. This large, airy space has the air of a rather genteel outdoor market brought under cover, perhaps crossed with a just slightly raffish Waitrose. This isn't the place to come if you're looking for ultra-budget, pile-it-high and sell-it-cheap, food, certainly!
Everything is offered in the one large room. At the far end, for example, are delicatessen counters selling cold meat, cheese and the like. (I recommend just about anything from the Monkland Dairy.) Along one side wall you'll find wine, cider (proper cider, not the mass-produced stuff!), fruit juice and other bottled goods such as salad dressing and olive oil. Across the way there's a glorious display of bread and cakes, not to mention a very wide selection of varieties from Tyrrells Crisps. (The Ludlow Sausage flavour is delicious, and one of the very few meat-flavour crisps from any producer actually to contain meat!)
== The local touch ==
A very important aspect of the Ludlow Food Centre is its emphasis on local produce. Not only does some of the food (beef and lamb, for example) come from the very country estate on which the Centre stands, but 80% of the food sold here comes either from Shropshire itself or from one of the three counties which border the southern half of Shropshire: Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Powys. The provenance of everything is clearly labelled on the display - and the relatively few foreign foods are rather amusingly listed as "Produce of the World"!
This local aspect to the Centre is what makes it more than just another tourist trap - although it is undoubtedly that as well. The foods here have clearly been carefully selected, and just about everything on show looks absolutely wonderful. (Sadly I haven't managed to taste everything yet! But what I have eaten has been almost uniformly excellent.) Some of the food, such as bread, is even made on the premises, and there are large windows around the walls allowing you to watch some of the production processes.
Places like this are usually expensive - that's what you're thinking, isn't it? And... well, okay, the Ludlow Food Centre is never going to compete with your local Aldi on price. Nor, though, will you find the ridiculous mark-ups that blight some otherwise equally attractive food centres around the country. Going back to that Waitrose analogy, if you expect prices to be a bit more expensive than you'd find in most places but not ridiculously so, then you shouldn't face too many nasty shocks.
== Conservatory Barn Café ==
It's hardly surprising that a place so devoted to good food would offer a place where you can eat it on the premises. The café is situated across the car park from the main shop building and is in a rather smaller wooden structure that looks pretty much as its name would lead you to expect! It is a pleasant, well-ventilated place, but perhaps a little bit too small to cope with customer numbers at the height of the season: you may have to be prepared to wait for a table, but on fine days it may be possible to eat on the patio outside.
The range of food offered here is not enormous, and one or two of the practicalities could be improved - in particular, tucking the all-important specials blackboard behind a counter that can't be seen from most of the café! - but what you can get is nice. Last time I was there (in winter) I had a steak and blue cheese baguette with salad, and really couldn't fault it. Other options on the menu included beef lasagne and spiced celery soup. The menu changes with the seasons, so expect plenty of ice-cream in the summer!
Prices, as in the shop, are a little bit on the dear side but not absurdly so, with a main course such as those mentioned above setting you back around the £8 mark. You order (and pay) at the counter, but food is brought to your table, and service is unobtrusive and polite. This isn't a fast food restaurant, though, so don't expect to have your food instantly after ordering. Waiting times aren't unacceptable by any means; just enough to let you work up a real appetite!
== Opening times and directions ==
The Ludlow Food Centre is open from 9.00 am to 5.30 pm Monday to Saturday, and from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm on Sunday. The Conservatory Barn Café is open 9.30 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Saturday, and from 10.30 am to 4.00 on Sundays. The post office is open 9.30 am to 5.30 pm Monday to Friday. Beware, though: some tourist literature implies, wrongly, that it is also open at weekends. It certainly wasn't when I was there!
The Food Centre is very conveniently located for drivers, being right next to the main A49 road. However it does not have its own brown sign (I suppose it's thought to be more of a shop than a tourist attraction as such) so you will need to keep a look out. It's in Bromfield, about two miles north of Ludlow on the way to Shrewsbury, and on the right as you travel in that direction. It's not an easy place to reach by public transport; there are a few buses to Bromfield from Ludlow, but not many.
== Verdict ==
The Ludlow Food Centre is a very nice place for anyone who enjoys their food - and that's most of us, surely? Farmers' markets are very popular these days, and this is really a rather posh version of one of those, brought undercover and given an extra lick or two of paint. The café is a nice bonus, within its limitations, but the real attraction is the shop. Just writing about it has made me hungry, even though I ate not so very long ago! Provided you're not too strapped for cash, it's thoroughly recommended.
Their Lemon Cheesecake is the best. Good lemon flavour, creamy but not heavy.
Ludlow Food centre - yummy local food.
Located just outside Ludlow on the A49 which connects Ludlow with Shrewsbury, the first thing to note is that the location is pretty good and easy to reach from all directions. The Food Centre is like an oversized farm shop selling all kinds of local produce and they've even got a cafe.
I've sampled the delights of the cafe twice and I wouldn't rate it as highly as the shop itself but it is nice. The service could be better and the selection isn't huge. A lot of the food is also sold in the shop and I don't think they really make the most of it but you can get a pretty good meal followed by a very good ice cream.
The shop sells all sorts of food - it is fairly expensive but these things usually are and most of it is really good and worth paying that bit extra for. When you walk in the first thing you see is the locally grown fruit and veg which tastes every bit as good as it looks. I usually head straight past this to the cake section which is top quality! The only problem with the delicious cakes, tarts and cheesecakes is that it's almost impossible to choose which one looks the most delicious. The fresh bread is also a must but from my experience everything is good - from the chocolate to the cider.
Last time I went they had a big display just inside the door of unlabelled homemade jam which they were recommending you made your own labels for to impress your friends and give away as gifts pretending you had made it yourself! So you can
buy all sorts of yummy food and convince everyone you know that you're a domestic goddess (or god).
It is quite pricey but worth it if you feel like treating yourself or someone else to something a bit special.
Definitely worth a look if you live locally or you're passing through - you don't need to battle with the traffic and parking to get into Ludlow and it has its own huge carpark so no problems there.
Ludlow Food Centre could be described as a large farm shop in the village of Bromfield, on the outskirts of Ludlow in Shropshire (on the A49 between Shrewsbury and Leominster).
The vast majority of the food here is local - from Shropshire and it's bordering counties of Powys, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Due to the food being local, this means it is also fresh, seasonal and very tasty! You might have to pay a bit more here than you would at your average supermarket, but you pay for what you get and in this case you get the tastiest food around.
At the entrance you will find some wooden shopping trollies along with piles of wicker shopping baskets. We usually pick up a basket, but always manage to fill it.
In the Food Centre you'll find fresh fruit and vegetables, all kinds of meat, cheeses, fresh bread and cakes, salads, fresh soups, pies, jams, pickles, ice cream and sorbet, crisps, dips, chocolates and bottled drinks such as cider, beer, perry, wine and juice, and much much more!
Both organic and non-organic foods can be found at Ludlow Food Centre.
There is also a Post Office on-site, offering a newsagents, convenience store and counter-services.
There is also a cafe on-site called The Conservatory Barn Cafe. I have sampled the delights inside and can certainly recommend popping in if you're planning on a visit to Ludlow Food Centre. The food is freshly cooked (or not cooked if something such as a ploughmans!) and made from local food sold in the Food Centre. So why not sample the delights before doing your shopping?! You can sit at a table inside the barn cafe or on the patio outside. You order your food at the counter and they'll bring everything over to your table for you.
There is also a conference room available to hire with or without catering.
The car park is large and I've never had any trouble in finding a parking space. In most instances I've been able to park near the door. Disabled parking bays are also provided.
The Food Centre is open:
Monday to Saturday - 9.00am to 5.30pm
Sunday - 10.30am to 4.30pm
The Conservatory Barn Cafe is open:
Monday to Saturday - 9.30am to 5.00pm
Sunday - 10.00am to 4.00pm
The Post Office is open:
Monday to Friday - 9.30am to 5.30pm
You wouldn't want to do your weekly shop here (unless you're made of money!), but it's a great place to splash out in once in a while. I can definitely recommend going to The Ludlow Food Centre if you're in the area. Truly taste the difference!