A colourful and flamboyant courtyard to eat luxurious brunches in, all while working towards ending food waste; serving only local produce from independent food suppliers; hosting events, making delicious cups of coffee in pleasant china; this is the Narnia disguised behind Little London’s larder. While talking to founder Emma Schwarz about her (not so little) project to open a restaurant, the more depth I discovered to this business which is evidently so much more than just another café in Chichester. Emma is on a mission to reduce food waste, and she wants us to do this by shopping more locally and less commercially. She believes we will ultimately feel good about the produce we are eating because it is better for the environment and businesses; and it tastes better too! In order to achieve this, Emma decided to serve the quality produce we should all be eating to prove just how luxurious it tastes and feels, also readily available to buy in the food hall at the front of the restaurant.
I stumbled across The Barn in search of a good coffee, and became curious about the courtyard seating that appeared to be at the back of a quaint farm shop. Stepping into the larder, there are cakes and bakes from the Flint Owl Bakery and curious swirls of chocolate in loafs of babka (from Painted Dog Bakehouse) to take out with you to enjoy in the garden. There is also a plethora of cupboard essentials, dairy products, wines and more available to buy from a variety of Sussex-based partners, though Goodwood Farm Shop is one of The Barn’s main suppliers.
I was shown to my bistro table outside and the lovely waitress bought me a bottle of water over, served in a delightful little wine glass. Emma told me that the whole experience must be an enjoyable one at The Barn, from the food you eat, to the glass you drink from and this was proving to be an enjoyable experience indeed. The china teacup and saucer my flat white was served in was extremely sweet. More curious still, I booked a return to The Barn for lunch rather than just a coffee, and requested to be sat in one of the shed chalets.
It turns out the outrageously fun and quirky shed seating in the courtyard was a complete accident. The Barn was due to open in February 2020, but the pandemic unfortunately put this adventure on pause. Instead, Emma decided to set up a drive-through food delivery service so that she could get a kickstart on this mission to provide a shop and eatery, and this is when customers began to be intrigued and impressed by The Barn. When the time was right, the chalets were introduced as a way for customers to enjoy outdoor seating in a safe and enjoyable manner. Sat in one of those sheds during my Saturday lunchtime visit, I would have thought the sheds were anything but an accident; instead a clever design feature to make The Barn stand out. At least, this is how they function now when ‘safe seating’ is not entirely a necessity anymore. The sheds are decorated with details to make customers smile: coffee table books on bumble bees and gardening, plants, and vintage pots of antique cutlery.
While The Barn’s beginning did not totally go to plan, the authenticity and organic start to the business seems to epitomise what The RARE Life represents. The RARE Life is composed of The Barn, The RARE Brand Market and Slow Food Sussex, all part of the quest to stop food waste. As well as supporting the charity Slow Food, The Barn also donates 10% of all purchases to UK Harvest. It is physically impossible to do wrong by choosing to eat or shop at The Barn, Little London. What’s more, the food is great too! I ordered the Mediterranean vegetable flatbread which was colourful and summery, healthy and full of flavour. The flatbread was served on a wooden chopping board, topped with large chunks of courgette, peppers and onions, with house-made salsa verde and capers for extra luxury. The sourdough toasties served with red onion chutney, and sweet options – pancakes or french toast – also look incredible. Soon the menu will be facing an autumnal shift, and I cannot wait to see what fresh and daring dishes arrive at The Barn from October 1st.
On the 17 – 19 of Nov, The RARE Brand Christmas Market will be returning to Goodwood Racecourse, so you can get ahead on your Christmas shopping and buy from the best retail and hospitality businesses local to Chichester and Sussex. Plus you can have the chance to spot some of The Barn’s own suppliers for products beyond the pantry. Or, more exclusive to The Barn, events such as Wellness Wednesday and Supper Club will continue to run throughout winter, and you can book tickets for these events on The Barn’s website. On 30th November, This Morning’s Kat Farmer is making a return to The Barn alongside wine expert Helen McGinn. These two lovely ladies will bring ‘The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club’ to Chichester, something definitely worth following The Barn and staying tuned for.
The Barn, and RARE Life really do feel like the start of something really monumental in retail, hospitality and business, and hopefully we will only see more and more restaurants and coffee shops supporting local produce and charities such as UK Harvest. Hopefully soon we can all start eating and shopping better by eating and shopping independently!