The Courtyard, Arts Centre Washington, Fatfield

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IT seems The Courtyard is the place to be on a Saturday afternoon.

Ma Wheeler and I decided to combine a trip to the centre’s monthly arts and crafts fair with a bite to eat at the cafe.

As with the rest of this 19th century farm, turned thriving arts centre, echoes of its past are plain to see in the stone-walling and low beams.

This was a place that was quite literally packed to the rafters.

After a short wait we found a table and chairs at the edge of the kitchen area. If this were a theatre, these would be the cheap seats, but for the majority of diners there is plenty more spacious seating elsewhere in this charming cafe.

It was a bit of a bad start, not helped by the fact our food did not arrive for 40 minutes.

But they say good things come to those who wait and all was soon forgiven once I tucked into my lunch.

I soon realised why this place was so busy: the food. The Courtyard is a victim of its own success.

The lunchtime menu sounded simple enough: a range of sandwiches and paninis, ranging from mature Cheddar with chutney to slow roast brisket of beef, nothing too crazy, with a good selection of salads too.

I ordered the bacon and brie option (£3.75) which was, in a word, sublime.

The bacon was crisp, not too much so though, and not overladen with grease, while the cheese was gorgeously gooey – not your average cafe offering.

The Mothership meanwhile enjoyed an equally-delicious roast ham, pineapple and mozzarella panini (£3.50).

Beautifully presented, the paninis also arrived with a home-made salsa and baked tortilla triangles.

The pièce-de-résistance, however, was the Greek feta salad. For the bargain price of £3.95, I was presented with a huge salad loaded with chunk upon chunk of crumbly feta, olives, peppers, rocket and more.

I’m not sure what the dressing was, but it helped make this the most delicious, fresh-tasting dish I’ve had in a long time.

Despite the wait and the hustle and bustle, the top-quality food would most definitely draw me back to The Courtyard.

The bar also boasts award-winning cask ales and hosts a popular buskers’ night on a Monday with quiz nights of Thursdays and Sundays.