OUR original intended destination had been the tearoom at Lewis and Cooper in Northallerton – for breakfast.

It had just won the food and drink category in the inaugural Love Northallerton Business Awards. What better reason could we find for returning to the cosy tearoom with its highly prized tables with their views over the High Street?

But there was a problem. An award-winner it might but it was closed when we fetched up just after 9am last Saturday morning. And it will remain so until January we were informed by an apologetic L&C staff member.

Back on the High Street Plan B appeared before us directly. Barkers was just across the road and of course, like Lewis and Cooper (the tearoom aside), Barkers is something you can always rely on. It’s been there forever and in these worrying times its presence is very reassuring. Could you imagine Northallerton without Barkers?

It might be the essence of traditional retailing in North Yorkshire’s county town but its continued existence in the High Street during these trouble times for department stores owes a great deal to its gradual modernisation under the late, and much lamented, Charles Barker.

That updating has included the food offer. Not so long there was just Barkers Café on the first floor looking over the Applegarth. Now there are no fewer than three spots where you can refresh during your retail therapy session.

The old café is now Barkers Kitchen, there’s the 1832 Café downstairs on the High Street frontage and, above that, the 1832 Bistro.

There are breakfast options at both the Kitchen and the Bistro. For the full English and its variations, the Kitchen is your best bet. For something a bit more sophisticated (Eggs Benedict, scrambled eggs on toasted brioche with smoked salmon etc) the Bistro will suit you better.

But the Bistro doesn’t open until 10am and we were anxious to get stuck into our Christmas shopping so made our way to the Kitchen which, having opened at 9am, was already filling up, albeit in an appropriately socially-distanced fashion, at 9.15.

Because breakfast in the Kitchen is mostly cooked to order, it took a while to be served – perhaps as long as half an hour. We suspected that because we arrived after the first flush of customers, our order was at the back of a rather long queue.

We were not too fussed and we think it is important in these Covid-19 times to make allowances. Nothing can be straightforward in a hospitality business doing its best to keep its customers and staff safe. In the grand scheme of things in 2020, waiting a while for one’s brekkie is not the end of the world.

It gave us the opportunity to consider how the Kitchen looked five years after the refurbishment which extended the eating space and provide more tables with views over the Applegarth park.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Breakfast at the Barkers KitchenBreakfast at the Barkers Kitchen

Back in 2015 some aspects of the décor – like the silver birch branch screens – seemed almost avant garde for Northallerton, but it has worn well and still looks fresh and new. The tempting deli section stocking a limited range of culinary exotica you pass through on the way in from the main store is a trap for the hungry or those with a curious palate.

Our breakfasts were worth waiting for.

Sylvia had a perfectly poached egg on a muffin with a slice of dry-cured crispy bacon for £4.75 and that price included her latte coffee.

I had the full English (fried egg, two rashers of grilled bacon, Masham sausage, baked beans, hash brown, grilled tomato, fried mushrooms, black pudding and a slice of toast) for £7.25, a price which also included my pot of tea.

I had no complaints about any of it apart from the egg which was overcooked. No runny yolk!

But everything else was just fine. The hash brown wasn’t greasy, the bacon was just crisped up enough, as was the black pudding and the high meat content sausage had been cooked long and slow to a dark brown.

With the addition of 60p to our bill for a small individual pot of marmalade, we paid just £12.60 for two almost excellent breakfasts.

Service, the wait and the Covid limitations of social distancing aside, was good. It’s nice to see those familiar Barkers faces looking after us.

The Kitchen is currently offering a temporary menu which is not as quite extensive as the normal times menu. Most of the usual favourites are still available (salads, quiches, sandwiches, baked potatoes, paninis, omelettes, ham egg and chips etc) but we noticed one apparent absentee dish was the lunchtime steak pie which has legendary status in our household. We look forward to its return someday soon.

Barkers Kitchen

Barkers Northallerton

198-202 High Street, Northallerton DL7 8LP

Open 9-4pm

Tel: 01609-772303 Web: barkers.co.uk/restaurants

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 9, Service 7, Surroundings 9, Value 9