The most important thing to know if you are visiting The Willow and Boar for the first time is not to trust your GPS. As for that, the cafe is located in a field in the middle of nowhere.
Of course it’s not, it’s actually on a main road. If I had looked at a map before I left instead of trying to be a millennial (which I’m not, I’m vintage who can read a map) and leaning on technology, I wouldn’t wouldn’t have wasted my time going up and down country roads in scorching hot weather. That wasn’t a bad thing, as the Worcestershire countryside was very pretty with some lovely houses to admire.
I finally found what I was looking for – a hidden cafe that sold the most beautiful homemade cakes. I’ve been tracking The Willow and Boar since it opened, dazzled by the daily photos of cakes on its Facebook and Instagram pages.
Read more: 17 reasons why Worcestershire is the best place in the country
Now I consider myself a cake lover, so I was determined to pay the cafe a visit, especially since it was only a few miles from my house. When I arrived all hot and bothered after my detour due to my failed navigation, the owner was friendly and said a lot of sat navs go rogue and they advise using the What3Words app, which takes you there directly .
The Willow and Boar is in an unlikely location – at Willowmarsh Fishery in Curslow Lane, Shenstone, on the outskirts of Kidderminster. It’s also a “containment business baby”, in that it was designed and opened during the pandemic.
Although only open for a little over a year, the cafe is already a favorite and has a loyal following, with regulars returning week after week. Most are there for the cakes – which have their own fan base.
Owner, former Halesowen builder Mark Sloan, said: “As soon as we put a picture of the cake of the day on our social media, we get a rush of customers. A woman came within 30 minutes, saying ‘ it’s my favorite cake.”
But The Willow and Boar doesn’t just serve cakes, they also sell everything you’d expect from a café: including all-day breakfasts, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, after- lunch and hot and cold drinks. The location is stunning – right next to three fishing lakes.
There is room for 36 guests inside and 54 outside. The interior is small but spacious, tastefully decorated in white and green with wooden floors, while the outdoor patio overlooks the lakes. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and when I visited (a Thursday lunchtime) the commerce was good, but there were plenty of places to sit inside and outside.
I ordered a ham and cheese panini, a glass of still water and a slice of red velvet cake. The panini arrived in about 10 minutes and was a generous portion, served with a side salad, coleslaw and tortilla chips. It was delicious, with just the right ratio of ham and cheese and it was hot and filling.
Next was the reason I came – the cake! I was told my choice – red velvet – was a favorite. Apparently the most popular cake is carrot, followed closely by tiffin, then red velvet, lemon drizzle, and “school cake” (a plain sponge cake with white icing and hundreds and thousands).
All the cakes are made by Mark’s daughter, Chloe, who also works in the cafe, with other staff all joining in and making cakes too. “It would be cheaper to buy the cakes, but we make our own and customers love them,” Mark said.
My red velvet cake did not disappoint. It was a big slice (hooray) with a dollop of cream cheese frosting. Not used to eating so much for lunch, struggled to finish it, but I did. The panini was 5.25 and the cake was 2.95.
In the cake cupboard that day there was school cake at £2.95 a slice, lemon drizzle at £2.95, vegan chocolate caramel at £3.50 and various other smaller ones . It was proof that red velvet was the favorite as mine was the last slice and diners who came after me were disappointed.
The couple at the next table told me they were regulars. “We love it, my husband cycled by here and said, we have to go. We live on the other side of Bewdley but try to come at least once every fortnight,” the woman said. “The food is delicious but the staff are wonderful, really friendly. And the toilets are the best I’ve ever been to!” (I checked, they are.)
The Willow and Boar has only been open since May 2021, but the fishery has been there for 26 years and has been owned by Mark and his family for five years. “I bought the fishery because I thought it would be the perfect place to open a cafe,” he said. “It was just grass when we bought it, but we got planning permission for the cafe and then the pandemic hit, so we had to park it.
“I designed and built the cafe myself and we finally opened it as soon as the last lockdown ended in May. The business was good and improving, we have a lot of regulars now.”
* The Willow and Boar is located at Willow Marsh Fishery, Curslow Lane, Shenstone, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, DY10 4DX