ALTHOUGH you might be lucky to get two hours free parking in the main street (except on market days), there is a large car park behind Barkers. For 40p an hour you can hardly grumble.

There are two ways into the store from the car park. If you enter via the arcade the café is close at hand; the other entrance entails a long trek through the store with signage not always prominent.

This large self-service café/restaurant has tables overlooking a park. There is an escalator for access from the ground floor. Lunch is served from 11.30am to 2pm. Parsnip and bacon soup (£3.10) could have been a starter followed by fish and chips, scampi, roast lamb, cottage pie, broccoli bake or ham with pineapple ranging in price from £5.30 to £6.60.

To finish there was rhubarb crumble (£3.10). Surely there is something here for most tastes, including a selection of gluten-free cakes.

For the light snacker, there were pre-packed sandwiches, muffins, Danish pastries and various things on toast.

As far as we were concerned, it was coffee time. A cappuccino for Ann (£2) was hot and frothy and a pot of tea (£1.40) gave me two cups. I asked not to be given a full jug of fresh milk as I hate to see the unused liquid wasted.

We both chose a scone (£1.35). Ann was enthusiastic about the cheese variety. I was equally euphoric about the one I had chosen and was uncertain whether it was wholemeal or treacle. Who cares, it was delicious!

By now the café was filling up with customers appearing to enjoy many of the items listed above. The tables had floral decorations, and we were taken by the imaginative use of pebbles in the vases, even if they were set in ‘plastic’ water.

After an excellent break, Ann explored some of the store proclaiming that we should really make an effort to visit Northallerton more often, rather than making it a staging post for a journey north. The only toilets I could find were on the top floor above the café.