I’m officially old. I had my sister and a friend staying at the weekend recently and we’d been out for drinks on the Friday night – and were very pleased to find a quiet bar where we could sit at a table and hear ourselves speak – and then wedding dress shopping on Saturday (you may have gathered by now that I’m engaged!). On Sunday, my sister had been mulling over getting the train into central London to go to an exhibition, but decided she would rather have a quieter day and do something locally.
I live in a small town in leafy Surrey and when she asked what there was to do locally, the only thing I could think of was the garden centre. Yes folks, I’ve turned into my parents (well, at least I didn’t suggest we go to B&Q).
But Woodcote Green Garden Centre in Wallington is amazing. They have live reindeer at Christmas, a week of half-term Halloween activities and a horticultural show where you can enter all sorts of categories from best delphiniums to funny looking carrots by way of Victoria sponges and scones. I entered once and was thoroughly beaten by members of the local WI and every year since then I’ve either been on holiday or moving house when the horticultural show takes place (honest!).
The garden centre has expanded its shop and café area over the past year or so, and when we arrived in the café I was a bit confused. I only saw sandwiches, cakes and a board listing jacket potato fillings, but was sure they did more hot food options than that. Also, the café didn’t look particularly big and I thought they had expanded it. To the bemusement of my friend and sister I rang my fiancé at home, as I knew he’d been there more recently, and explained to him why I felt confused. It turned out I was in the wrong café – it’s such a popular place that they now have two!
We decamped to the other side of the garden centre, passing the Christmas decorations, fireworks, pet area and one or two actual plants as well, and got one of the last tables in the other café. This one had proper menus on tables, though you order and pay at a counter and the food is then brought over to you.
There was quite an extensive menu as well for a garden centre café: I had a goats cheese burger on a garlic bread ciabatta with onion marmalade (£7.50) which came with tomato salsa and coleslaw. I asked for it without the salsa and coleslaw and unfortunately it came without the onion marmalade either! My sister had the same thing and hers did have the marmalade; as the ciabatta was cut in two (so it wasn’t really a burger, more of a toasted sandwich containing a goats cheese in breadcrumbs) and she swapped half so I could try it with and without the marmalade – it was much better with! The menu didn’t specify that it came with anything but it actually comes with chips (which they probably should mention really) so made a very filling meal and one that was very enjoyable. In fact it was so good that the next time my parents come to visit I think I will take them to lunch at the garden centre!