Garden centres are a guilty pleasure for those of us whose only concession to joining the green fingered brigade is buying the odd hanging basket to keep up with the Joneses ? or in our case Brian across the road.
Brian’s hanging basket is the envy of all who survey it, a riot of colour but woe betide anyone who disturbs his carefully tended creation. He’d have you with his watering can.
Yet it’s not just hanging baskets, plants and bird feeders that swallow our hard-earned cash, every garden centre worth its weight in potting soil has got a cafe.
These countrified caf?s attract us like bees around a honeypot despite the fact prices are often ridiculously high and quality extremely low. I’ve often sank my teeth into a rock hard scone and regretted forking out a fiver for low grade cream tea for one.
Now Notcutts a family-owned group of 18 individual garden centres, with a branch near Stockport, is trying to bring quality grub to the garden centre landscape. The company, which dates back to 1897, is synonymous with expertise in planting but who needs plants when you can sink your teeth in a gourmet burger with the crispiest onion ring accompanied by a tangy fruit chutney and the crispiest of crisp fat chips?
I don’t usually ‘do’ burgers having avoided the city centre ‘dirty burger’ trend with disdain. But you get a better class of burger down Poynton way and, more importantly, you didn’t risk dislocating your jaw trying to get your chops round one.
The salad in a little bowl with a grape on top wasn’t to my taste as it didn’t have dressing on and I don’t go a bundle on grapes in salad unless it’s a fruit salad. But the homemade steak burger with caramelised onion and Monterey Jack cheese was excellent.
It was followed by a sharing dessert platter of pavlova, chocolate gateau and summer pudding.
At this point Andrew Mugliston, director of hospitality approached having invited the M.E.N down to sample the specially priced tenner for two course taster menu on Thursday night (typically a main will set you back between ?9 and ?12).
Talking to him it’s clear he’s a man on a mission to bring good quality, locally sourced food cooked up by creative chefs to the gardening centre landscape. And where better to start than in leafy Cheshire on a perfect summer’s evening?
The pollen was high, I was sneezing and we were the youngest punters in the Farmhouse Kitchen restaurant (and, dear reader, I am not young).
The recently refurbished restaurant although typically homely in d?cor was smart and very easy on the eye and equally easy to relax in ? as well as being scrupulously clean. And you get waitress (or waiter) service which is a definite bonus if you don’t like to queue, are lazy or just like being waited on (I can tick all three boxes).
Notcutts is hoping to make its competitors go green with envy by offering great food in a garden centre setting. If on the taster evening at Woodford Park Garden Centre we got a taste of things to come the future’s looking rosy for garden centre grub!