Looking for garden cafes? Want the best cafes to eat al fresco? Here’s our guide to the UK’s best garden cafes, and check out the best outdoor dining restaurants
Wiveton Hall, Norfolk
On the north Norfolk coast, between Cley-next-the-Sea and Blakeney, this 17th-century Dutch-gabled Jacobean manor house has a colourful café in the grounds along with a pick-your-own fruit farm and Art Barn showcasing local artists’ work. The café looks over the marshes to the sea and is surrounded by strawberry fields.
For lunch you can tuck into a bowl of Binham Blue and cauliflower soup with hazelnut dukkah or a grilled Sheringham sea bass. The Wiveton Salad is your five-a-day in one with grated courgette, pumpkin seeds, cauliflower tabbouleh, tomatoes with basil, potato salad, wheatberry and lentils with preserved lemon and sumac, coleslaw, mixed leaves and carrot with poppy seeds. Before you leave, swing by the farm shop to stock up on veg from the garden and the hall’s homemade jams, marmalades and chutneys.
Helmsley Walled Garden Cafe, Helmsley
Set on the outskirts of Helmsley Walled Garden, a five-acre idyll blooming with fruit trees, peonies, clematis, cornflowers and much more, The Vine House Café is a lovely way to enjoy the gardens and its wildlife.
The menu focuses on simple, homemade dishes such as seasonal soups (spring veg, feta and mint), open sandwiches (chicken with a spicy peanut sauce or ham with homemade pickles), and beautiful salad boards (the Yorkshire salad includes local pork pie, ham, cheese and pickles). For dessert, order a pot of Yorkshire tea, or coffee roasted in York, and a freshly baked cake and take in the peaceful scenery.
Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, Cornwall
The pasties are from Penzance but the rest of the dishes rustled up in the kitchen of the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery café are made on site and showcase the best, fresh Cornish produce – much of it from the adjacent gardens. The chic wood-panelled café, with views of Fowey Valley and Restormel castle, is a picturesque setting for a lunch of smoked mackerel salad with a glass of Camel Valley sparkling wine.
Or indulge in a Cornish cream tea where scones come served with Trewithen Dairy clotted cream. In the winter months you can hole up here by a blazing fire and warm yourself with a bowl of creamy smoked haddock chowder.
Secret Garden, Cardiff
If you’re after a walled garden cafe with as much beauty as substance, then wander through the tree-lined paths of Bute Park, to find this independent set up. The team, run by Mel Boothman, (search out Penylan Pantry in Waterloo Gardens for her other culinary gold star) serves a killer coffee from local roastery Hard Lines, and a simple-but-delicious menu of organic veggies, seasonal soups, chunky frittatas, salads and creative cakes (grab a honey salted brownie or slice of the vegan chocolate and coconut loaf).
Potted herbs, planted for the launch in April 2018, are now abundantly used in the café’s dishes, with honey coming from three resident hives in the park. Dogs are welcome, too, and a canopy and cosy blankets make it a year round option, no matter the weather.
The Ethicurean, Somerset
The Barley Wood Walled Garden is a lovingly restored Victorian kitchen garden in Somerset. Created in 1901 it has views across Wrington Vale and the Mendip Hills. Today, gardener Mark Fox tends the beds of veg, much of it packed with heritage and heirloom varieties, for the site’s rustic restaurant, set in an old glasshouse.
Think church chairs and long tables where you can tuck into dishes such as celeriac and chestnut soup with English truffle oil or pork, apple and smoked mushroom terrine with fermented piccalilli and winter leaves. A vegetable-led evening menu celebrates the local produce from the starters to sweets. Try the likes of miso broth, kohlrabi and radish tops; Cajun cauliflower, split pea and fermented salsa and fig leaf set cream with strawberries and honeycomb.
The Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh
On the edge of Edinburgh, huddled beneath the Pentland Hills, the Secret Herb Garden is a seven and a half-acre oasis ringed by hedgerows with a stream tumbling through it. You can while away an afternoon here meandering among the plants, learning about their culinary and medicinal uses, breathing in the heady aromas and sipping a cup of tea or enjoying a slice of orange and geranium poppy seed cake in the glasshouse or cafe.
Even traditional tea and coffee has been given a herbal makeover, however. Pekoe Teas has created three Earl Grey varieties with the garden’s own bergamot: Duchess Grey with lemon verbena, Scots Grey with heather flowers and Earl Grey with cornflowers. The coffee has also had a herbal injection: Sumatra Mandheling beans blended on site with the garden’s roasted elderberries. There’s a shop selling all things herbie and they also run courses on beekeeping, candle-making, foraging and growing herbs.
Worton Organic Garden, Oxford
At Worton Organic Garden in Oxfordshire they ‘speak vegetable’. Gardeners Anneke (Dutch) and David (Australian) Blake work the seven-acre market garden just five miles outside Oxford growing everything from Chinese cucumbers to African squash and Chinese herbs.
They’re Soil Association certified, the droppings from the hens, bantams and guinea fowl help to fertilise the soil and their eggs sold in the farm shop. Open Friday to Sunday, year round, you can also pick up homemade organic rye, white and wholemeal sourdough breads after relaxing in the café. Sit inside, in front of the wood-burner, with a bowl of homemade soup or something more substantial, or outside amongst the plant pots on the terrace with a slice of homemade cake.
Words Lucy Gillmore, Alex Crossley and Sophie Rae
Updated July 2019