11 of the best garden centre cafes in East Anglia
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Plan your spring garden with a slice of cake and a cuppa.
As the weather perks up, more and more of us will be tending to our gardens. Rooting out weeds, tidying pathways, thinking up magical planting schemes. All that plotting will surely include a visit to a local garden centre or nursery for inspiration and advice. There are lots of fantastic and experienced nurseries around Suffolk – and many of them offer refreshments. Check these spots out on your travels.
Marlows, Bury St Edmunds
So much more than a nursery and garden centre, Marlows also boasts a pet and aquatic store, and an interiors and homes lifestyle shop selling everything from lanterns and crockery, to cushions and barbecues. The Scandinavian-style café (The Kitchen) is open from breakfast onwards for homemade, high quality food, from light bites to scones, cakes, traybakes and more substantial plates (think hand battered cod with chips and homemade tartare sauce, and chilli bowls with potato wedges). Gluten-free diners are catered for, and there's a kids' menu too.
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Café Jungle, Costessey and Beccles
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Found at Urban Jungle, this pair of cafes definitely offer something very different. For starters, you'll find yourself dining in amongst lush greenery, with the eating areas immersing guests in the 'jungle' surrounded by plants and colourful, comfy furniture.
Add to that the cafés are both totally gluten-free and you've got a very unique dining concept indeed. You'll find pies, sandwiches made with the best gluten-free bread the owners could get their hands on, quiches, hot dishes and some of the best brownies around. The afternoon tea is huge and well worth driving out for too.
Swann's Nursery, Bromeswell
This nursery sells all manner of plants, but specialises in trees and conifers with plenty of expert advice at hand on your visit. On site, the Wild Blackberry café is a treat. Operated by the same folk who have the Wild Strawberry café in Woodbridge, quality and using locally sourced ingredients are key to the success of this place. Stop in for Allpress coffee, some of the best cheese scones around, daily specials, and paninis with unusual fillings that could include homemade hummus with local chilli jam, toasted almonds and red pepper.
Back to the Garden, Holt
On a bright day there's almost nowhere better to find yourself than in the gardens of this farm shop, café and deli, where you'll be surrounded by a proliferation of beautiful flowers and shrubs. The café is open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, with the full English being a particular joy to behold. Expect the best quality sausages, black bacon, homemade black pudding, grilled tomato, mushroom, homemade hash browns, toast and organic eggs your way. Make sure you grab some organic meat and veg from the shop as you leave.
Roots and Shoots Garden Centre, Badley
A massive garden centre with absolutely everything you could need, including loads of varieties of bedding plants. Breakfast is served at the onsite café until 11.30am, with anything from porridge to a stack of pancakes or a full English on the menu. At lunchtimes there's the usual sandwiches and jacket potatoes plus warming plats of hunter's chicken, scampi or meat pie and mash.
Green Pastures, Norwich
A former winner of Best Restaurant in the Norfolk Food and Drink Awards, the Gardeners Kitchen here focusses on using high quality ingredient and fresh seasonal garden produce. It's very family friendly (there's a children's menu, toddler cutlery, high chairs and a play area) and the afternoon tea is highly rated by visitors to the café. A typical afternoon tea includes finely cut finger sandwiches, a selection of mini cakes, macarons, scones and fresh fruit and cream meringues.
Laurel Farm Garden Centre, Ipswich
A very nice garden centre to the north of Ipswich with a sweet vintage shop, farm shop and a café too. Families are welcome in the eatery which offers breakfast, lunch, cream teas and afternoon tea. There are regular specials to try out throughout the day, and the Italian hot chocolate is yummy.
Reeve's Parlour Restaurant, The Bawdeswell Garden Centre
More of a traditional, canteen-style café but popular nonetheless. Breakfast is served every day (with a late sitting on Sundays for brunch from 10.30am to 12noon). There's a gluten-free menu. And deals are available almost daily. For example, on Tuesdays and Thursdays you can enjoy two courses for £11.25, and a Sunday roast with pudding after will set you back just £12.
Not the biggest nursery in Suffolk, but the focus here really is on quality, not quantity, with a lean towards growing and selling fragrant flowers, basket plants, annual cutting flowers and home-grown vegetables and seedlings.
There's a cute garden and lifestyle shop, leading through to the nationally acclaimed café, which harnesses the bounty of Darsham's own herbs and vegetables and transforms them into utterly delicious plates of food, often with a Middle Eastern or southern European twist. Brunch here is a must, or book in for the set Friday evening menu. Dishes have included roast squash with labneh, dukkah and sage, and partridge with lentils, harissa and preserved lemon.
Sturmer Nurseries, Haverhill
One of the only places in the area to sell the once prolific Sturmer Pippin apple tree – native to the village. Beyond the fantastic garden centre, the tearoom is much-loved and attracts regular customers who appreciate the very good home cooking. Expect scones, cakes, homemade pies and Scotch eggs, curries, lasagnes and more alongside freshly roasted coffee and loose leaf tea. Eggs and meat are free-range, milk is organic, and the kitchen team even go out of their way to buy ethically sourced prawns for the menu.
Lime Kiln Kitchen, Thetford Garden Centre
Opened last November, the décor at this café is a cut above the rest, with plush, wonderfully upholstered chairs and sofas and funky vintage lighting. Look out for the enormous afternoon teas, proper roasts on a Sunday and fish and chip Fridays, from 5pm to 7pm.