Food review - ‘Good, solid and filling food’ at Green Pastures, Bergh Apton
- Credit: Archant
It's not everyone's cup of tea to be in a garden centre on a blustery January Sunday, especially as nobody is outside looking at plants and everyone is packed into the restaurant instead. That was the case at Green Pastures, just outside Bergh Apton, to the south of Norwich.
A couple of years the restaurant here was named the best at a garden centre in the country and that came after an EDP food award in 2015. I'd been to Green Pasture several times for a drink and a snack, but never eaten a proper meal there so was pleased to find out what the fuss was about.
Has anyone else noticed the dramatic transformation of food at Norfolk's garden centres in the last couple of years? Despite not being particularly green-fingered, I have spent more and more time at garden centre cafes and restaurants, probably because I own two young children and they're good destinations for the rug rats all year round.
My wife and I chose a Sunday to give the Green Pastures food experience a taste test and it was packed. Lunch is served between noon and 2.30pm and you'll almost certainly need to book a space in the dining area – it has around 30 tables and it wasn't until 2.15pm that it started to look anything but heaving.
Despite the fact it was so busy, service was very quick. You order at the counter and the food seemed to arrive for everyone in no more than 10 minutes, probably as almost everyone was eating a roast dinner so I guess it was all ready in the kitchen which is what you'd expect on an extremely busy Sunday.
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The Sunday lunch menu is pretty small and all dishes are £9.95 for one course and £13.95 for two courses.
We swerved the Ploughman's Platter with local ham and cheese and a selection of bread, pickles and salad and also the sweet potato and red pepper tagine with cous cous which was the vegetarian/vegan option.
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My wife went for the roast dinner. There's a choice of beef, pork or turkey, she plumped for beef. It arrived on a big plate drenched in a rich, thick gravy which got the thumbs up – no gravy boats here!
The two big slices of beef were tender, succulent, soft and fluffy roast potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips, cavolo nero, a small pot of red cabbage on the side with a big Yorkshire pudding and a butternut squash puree on the plate too. She said it was excellent and very filling.
I personally think a roast dinner is an overrated meal. I'm firmly in the camp that believes having a roast is not an essential part of a Sunday so I went for the only other option on the menu, salmon fishcakes.
They were good. Big chunks of salmon merged with plenty of mashed potato made for a hearty old fishcake – and there were two of them as well. They were well cooked in breadcrumbs and perfectly fine. Perhaps a little on the salty side, perhaps a bit too much to eat with just a salad for a company. As good the salad was I would have been perfectly happy eating just one fishcake and having some new potatoes or chips with it but it wasn't a major problem. It was a good straightforward fishcake.
This was the set Sunday menu. If you come Monday to Saturday there is far more choice – an organic beef burger topped with smoked bacon and cheese with wedges is £12.95, scampi and fries is £10.95 while the top priced item is the Gardeners Kitchen seafood platter, which is £14.95 and included peppered mackerel, panko squid, hot smoked salmon and gravlax.
Green Pastures serves alcohol – bottles of beers, cider and wine mainly from Norfolk are available, most of them are around the £4 mark while most soft drinks are £1.95. My wife ordered a small bottle of rose, while I had a strawberry and blackcurrant Rocks soft drink. I realise it's a garden centre and you're never going to have an amazing array of drinks, but just one beer on tap would have been brilliant.
You can pay just £9.95 for the main course but we went for the dessert option too – essentially it's anything from the counter which has thing such as Millionaire's Shortbread, Snickers cheesecake, pecan pie and lemmon posset.
We ordered a slice of lemon meringue pie and Bakewell tart. The first dessert was superb - a light meringue with a sharp zingy almost cheesecake-like lemon filling, it was lovely. The Bakewell tart was served luke warm with a bit of ice cream but I have to say was nothing special. A thin scraping of jam in between the sponge and the pastry was sadly not nearly enough to keep me interested.
Green Pastures is a small garden centre/nursery with a small food shop with emphasis on healthy and organic food, Post Office counter and a few garden supplies. The restaurant takes up half of the main building.
On a Sunday expect it to be packed out for lunch – there seemed to be a lot of older people there when we went, which isn't a bad thing. Probably not the best place to take children for a meal on a Sunday lunchtime, far better to take them in the morning when it's a bit quieter.
Order at the counter and they'll bring it to your table. The system works well and food is quickly delivered.
Everything is bottled/canned. You can pick up a bottle of wine to have with your lunch with prices ranging from £9.95 to a bottle of Norfolk's Winbirri English sparkling at £35.95 a bottle.
Good clean ladies and gents with a disabled toilet which doubles as a baby changing area
Plenty of parking right outside.
No issues here. The restaurant is a 30-second walk from the front door with no steps to negotiate for older diners
Our meal and drinks came to £36.90 which seemed fair enough. Next time I eat here I will come on a day other than Sunday where the menu is bigger and offers more choice.
The roast dinner was a bit success from across the table
It's a garden centre that does food – it's not trying to be an amazing restaurant. Saying that though, if you are passing, it's a good place to go for a snack or a light meal and if you live nearby I imagine Green Pastures is a big draw. It's a friendly and welcoming place and the food is good, solid and filling which for a garden centre must be viewed as a positive.
THREE MORE TO TRY:
Notcutts, Daniels Road, Norwich – recently had a major restaurant revamp, ideal stopping spot if you're navigating Norwich's outer ring road.
White House Farm, off Blue Boar Lane, Norwich – great coffee, cake and fried breakfast if you're in the north of the city
The Foundry Plant Centre and Coffee Shop, Ipswich Road, Tasburgh – famed for its all-day breakfast, if you're a fry-up fan it's one to tick off the list
THREE DISHES TO TRY
Head Gardeners Big Boots Breakfast – Green Pastures does a superb fried breakfast for £9.95
Norfolk pasty - made with lamb, goats cheese and served with new potatoes £10.95
Allotment platter – cream cheese peppers, caponata, tzatziki and goats cheese and beetroot pastries £9.95