'I went to 11 Nottinghamshire garden centre cafes and it was a real mixed bag'

Nottinghamshire's garden centres have many temptations - and not just for green-fingered shoppers. The cafes always prove a big draw, no matter the time of day.

You can stop for breakfast, have a snack or tuck into a main meal. Then there's the cakes and scones, with tantalising displays of sweet treats to enjoy over tea or coffee. At some, you can book an afternoon tea.

Many serve Sunday roast dinner and some are licensed to serve alcohol - a refreshing break from buying slug pellets and compost. Taking a tour around Nottinghamshire, it's apparent there's not only a lot of garden centre cafes, there's a high standard, although some are better than others. Here's a round-up of what you might find.

Brookfields Garden Centre

The family-run Brookfields Garden Centre was acquired by Planters a year ago for £4m and with it came a cafe makeover and new menu. There's not just food and drink but entertainment too when the cafe hosts an afternoon tea with tribute acts. Last month it was Tom Jones, this month it will be George Michael and Elvis in June.

The cafe has no trouble pulling in the punters. Even on a wet Monday morning, it's busy but there is plenty of seating to go around, plus a sun terrace outside. The extensive menu starts with breakfast. A full English, a mini breakfast, veggie version, pancakes and avocado on sourdough are among the options.

The lunchtime choice ranges from a ploughman's platter to a homemade burger and steak and gravy pie to salad bowls and sandwiches. For a sweet treat, there are sundaes, cream teas and cakes, including gluten-free options such as chocolate and beetroot sponge. Roasts are served at the weekend.

A sign on the wall notes that the kitchen is proud to use products from local suppliers. There's bacon and sausages from Owen Taylor, a Derbyshire-based butcher that supplies many Notts companies, there are quiches and pies from AE Chambers in Arnold, and coffee from Stewarts of Trent Bridge.

I chose a ham salad sandwich, which appeared to be freshly made, rather than pre-wrapped in the chiller as they used to be. The delicious ham is thickly carved. It's served with plenty of salad, both between the two slices of wholemeal bread, and on the plate with a balsamic vinegar dressing. A small pot of crisps accompanies it. Together with a pot of tea, it comes to £10.48.

I can't fault the friendliness of the staff - both at the counter and the server bringing it to the table.

Location: Mapperley Plains, Mapperley, G3 5RW


One of Notts few remaining family-run garden centres and if you're a cat lover, there's the added bonus of spotting the felines, often asleep amongst the plants. The cafe is located in a wooden cabin and while seating is limited inside, the outdoor area has plenty of tables and chairs for an alfresco cuppa.

Breakfasts are served all day, with ingredients locally sourced. Homemade quiches, toasties, paninis, and homely dishes such as chill and lasagne are served. The selection of cakes changes regularly - and it's definitely one of the best I've come across. Cornflake tart, blueberry and lime sponge, Malteser tiffin, lemon and yuzu, and ginger, marmalade and chocolate friands have all graced the display recently,

Because it's closest to home, I visit here more than any other garden centre cafe, so I've tried much of the menu. I love the Stilton and mushroom panini that makes a tasty lunch. But if I had to pick just one thing it would be the incredible custard tart, that's so creamy and luxurious tasting. The one disappointment is that since the pandemic, they no longer do the incredible carvery.

Location: Toton Lane, Stapleford, Nottingham NG9 7JB

East Bridgford Garden Centre

This is definitely the biggest and poshest of them all, and the cafe embraces the home and garden theme of the shop. The cakes greet you first of all - and if you manage to walk past and not ask for one of the delicious cheesecakes, fruit-filled meringue nests or slices of homemade banana and caramel, you must have an iron will.

What I really like about it here is the cake mezze - perfect for indecisive customers like me, where you can pick four or eight smaller treats, from £4.50 to £7.50, from a selection including Victoria sponge, Bakewell tart, millionaires shortbread, lemon drizzle and raspberry macarons.

The choice for lunch is vast. Choose from soup, filled rolls with roast beef and prawn and crayfish, and salad or heartier Italian meals of duck pappardelle, Coppino fish stew and meatball with tagliatelle. Brunch is served until 3pm with choices such as a full English, eggs royale, shakshuka and bircher muesli. Come Sunday, five different roasts are served - beef, chicken, gammon, all three, and a vegetable wellington.

Calling it a cafe doesn't do it justice. With more than 600 seats in differently decorated zones, it's more of a restaurant - a licensed one too with a wide selection of beer, wine and cider.

An elegant homely corner has chandeliers and artwork and the Greenhouse Kitchen has waitress service. My favourite spot is the light and airy Garden Cafe. With blossom trees, vintage lamp posts and a wall that's painted like the sky it's like sitting outside without the menace of flies and wasps.

Location: Fosse Way, East Bridgford NG13 8LA

Notcutts Wheatcroft

It's been quite a while since my Iast visit and it's changed. The vintage Citroen H van, where fish and chips were sold from before the pandemic, has gone. Located by the entrance it gave the Street Kitchen its street food vibe. It's been replaced by a new counter laid out with cakes - more on those later - and screens showing the lunchtime options.

The lack of menus on the table means there's nothing to tempt you back for breakfast another day - it took a poster in the ladies to alert me to the fact that you can buy two cooked breakfasts for £15.95, which isn't a bad deal. All the usual fare of jacket potatoes, sandwiches, soup and salads are served and there's a speciality sandwich of the day - the day I visited it was smoky chicken BLT. There's also a fish dish of the day - lemon pepper salmon, which sounded deliciously fresh and healthy.

Mains of cod and chips, pasta primavera, quiche and chicken, leek and asparagus pie are served. One thing I noticed is that there's very little meat other than a sausage ciabatta or ham and cheddar sandwich. As for the cake selection, it's underwhelming. Victoria sponge, caramel chocolate brownie cake, double chocolate brownie, blueberry crumble muffin and vegan carrot and pistachio slice. I'd been hoping for more so I just had a cup of coffee, costing £2.85.

The man serving drinks was pleasant, repeatedly apologising for keeping me waiting even though there was just person ahead of me.

The newish retail park opposite brought with it Costa Coffee, McDonald's and Greggs, but there's still plenty of customers in the garden centre cafe, which has a special area with comfy armchairs for dog owners and their pets near the entrance.

It's around ten years ago since the cafe was given a £3m revamp and rebranded Street Kitchen and soon afterwards it won an international design award. Something that got me wondering is why there are a number of the wooden chairs with names and dates, from the 20s to the 70s. They look like they're from an old school. I sipped my coffee where A.F Robinson used to sit, from 1961 to 1965.

Location: Landmere Lane, Edwalton NG12 4DE

Woodborough Green Garden Centre

With its pastel green chairs and huge leafy plants, there's something very calming about the Gardener's Retreat cafe. I take a seat, part-hidden by one of the triffids (I admit it, I do not have green-fingers so I have no idea of the plants).

A waitress is going round with a notepad but you can also order at the counter. I go for a Full English with a pork sausage, two rashers of bacon, half a tomato, sautéed mushrooms, a hash brown, baked beans and a fried egg with toast. The egg appears to have been freshly cooked, rather than sitting around on a hotplate. Costing £8.99, with a further £1.20 for black pudding, it's one of the pricier garden centre breakfasts but it's good quality.

Main meals include gammon, Italian chicken, scampi and chips, lasagne, burgers and salads, with a some of them coming in smaller portions for people with light appetites. Jacket potatoes, wraps and ciabattas are an option. On Sundays, a carvery is served.

Location: Lowdham Lane, Woodborough NG14 6DN

Cherry Lane Garden Centre

The garden centre is home to Wellington's cafe and bistro, quite a sizeable space, decked out with booths, sofas and standard tables and chairs, and decorations of pot plants, a sizeable clock on the wall and an old-fashioned coffee grinder.

As well as the usual eggs, bacon and sausages, visitors will find porridge, mushrooms, goat's cheese and spinach on toast and scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast. Lunchtime mains of steak and ale pie, scampi and chips, cottage pie and burgers are on the menu, alongside jacket potatoes, paninis, baguettes, and salads, plus lighter bites for senior citizens.

I'm torn between the quiche of the day, which turns out to be cheese and onion, or minestrone soup. The round quiche looks quite a hefty portion so I choose the latter - a hearty bowl with mini pasta shells, carrot, celery and beans with half a baguette for £5.50.

After the disappointment of cakes at Notcutts, this more than made up for it with mouth-watering slabs of rhubarb and custard sponge and cherry and pistachio gateau. There's a decent selection of gluten-free and vegan cakes on display too. A carvery is served on Sundays.

Location: Pendock Lane, Bradmore NG11 6PQ

Trowell Garden Centre

The Digg Cafe has seating for 260 inside and more outside in the summer. Big, light, veggie, and gluten-free breakfasts are on offer together with American pancakes and avocado on sourdough - or simply toast and butter.

Of all the Notts garden centres, this family-run business seems to be the only one to acknowledge that a bread roll in these parts is called a cob. These come with various fillings and crisps. Sausage rolls, teacakes, and wraps or main meals of fish and chips, lasagne, salmon and burgers are sold.

Scones are always a good bet and they're delicious here, especially the cherry ones with butter or a fruit one with blackcurrant jam and clotted cream (£5.99). The cafe is licensed to serve alcohol, bottled beers, ciders, wine and prosecco.

Location: Stapleford Road, Trowell, Nottingham NG9 3TG

Hollybeck Garden Centre

Smaller than some of the big names, the Topiary Tearoom seems to get very busy even on weekdays. To make it go with a flow, a sign asks you to wait to be seated at the entrance. More or less straight away I'm led to one of the few remaining tables.

Seeking something different from the usual breakfasts I opt for an omelette (£7.25) with the choice of two fillings. I sack off ham, onion and tomato in favour of mushrooms and cheese. Menus are both on the tables and blackboards above the counter. I'm warned there will be a 15-minute wait for the food - in the end, it only takes ten.

It's one of the best omelettes I've ever had, with lots of stretchy cheese and plenty of mushrooms. When I can't open the sachet of ketchup, I ask a passing waitress if she can. She's struggling too so off she goes to get a pair of scissors. It is a well-staffed cafe, with three behind the counter and another two serving food and drinks to the tables.

After breakfast, the lunch menu begins with hot and cold food. A chicken burger with skinny fries, a posh prawn cocktail, a fancy fish finger sandwich and a traditional ham salad are some of the choices and during the week, you can take advantage of a deal offering two lunches for £17.50 on selected dishes. Make sure you leave room though for a delicious dessert of pecan and treacle tart or strawberry cheesecake.

Location: Oxton Road, Southwell NG25 0RW


The cafe is named Dumbles View, after the Lambley beauty spot, and is next to a petting farm, making it popular with families. The interior is homely with laminated menus on the tables. Aside from the main cafe, where dogs are allowed, there's a more relaxed area around the corner with sofas, plus an outdoor terrace.

Cooked breakfasts come in two sizes, plus veggie and vegan options. Sausage or bacon cobs, toasted teacakes and toast are the other options, all served until noon, after which the lunchtime menu kicks in with a list of traditional mains such as cottage pie, lasagne, pie and ham, egg and chips. The specials board offers a vegan Penang curry.

Different bready options include sandwiches, baguettes, paninis and toasties. Queuing to be served you'll see all the delicious fresh cream cakes, and as you move down the line, the sponge cakes and muffins. Torture when you're hungry.

I've got my sights set on a panini but they've sold out, so I go for a tuna melt toastie instead (£6). My coffee arrives at the table first - and what happens next is one of my real bugbears - the waitress walks away empty-handed without taking the dirty cups from the previous customers.

Perhaps when she arrives with the food, she'll clear them... it doesn't happen. The toastie is served with lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomato and coleslaw but not the sea-salted crisps as described on the menu. Never mind, I'm sure the toastie will make up for it.

However, as I take a bite I realise it's tuna minus any cheese, making it unappetisingly dry. I'd have taken it back to the counter but there's still a queue of people.

There's no sign of a waitress either. Hungry and limited for time, I suck it up. I've more or less eaten it by the time someone appears. She offers to take it back but it'd already taken 20 minutes to come out so I give it up as a bad job.

Location: Catfoot Lane, Lambley NG4 4QL

Reuben Shaw & Sons

Visiting over a bank holiday weekend, the car park is so busy they have people directing you to a space. The queue for the garden centre tills is also unbelievably long so I'm expecting the coffee shop on the other side of the car park to be rammed but it is surprisingly civilised and there are a few spare tables - each decked out with colourful spring flowers.

The menu on blackboards next to the counter indicates there are no Full English breakfasts but you can have a sausage or bacon butty or things on toast such as beans or scrambled egg - and they're sold all day.

The rest of the menu focuses on sandwiches, toasties, paninis, jacket potatoes, quiches and ploughman's lunches. Some people are ordering cakes, the likes of caramel biscuit cheesecake and Rocky Road. The Bakewell tart is good. I know as I've had it before.

But it's still breakfast as far as I'm concerned so I plump for a bacon butty (£4.10) with a pot of tea. It soon appears at the table - two slices of wholemeal bread with well-done bacon as requested.

Location: Moorgreen, Newthorpe, Nottingham NG16 2FF

Moores Nurseries and Garden Centre

I've stopped off at Gillmoores cafe before for a ham cob with salad and chips - and very nice it was too. At the time there had been a blackboard listing the Sunday menu of roast meat cobs with fillings of slow-cooked beef brisket or roast pork, served with roast potatoes, stuffing and "proper gravy"- I made a mental note to return.

But I never got around to it until recently. The blackboards are blank and I can't see any mention on the menu on the table, although they do have a Sunday roast with the meat of the day.

We've left it too late through - and by 3pm there's barely any cakes left either. In fact, the couple in front of me leave. There's just one slice of a vegan blueberry and lemon sponge, which I have with a flat white (£6.65). There's lots of jam and cream and even though it's the last slice, the sponge tastes nice and fresh. And as for it being vegan, you couldn't even tell.

The cafe sells breakfasts, a Full English and veggie, vegan and gluten-free versions. There's Eggs Benedict, Royale and one with black pudding or avocado.

BLT and ALT (avocado) sandwiches and cobs with fillings such as cheese, tuna mayo, prawns and coronation chicken make a light lunch but you can upgrade the crisps to chips. Toasties, paninis, jacket potatoes and soup are other options.

If you're after a main meal the choices are Hunter's chicken. beef chilli bowl, homemade quiche or plaice goujons. Other options on the menu have been blacked out, like redacted lines on a legal document.

The cafe has a kind of farmhouse kitchen vibe, with herb-patterned tablecloths and pine furniture. A further seating area before you get to the counter allows dogs.

A bingo session takes place every Tuesday from 10am with two games, unlimited tea or coffee and a two-course meal for £8.50.

Location: 156 Melton Road, Stanton-on-the-Wolds NG12 5BQ