The Garden Museum

The best garden cafes

As spring and summer approach, here's a selection of the gardens with the best cafes and restaurants

A good garden cafe can be a wonderful thing. Below we’ve picked some of the great garden cafes, from the chic garden cafe at the Garden Museum which looks out on Dan Pearson‘s designs, to the rustic Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. Our list is mainly put together from places that are primarily gardens or nurseries, but which have excellent cafes, with a few that are great restaurants and have great gardens. Either way, they are all worth heading to for both the garden and the garden cafe. Always check websites for specific opening times as certain cafes only open during the summer months.

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The Newt in Somerset
© Jason Ingram
The Ethicurian

The Barley Wood Walled Garden is the setting for this modern cuisine restaurant-cum-garden cafe, which specialises in all things seasonal with a side-order of fermented treats. The garden is not huge but has gorgeous views over the Mendips and the kitchen focuses on cooking with charcoal. Watch out too for the fungi on the menu that’s been cultivated on site. And don’t miss the upcoming Ethicurean in Cornwall,  due to open mid-April.

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The effortlessly stylish and brilliantly stocked nursery on the banks of the River Thames boasts a gorgeous cafe and restaurant space too. The Boglione family’s endeavour opened in 2004 and became known for its gorgeous food. Now there’s a restaurant or two in Covent Garden, along with a delicatessen and a lifestyle store. But it’s the original nursery and its culinary offering which guarantees a good day out.

Penelope Hobhouse‘s family home at Hadspen House has recently re-opened under the new name of The Newt. The Hobhouses first bought the place in the late 18th century and the garden was transformed by legend Penelope in the 1960s. Now it is a luxury hotel and gardens, with the garden having undergone extensive redesign since its current owners bought it. Iain Davies, who previously worked at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, is head of horticulture and The Botanical Rooms is the venue’s chic restaurant. Read our piece on it here.

Pythouse Kitchen Garden

The beautiful Pythouse Kitchen Garden is an 18th century stunner, with a restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Sunday roasts are of particular note and the monthly Pytfire Supper is slow cooked on the terrace over flames and embers. There’s also a whole series of events in their cafe line-up too.

Gordon Castle
© Claire Takacs

Recently featured in the pages of Gardens Illustrated, Scotland’s Gordon Castle has been revitalised by designer Arne Maynard, who divided up the garden into sections, each with its own purpose. The cafe uses ingredients from the garden itself and offers dishes with traditional Scottish twists. It’s all seasonal and if it’s not from the garden, the cafe aims to use local stockists where possible.

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Villa Augustus Dordrecht

In the old water basins of a water tower in Dordrecht is a 1.5 hectare garden, made up of an orchard, an Italian garden, a vegetable garden and a small wood. The former pump house is home to the garden’s restaurant, which uses all seasonal ingredients direct from plot to plate. There’s hotel rooms too, if you’d like to extend your stay…

Wiveton Hall

A dog-friendly cafe, which overlooks the marshes and then the sea in the grounds of Wiveton Hall which was originally build in 1653, on the site of an earlier building which dated back to 1280. The walled gardens are undergoing restoration, overseen by Amanda Bennett, and they supply the house with seasonal vegetables.

One of a generation of what’s called ‘destination nurseries’, Darsham is David Keleel and partner Willie Williams’ plant nursery. The casual cafe has a garden terrace and it’s possible to wander through the vegetable patch where ingredients for your lunch will come from. The cafe is licenced and there are daytime and evening sittings. Read our piece on Darsham here. 

Situated in Birmingham’s Kings Heath, the Kitchen Garden Cafe combines a garden shop, a deli and a cafe. While it doesn’t have the glamour and the history of some of the other cafes and restaurants on this list, we love its down-to-earth vibe and its friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

Sunrise over one of the herbaceous borders at Gravetye Manor in East Sussex
© Andrew Montgomery.

If you are looking for a special garden, a special meal and a special place to stay, then Gravetye Manor could be for you. Nestled in the Sussex countryside, the gardens were originally created by William Robinson in 1885  and some of the oldest trees in the orchard date back to his time. Tom Coward is head gardener at the manor now, and the Michelin-starred restaurant looks out onto the gardens.

The oldest botanical garden in London is a little horticultural oasis and the cafe is just as idyllic. They offer breakfast and lunch made from British produce and organic ingredients. Look out for late openings in July and August.
Walled Garden at Mells

Frome’s Walled Garden at Mells is a community plant nursery which specialises in cottage garden perennials and herbs. The sales support social programmes and the menus includes simple home cooked food and wood fired pizza. You can eat on the rose terrace, or in the green house in wetter weather.

This five acre garden may or may not have the first king of England buried in it. An ancient site with oodles of history, the Abbey was once considered the third most important religious centre in England. The Coy Carp Cafe offers tea and lunch overlooking The Stew Pond and its collection of koi carp.

The Garden Museum
© Eva Nemeth

The brilliant Garden Museum, un the church of St Mary’s at Lambeth, is a favourite of ours. The  new cafe was part of a redevelopment project which took place between 2015 and 2017 which also created two new gardens on the site, designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole and Dan Pearson. The Garden Cafe overlooks the chic and brilliant garden by Dan.

Clifton Nurseries

There are two Clifton Nurseries, one in London and one in Surrey, but the Quince Tree Cafe is one of our favourite tranquil and sunny spots in the big smoke. It’s also perfect for kids and families and is a tucked away gem that will be a revelation to anyone who doesn’t already know about it. The cakes are also well worth a taste.