We visit the popular garden centre cafe on the edge of Bristol

The homemade cakes are one of the reasons why people flock to this garden centre cafe
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As somebody who lacks green fingers, or the time to do more than occasionally mow the lawn and clip a few branches, I rarely visit garden centres.

And I’d never heard of Whitehall Garden Centre until my nonagenarian neighbours - whose garden is immaculate - told me all about it.

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They said it was the best in the area when it came to stocking up with bedding plants and garden accessories but - more importantly - there was a rather good cafe there and the lunches were worth the journey alone.

In my experience, garden centre cafes can be a little hit and miss, and sometimes downright dreadful, so I approached lunch at Whitehall Garden Centre with a touch of trepidation.

Tucked away down a quiet country lane just outside Whitchurch, the garden centre is hugely popular, especially in December due to it having the largest Christmas shop in the UK. This festive spectacle - and it really is worth visiting - draws people from miles around.

Although there were plenty of people browsing in the shop and around the plants, it was the cafe that was doing the most trade - it’s clearly a destination for many people, a place to meet up over a coffee or lunch. Just after midday, we were lucky to get a table at all as the place was packed.

Inside the cafe at Whitehall Garden CentreInside the cafe at Whitehall Garden Centre
Inside the cafe at Whitehall Garden Centre
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From 9am-11am, there is a breakfast menu including a £6.99 breakfast brioche roll; scrambled eggs on toast (£7.99) and the ‘Whitehall Hearty’ English breakfast - that’s £10.99 for a plate piled high with two pork sausages, two rashers of smoked bacon, black pudding, sautéed mushrooms, potato hash, grilled tomato, fried egg and toast.

Lunch is served from 11.30am until 3pm and includes soup of the day (£6.99); ham, egg and chips (£12.99); jacket potato with cheese and beans (£7.99) and a range of cold sandwiches (£7.99-£8.99) and paninis (£7.99).

There were also a couple of specials on the board, including roast turkey breast with cranberry sauce, roasted root vegetables, braised red cabbage, sprouts, roast potatoes and gravy for £14.99.

Mushroom, garlic and mozzarella quicheMushroom, garlic and mozzarella quiche
Mushroom, garlic and mozzarella quiche

I went for the quiche of the day (£11.99) which was a mushroom, garlic and mozzarella version on this visit. Encased in crisp, buttery pastry, the quiche was warm, wobbly and with plenty of garlicky mushroom flavour. It was served with a creamy heap of crunchy coleslaw, a ruffle of leaves and a mountain of nicely seasoned chips.

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The tomato and mozzarella panini (£7.99) was also a generous dish with the molten cheese and sliced tomatoes drizzled with tangy hazelnut and basil pesto.

The homemade cakes are one of the reasons why people flock to this garden centre cafe and the counter is groaning under the weight of plastic domes covering deep, round bakes such as orange and cranberry cake, lemon pavlova and raspberry ripple cake.

I had a slice of the Earl Grey and blackcurrant cake (£3.99) and it was a showstopper. Drizzled with blackcurrant sauce, in the middle of the light sponge was a layer of buttercream and there were plump sultanas which had been soaked in Early Grey tea to add that distinctive bergamot flavour.

Earl Grey and blackcurrant cakeEarl Grey and blackcurrant cake
Earl Grey and blackcurrant cake

For families with young kids, there are also children’s meals at £6.99 and these include sausage and chips; wholetail scampi, peas and chips; ham and cheese toasties and a five-item lunch bag.

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The food we tried at Whitehall Garden Centre was hard to fault and definitely worth the trip although it’s not exactly cheap and the lunch bill soon creeps up once you add drinks.

Still, it’s a lovely rural location despite being so close to the city and if you combine lunch with a visit to the shop, it makes for a memorable few hours well spent, whether you have green fingers or not.

Whitehall Garden Centre, The Nursery, Norton Lane, Whitchurch, Bristol BS14 0BT.

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