Al fresco lunch was a real treat

Guardian Gourmet review of Dobbies Garden Centre restaurant (w110706-7)
Guardian Gourmet review of Dobbies Garden Centre restaurant (w110706-7)
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What is it about gardening writers that makes them assume we all live in acres of land?

The other day I read an article about encouraging wild flowers in your garden which suggested creating a separate meadow area ‘some distance’ from your house.

If I tried that I’d end up at least three doors down.

I do like a bit of gardening though, and I do like to visit a nice garden centre.

Which is how we ended up at Dobbies at Barlborough one Sunday.

These days garden centres are about much more than plants of course and Dobbies, with its adjoining mall of shops, is more of an afternoon out.

Which meant a visit to the cafe for lunch.

This is no tiny sandwich bar tucked away behind the shrubbery either, it is large and airy and has an extensive selection of dishes on offer.

The very hungry can get a full blown three-course dinner, or you can do as we did and opt for a light lunch.

It was a warm, sunny day so we decided to sit outside on the large patio, which made it feel a bit like we were on holiday.

Eating al fresco in this country is always a bonus and there were plenty of people making the most of the sunshine and the chance to eat outdoors in the fresh air.

We headed for the self-serve salad bar and decided to go for the small option (£5.25). There is a choice of either quiche, fish or cold meat and then as much salad as you can pile onto the plate.

The plates weren’t that big but there was room enough to get a good selection of cherry tomatoes, radishes, beetroot, celery and pepper, along with mixes like shredded carrot with sultanas and a pasta mix.

It all tasted crisp and fresh and was perfect for a summer lunch.

The children chose from a kids’ range of sandwiches with extras like crisps, Babybel cheese, crackers and raisins. With orange juice it came to £13.65 for the three of them.

I was going to go for my usual cup of tea to drink but then I noticed there was iced tea (£2.95) so decided to be adventurous and try that instead.

I’ve never taken sugar in tea so it proved a bit too sweet for my taste, and seemed to be a bit fizzy as well. Not my cup of tea in fact.

For dessert we shared a massive banana split (£4.95) and also tried out the bubble gum and liquorice ice cream cones from the excellent range of flavours on offer (£1.55).

There was a small play area for the children so when they got fed up of sitting, they were able to let off some steam by running around.

By Helen Johnston

Star rating HHHH