Purdy’s Tea Room at Woodgate Nursery in Aylsham offers us the perfect place for a light lunch outside before perusing the perennials, says Emma Outten
I don’t know if she is your typical pre-teenager but my daughter has taken to spending Sunday afternoons in the local garden centre of late.
She likes succulents in particular (maybe they make good Instagram posts) and she always likes eating out, so it’s a win-win outing for her.
With that in mind we headed to Woodgate Nursery, an independent plant nursery with 700 varieties of plants, just outside Aylsham, to try Purdy’s Tea Room for some good old fashioned home cooked food.
Unfortunately, on the late spring day we went, it was absolutely chucking it down so we weren’t able to make the most of the large outside seating area, which was a shame, but that’s the great British weather for you, and at least the plants were getting a good watering!
Had the sun been out, it would have been lovely to have sat outside, as there were plenty of wooden tables and chairs, and a little sheltered area, too, should you wish to avoid the midday sun.
Inside, there are two parts to the Tea Room; the slightly more bustling room with the open plan kitchen at one end and the slightly quieter side room, with some sofas at one end.
Their policy on dogs is an interesting one: they only allow one well behaved dog inside at any one time (good job I left my not very well behaved spaniel at home), to sit by one particular table by the door. Had I brought him, I guess we could have waited outside until a one-out one-in opportunity arose.
We found a window seat, had a good look at the menu and went up to the counter to order our drinks: Apple Juice from Ashill Fruit Farm near Thetford for me, and a can of something fizzy for the pre-teen. But I could have had, say, a Lavazza Coffee or luxury hot chocolate courtesy of Calypso Coffee from North Walsham, or a cup of tea made with water from the Woodgate Borehole, 110ft down!
The point is, at Purdy’s, all the ingredients are locally sourced, where possible, so customers can rest assured that they are being served the freshest quality produce.
Meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables are purchased from in and around Norfolk. For example bread – from H V Graves bakery in Briston – is baked late at night and delivered in the early hours to ensure the freshest tasting bread available for the sandwiches.
I liked the fact that you can know exactly how many food miles are involved: for example, salad and vegetables come from Fresh Approach in Aylsham, literally two fields away; plus meat and poultry comes from GF White’s Butchers in Aylsham – five minutes on a butcher’s bicycle! Other local suppliers include Broadland Hams, Little Melton; free range eggs from P J Southgate, Great Ellingham; plus sausage rolls and sausages from Swannington Farm to Fork.
So what to eat for lunch with summer days in mind? I was tempted by the Purdy’s Ploughman’s (probably because it had a nice ring to it) but then I spotted homemade quiche served with salad and potato salad on the specials board, for £6.50. Not much else, apart from a BBQ, says summer than a quiche. It was a veggie one, packed with broccoli, and the waitress was very apologetic that a piece of pastry had broken off – so much so that she took off 50p!
The salad was a mix of leaves, cucumber and cherry tomatoes and came with lashings of dressing, and the potato salad had a real homemade quality about it.
My daughter loves a toastie and opted for the Brie and cranberry one (£5.25), which came with Kettle Crisps. She was generous enough to give me a bite and I had to agree it was really tasty.
We also noticed that Purdy’s does afternoon tea, which would be a nice option for another time, sitting out in the sunshine. Or else there is a range of salads (such as Norfolk ham).
For something sweet, there are cakes and scones on the counter to choose from. I went for the lemon and poppy seed cake which was lovely and lemony and seemed fitting for the time of year. My daughter came over all Paul Hollywood and gave her verdict: the lemon curd/creamy filling had a ‘good balance of flavours’ apparently!
She headed to the freezer and was in a quandary about which flavour of Dann’s Luxury Norfolk Dairy Ice Cream to choose from. Eventually she went for the mint chocolate chip for something really refreshing.
Then it was time to have a wander around the nursery itself – the moisture-loving ‘bog plants’ section caught my eye, for some reason, and they were certainly getting lots of moisture the day we went – fingers crossed for a drier summer!
Reviewed in Feast issue 27 – June 2018