Reviewed in Feast issue 39 – September 2019
Both the joy and the, ahem, pain of owning a dog is the walking of it. Sure, it gets you out in all weathers, sure it is great for your physical and mental health but some days? Well, you simply can’t think of anything worse.
Fortunately, my dog walking responsibilities are made far more pleasurable by the company of my friend Debbie, a fellow mum, keeper of numerous secrets and a great source of support and advice. And she owns a hound almost as daft as mine.
Our walks always include plenty of natter and often a coffee and, when times get very hard, a glass of wine. Or two.
So the prospect of a dog walk and then a slap up brekkie was very much the thing, especially as we were to try the newly revamped eaterie at Highway Garden and Leisure, a really popular place just a few miles out of Norwich on the A146.
Now part of Roys, it is a huge site, selling not just plants, trees, and all things horticultural, but also clothes, gifts, aquatics, conservatory and garden furniture – and just about everything in between!
My eye was taken by the food hall, with plenty of local producers on offer, and the wide choice of cacti on sale – which are very on trend at the moment, probably because even people like me can’t kill ’em!
The centre’s café and restaurant, Gardeners’ Retreat, has just been refurbished and is now a lovely spot: fresh, calm and spacious. There are separate areas, the café and restaurant, but they have the same colour scheme – cool green and warming brick, wooden floors and masses of healthy looking plants.
About 200 people can be catered for and there are outdoor seating areas, including a dog friendly one.
The café is more relaxed, with sofas and a little children’s area, and you can choose from all your favourites like sausage rolls, but we headed to the restaurant for our breakfasts which you order at a counter and are delivered straight to your table.
We’d worked up an appetite with a decent walk around the old Roman site at Caistor St Edmunds so started off with little Kilner jars of granola, yogurt and blueberries at £3.95, which were delicious. Then it was straight in with a vegan breakfast for me – avocado, sausage, hash browns, mushrooms, tomato and beans – and a full English for young Debbie – bacon, sausage, fried egg, tomato, mushrooms and beans! Both were £5.99 (two for a tenner) and also included plenty of buttery toast which we reckoned was great value.
Add in mugs of strongish lattes and we were invigorated and pretty full for the rest of the day!
Lunches include light options like a Ploughman’s and jacket potatoes, plus traditional big hitters like ham, egg, and chips, and chilli, and more elaborate dishes such as fish ones.
The daily carvery (£8.99) is highly popular, especially on Sundays, and afternoon tea, at £10 a head, sounds rather good, too! There is also a children’s menu, Little Seedlings, which has the ever popular goujons, fishy fingers and ice cream sundaes.
All dietary requirements are catered for, including gluten free and dairy free, and there are lots of vegetarian and vegan options – and very tempting desserts.
It’s a friendly place, with staff happy to chat, and a lovely family feel – we saw lots of multi-generational groups, all tucking into their preferred choices – and with plenty of smiling faces. So you can’t say fairer than that!