Dean Bailey celebrates the arrival of summer at Bradley Gardens
Given the chance of eating al fresco rather than al desko, you know what we’ll choose – and when the heat is on, an outdoor table overlooking the land from which the produce on your plate was harvested is about as good as it gets.
Thus, with the sun finally making an appearance and a long Thursday dragging on by about 11am, we decamped to the walled garden at Bradley Gardens in Wylam and its glasshouse café/restaurant.
There’s something for every member of the team here – plants for editor Jane to buy and fail to keep alive when she gets them home, shops for photographer Nicky to browse gifts, homewares and accessories, and big wedges of cake for me. All that and a lunch menu starring local produce ensures this is an essential component of our regular luncheon rota.
Back to the all-important cake, and the Victoria sponge is fantastic, light with a thick filling of jam and cream. I’m assured the coffee and walnut cake is equally good, though it’s far too grown up for me.
Afternoons here can’t be rushed. You have to wander in the garden, take in everything that’s going on and then chill out in the glasshouse, safe in the knowledge that you’re miles from your desk.
Lunch is perfectly matched to the light, bright glasshouse setting. A bubbling cheddar cheese and spinach soufflé fills the room with its aroma as it arrives. A delicate texture and punch of strong cheddar is a fantastic pick-me-up for Thursday of a long week.
Meanwhile, summery grilled chicken wrapped in dry-cured ham is served with buttery French beans and new potatoes.
Lunch for two, including two drinks and cake, comes to £40, and who can put a price tag on a perfect summer afternoon in such a beautiful spot?