We tried the award-winning Lime Kiln Kitchen in Thetford Garden Centre for a spot of lunch
It’s 11am on a Thursday and I am sat on a very comfy leather sofa in a garden centre’s restaurant – and the place is absolutely heaving.
Now, I don't normally do food reviews at garden centres, but this is no ordinary one, this is an award winner.
Thetford Garden Centre’s Lime Kiln Kitchen in Kilverstone, has just won 'Independent Garden Centre Caterer of the Year', so I thought this needed to be checked out.
Coming into the hustle and bustle of place you are met by two things – a huge display of incredibly indulgent and gorgeous looking cakes including Victoria sponge, brownies and cheesecakes (which we will get onto later) and the equally beautiful decor.
The hanging bird cage lights, the eclectic mix of chairs, different colours and patterns all around as well as its fireplace really gives an instantly welcoming home away from home feeling.
Every detail in the decor may look to some like it has just been cobbled together but you can tell it really has been carefully thought out and just works.
Sitting down and grabbing a menu, they have jacket potatoes, sandwiches, salads, quiche of the day and some interesting sounding filled savoury cheese scones – but I went for the garlic mushroom and rosemary soup and slow roasted beef sandwich with whole grain mustard, pickled gherkins and house fries from the specials.
With the order done and a lovely cup and saucer of tea in my hand I got a chance to fully take in my surroundings and just listen to the gentle murmuring of chatter all around me.
After very little time at all, I had both dishes on the very solid wooden table in front of me.
The soup, accompanied by two wonderful crusty but soft on the inside locally baked granary bread chunks, fed my soul as well as my body.
The perfectly deep rich earthy garlic and mushroom flavour with that rosemary kicking in at the end was the sort of winter wonder that Santa (who is coming soon, by the way) would salivate for and was right up my street too.
It made me want to light some logs in the restaurant fireplace, throw on some slippers and snuggle up with this – keeping me warm and cozy for the rest of the day.
But this hearty sized bowl was soon empty, though I had enjoyed every delectable spoonful.
Now onto my overnight slow roasted peppercorn beef with whole grain mustard, pickled gherkins and rocket sandwich with house fries.
The groove cut skin-on chips had that slight crunch on the outside and then the starchy fluffiness on the inside that I adore and, I won’t lie, some may have scooped up the last remaining missed bits of the soup too.
I don’t normally pick beef in a sandwich but the thinly sliced stacked slow cooked meat melted in the mouth and gave a peppery punch with the rocket against the vinegary gherkins and mustard, balancing it all out with every bite.
A well-rounded sandwich which delivered on what it promised and then some – I should potter around here more often with food like this.
Now having taken on two mains at the same time, you could stick a fork (rake, spade or any other gardening tool) in me, I was surprisingly done – but I did not want to miss out on the cakes I had seen when I came in (remember those?).
So after having a homemade chocolate brownie and millionaire’s shortbread boxed up for me, I paid my bill and gave my spot to a queue of hungry diners waiting to get in there and taste some of Lime Kiln Kitchen’s incredibly tasty offerings.
Some time later, at home with a mug of tea and space in my stomach, I had a piece of each sweet treat.
A chocolate waft came straight out of the box from opening it and the taste gave you everything you want from a perfectly cooked brownie.
That sugar like crust top and bottom was met in the middle with a soft and almost gooey centre.
Brownies are all about timing and whoever baked those got it spot on.
The millionaire’s shortbread was equally brilliant – that buttery shortbread base, the soft and sweet caramel with the chocolate top – these were both things of dreams and a pair of delights to eat to the very end.
It’s fair to say that Lime Kiln Kitchen is not just for green-fingered gardeners but for food fans as well – I can now see why it was so busy on a Thursday.
It is definitely a worthy award winner in my opinion, no doubt about that.