It’s been quite a while since I last went out for lunch, and Sunday presented the perfect opportunity. Because we were already in the area, my lunching ‘partner in crime’ and I decided to treat ourselves to a light bite to eat at Beetham Nurseries, which lies just south of Milnthorpe.
The café was a lot busier than I’d expected for the time of year, which I took as a sign that people like what they find. I’ve been here before, mostly for afternoon tea, and occasionally for sandwiches, and have always enjoyed the experience. Even though it’s only February, I had been hopeful we would be able to sit outside – back in Kendal I’d actually felt the warmth of the sun. Alas, it hadn’t followed us on our car journey, and so we headed into the large main café, situated on the far side of the nursery opposite the garden tools and gift shop building. There are in fact two eateries, the smaller tearoom serving teas and coffees with sweet treats and snacks.
If it had been warm enough, we would probably have had great difficulty finding a seat outside, as this option becomes very popular in the main season. With tables running the length of the enormous expanse of two tearooms, it’s a lovely spot in which to enjoy the sun and peaceful refreshment whilst looking out over the nursery. You can’t see the road or the outside world, so it’s rather like sitting in a tranquil ‘other world’. But sitting inside is no major compromise either, as the entire length of the long, modern and beautifully designed building consists of glass from floor to ceiling, meaning you never feel shut away. It’s a great setting for people watching.
I ordered a poached salmon sandwich, which wasn’t strictly on the menu, but as you will learn, I have many food intolerances which sometimes make it difficult for me to fit in with a standard menu. The staff were accommodating though, and considering how busy they were, I was pleased to get the culinary adaptations I’d asked for. My companion had the most fabulous looking baked round of goat’s cheese, set in a pastry square with onion relish, and accompanied by salad. I love goat’s cheese and from my experience of buying it in supermarkets and at cheese counters, this was a generous portion and good value for money.
I particularly love the decaffeinated tea at Beetham, which is loose-leaf, very rich in flavour and definitely one of the better ones I’ve tasted. What I particularly like about Beetham’s tea is that you are served with a generous teapot, a large jug of milk and a substantial further pot of hot water. It’s true that not everyone likes their tea with as much milk as I do, but I do feel that I’m being invited to stay as long as I like with these gestures – in some establishments it’s as though I’m being herded out as soon as I’ve had chance to consume my tea with its accompanying thimbleful of milk.
The menu here is wide-ranging with a mixture of sandwiches – including regulars such as smoked salmon and tuna – and light meals such as quiche. There are a wide range of cold drinks in the chiller ranging from the local to the plain unusual. Turning back to food, there are also the legendary chips presented in a flowerpot. The bill came to around £18.00 for the two of us, including my sandwich (with salad and crisps), the goat’s cheese pastry and salad, and two teas.
I can’t wait for my next visit to Beetham. Whether it’s a visit for food or an afternoon cuppa, there’s lots to see on the gardening side of things, although obviously it’s early in the season at the moment. In 2014, Beetham opened an additional area of nursery, accessible from the car park, which is an absolutely stunning suntrap choc full of plants of every description. Honestly, it made you want to take home one of everything. It’s nice to see Beetham continuing to develop and improve their lovely site. The latest project looks to be the car park, which was expanded last year and appears to be undergoing further work, and I look forward to seeing the results.