A Botanical Wonderland: A review of Brighton’s Garden Cafe in the lanes

Garden Cafe would be the product of the Mad Hatters favourite spot, and Wednesday Addams’ worst nightmare. It is the pleasure product of afternoon tea and cake combined with an indoor picnic.

From the outside, you immediately know Garden Cafe is a botanical wonderland. The exterior is painted green, and there are plants surrounding the circumference. Hanging plants, small trees, potted window plants, a floral frame around the door. Outdoor bistro tables and chairs are the only clue that this is a cafe not a garden centre. I quite like it that way though; you step inside the shop and feel at one of the flora and plants. 

An impressive counter of cakes and salads

From the main entrance you are confronted with the till and counter. Presented are show stopping cakes. Options include a white chocolate baked cheesecake topped with fresh berries, or individual rich mini biscoff cakes. (These aren’t that mini, and vegan too). There was also a three tier pistachio cake, banoffee pie with an incredible cross section of whole banana layers. Or, biscoff cheesecake, vegan peanut butter cake, raspberry coffee walnut cake, thick salted caramel brownies, and the list goes on. 

In another fridge counter was also an impressive selection of quiche and salads. These were not any old salads either. Choices included a Mediterranean salad packed with peppers, olives, sundried tomatoes, or a kale and butternut squash salad. There were more too, all packed with colour. The salads themselves wouldn’t look out of place if put in a plant pot with the other arrangements.

Plant Paradise

A white painted corridor led us into an indoor space where people were working on laptops, sipping coffees. There were plenty of mirrored walls, making the space look larger. These reflected the plants so that greenery truly was everywhere you looked. Even looking up, there are plants arranged above your head complete with fairy lights. It is not overwhelming though. Instead, it truly emulates a forestry secret-garden vibe. 

We continued making our way through, and sat out in the conservatory area beside the large electric fireplace. While the outdoors is brought inside, it is pleasant that Garden Cafe maintains home-comfort. The glass roof was damp with raindrops, as we were lunching on a drizzly day, but this reinforced the peaceful ambience. Exposed hanging light bulbs amongst the overhead leaves provided little pockets of brightness in the foliage. 

For my drink I ordered the biscoff latte, which was smooth and sweet, topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon. A generous size mug, too! My dining partner sipped on a refreshing sparkling passion fruit drink from the fridge. While she ordered the salmon quiche, I went for avocado toast. The quiches and salad, all homemade, are on a rotational selection. This particular salmon quiche was stuffed with large chunks of fish, and layered up with a soft texture of potato and egg on the crumbly pastry base. 

Picture-perfect presentation

I decided to go for the avocado toast because it is a pretty standard breakfast/brunch staple and I was curious to know how Garden Cafe would make it unique. Well, they managed to do that. Both dishes came out looking like a fairy had thrown up petals on our lunch. Presented with edible flowers, pea shoots, and a scatter of chilli powder, it was delicate and picture perfect.

To taste too the avocado itself was creamy and full of lemon and black pepper flavours. Sure it was simplistic, but those micro herbs and what I think could have also been a sprinkling of nuts, were wonderfully fresh and filling. You can also order a wide range of toppings including salmon, egg, halloumi or mushrooms if you do go all-out with avo, but I don’t think it needed anything more. Our Mediterranean side salad to share, while it was slightly swimming in vinaigrette, proved that salads don’t have to be boring. 

Plenty of choice

Personally, I think going out for lunch can be over complicated these days. A modest selection of quiches, salads, sandwiches, soup and toast varieties is arguably all you need. The only meat across the whole menu too, is salmon. It is the perfect spot for vegetarians. The largest item on their menu was the Gardener Salad which was £12.90 for two poached eggs, mixed salad, tomato, quinoa, olives, avocado and dressing. She sounds as if you’d get your money’s worth. The Garden Breakfast, which was £11.90, included poached eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, garlic, avo and sourdough. Other menu items included a granola bowl (£7.5) or American style fruit, compot and syrup pancakes (£9.90). 

After we had filled our camera roll with images of yummy food and flowers, we made our way out, winding back through the jungle. We noticed the door on the way out said “Plants make you Happy” and you know, it’s true. For food which embraces its simplicity through fine ingredients and delicate decoration, or somewhere tranquil to dine on coffee and cake, Garden Cafe is the place to go. It is like a slice of the National Trust in the heart of the lanes – a fairy tale escape for the greyest afternoons.

You may also be interested in our review of Meanwhile Cafe

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