Good food surrounded by flowers and blossom – what a feast for all senses!
If you are ever looking for a sense of community, you’ll find it at Ferndale Garden Centre in Coal Aston. A bit like your old-fashioned local pub where the staff know everybody and greet them all like lifelong friends – but just as open to newcomers.
There is something rather lovely about having to walk through a wonderful collection of flowers and plants on your way to eat. In fact it almost guarantees that you'll wander back that way and peruse the floral offerings once you've finished in the cafe.
We certainly did and couldn't resist a couple of purchases.
Ferndale is owned and run by Neil Grant. His love of nature, positive beliefs and never-ending hard work has created a family business which puts itsself across as somewhere which would be a great workplace yet also a thriving success. That is no easy feat as all independent businesses know.
Our visit was a mother daughter back-from-uni treat and it proved the perfect setting. Even mid-week and middle of the afternoon the cafe was almost full.
The menu has a good mix of sandwiches, quiches, all-day breakfasts but is topped off nicely by the specials board. I was tempted by a delicious sounding homemade pie but instead opted for purple shooting broccoli with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce served on fresh sourdough bread.
It was elegantly simple and, as you might hope for somewhere which thrives on growing, the broccoli was far more tasty that most you taste. It combined with slightly runny eggs, melting together with the sauce in a rather heavenly way.
In the interest of taste testing, we also ordered a side portion of cheesy chips. Proper chip perfectly cooked and proper cheese generously grated on the top. What's not to like?
My daughter opted for afternoon tea. It costs £14 for one or £24 for two and, although we didn't, you can pay a bit more to replace the bottomless tea or coffee with a cheeky glass of prosecco.
She was delighted when it arrived. Perfectly presented – ideal for Instagram if you are that age and that way inclined – and with fruit and veg used for more than decoration – ideal if you're a mum who hasn't given up on hoping your kids will eat healthy.
The savoury layer was a good mix of four sandwiches and salad. But before you jumped upwards into the sweet stuff, there was also a generous piece of Ferndale's famed homemade quiche and a cheese scone.
We did debate whether savoury scones are ever worth the calories, and they always need butter of course, before she jumped into the cake.
My daughter's favourite bit was a meringue piled high with cream, although it was a close call between with the sweet scone served with jam and plenty of clotted cream.
Cakes are another thing that Ferndale prides itself on. They are baked on site and there are always plenty on offer.
With that in mind, and knowing time was ticking before we did the school run, we also ordered a selection of baked items to take home for the rest of the family.
My favourite was the carrot cake. Perfectly moist with just the right amount of topping.
In the gluten free section, we couldn't resist the courgette and avocado cake. Although clearly green the children tucked in happily trying to guess the ingredients. They went through all the fruits and didn't get anywhere near, then instantly pulled faces of disgust and stopped eating when we revealed all. At the other end of the scale, I was rather disappointed that there wasn't more courgette, to bring a bit of extra umph, and avocado, simply because I love them.
My two tips for Ferndale are try something from the specials boards. They always come up with something new and it is usually very good. Also, go when the sun is shining and you can feast until you heart is content in the garden area surrounded by colours so beautiful that only nature could provide.
Take a friend and take your time, it feels like this is a place that was designed for relaxing and enjoying without breaking the bank.
Our bill came to £43.45 including six portions of cake to take home.
Ferndale Garden Centre, Dyche Lane, Coal Aston, Dronfield
Tel: 01246 412763