Remember the days when garden centres used to sell just seeds and compost? No, neither do Matt and Cat. Like farms, garden centres have to diversify and as well as horticultural essentials, one can often find clay gnomes, coconut-shell bird houses with raffia roofs and singing reindeer like this one, warbling festive tunes in its American accent. At least, you can find these things and more at the Busy Bee on the outskirts of Ryde. Like many enterprising garden centres, the Busy Bee also has a café and so Matt and Cat picked through the pot-pourri to try it out.
Having an eatery on site amongst the pot plants and pond filters would seem to make sound business sense. Enticed in by the cheery waving of the elevated animatronic Santa, Matt and Cat paid their visit along with many others – the centre’s car park was almost full, with several of the spaces taken up with coaches.
The further into the building, the fewer gardening items one will find. In a big construction on the western side of the greenhouses is the café and the seasonal shop. In the summer this vast space is full of patio furniture and from October the Busy Bee’s Christmas shop is stocked with tinsel, trees and all manner of glittery widgets. Plus this is where the café is.
It’s a well-positioned dining-area, designed to take full advantage of the views over fields to the north; Ryde’s rooftops in the far distance. It’s also a pretty big venue. The café has additional seating in its conservatory; good job too as those coach passengers were pretty thirsty. Matt and Cat pondered the ‘two for £5’ cream tea offer, and there was also a comprehensive selection of jacket spuds, sandwiches and baguettes, salads and ploughman’s. However, it was a chilly day so they decided to try cooked food, of which there were about a dozen dishes on the menu. Matt chose cod and chips (£6.10) and Cat was tempted by seasoned potato wedges and salad (5.65).
They made their way passed the populated tables at the counter end of the café, through to the bright conservatory. There was a polite notice at the counter reminding punters to expect a wait at busy times but, despite the coachload, there was not much delay in the food’s arrival. The down time was spent by M and C gawping at the vista, spotting local landmarks and pouring out the tea, which was very good (1.05 per cup).
Haddock and chips £6.10
Potato wedges £5.65
2 x tea £2.10
The cod was, perhaps not surprisingly, more of the breadcrumbed variety than the batter-fried. A fish-fryer in that barn would have filled the entire shop with fumes. Still, the modest fillet was neither over-dry nor partly-cooked, so it avoided the main hazards of this mode of cooking. It came with decent chips, some chewy peas and a commendably fresh salad. Cat’s plentiful pile of potato wedges were nicely browned. If they were indeed seasoned it was pretty subtle, but they were still tasty, if homogeneous. The accompanying salad was pretty good; a nice creamy coleslaw and even a sprinkling of fresh cress.
M & C ate up with pleasure, and then wove their way out through the ranks of tinselly tackery, back out to the busy car park. Not a bad feed, not a bad price.
Busy Bee, Ryde