What it's like at The Pavilion Bar & Grill at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
PUBLISHED: 11:19 17 September 2019
The Pavilion Bar & Grill is the latest addition to the food & drink offering at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
A place where childhood memories are made and dreams of travel are reinvigorated in adults, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Richmond, is a world-renowned haven of tranquillity. When we first received an invite to review their brand new "fast-casual dining experience", The Pavilion, it sounded perfect for the summer crowd. The only question at that point of the year, as rain beat against the office windows, was whether the British summer would ever arrive at all. As it is, our visit coincides with the hottest day of the year - at a time when most sensible people would pop off for a siesta or a swim. On this blast furnace of a day, we also make the amateur mistake of driving to Kew rather than taking the train. I've advised against it often enough, and I really should have known better. You can't cheat the system…
Having finally navigated the lottery of parking, our whistle stop tour of the icons of Kew begins. Over there is Kew Palace; here is The Great Walk Borders; then there's the Princess of Wales Conservatory, Palm House and Temperate House; the Marianne North Gallery and Ruined Arch; and, finally, a sighting of the Great Pagoda means we must be nearby. Our dance between the shaded places ends at the modern Pavilion restaurant, which is surrounded by pockets of tables cloaked by great vines. We're late lunchers, but the place is bustling.
Inside, it still feels a touch 'swanky cafeteria' but once you're settled into your place among the plants outside, you almost forget that. While it's still possible to pack a picnic to enjoy beneath the trees, Kew's food spots now range from a street food-style village near the Temperate House to the elegant Botanical table-service restaurant across the lake from the Palm House. The Pavilion finds itself positioned as an informal alternative to the latter. The focus of the menu is on food grilled on charcoal or smoked over wood collected from Kew. A nice surprise, for me at least, is that alongside a range of seasonal Kew Beers there's one of my hometown favourites from Reigate's Crumbs Brewing on the drinks list. Who knew beer made from leftover bread could be so refreshing?!
I pick the jerk spatchcock chicken with garden slaw and piri piri fries, while Sylviane chooses the whole bream, garlic, chilli and Kew rosemary with fattoush and shaved vegetable garden salad. There's nothing fancy going on here; it's simple, flavoursome food and, to be honest, it's perfect for the soaring temperatures. Our daughter, Iona, enjoys a tuna baguette from the sandwich fridge, rather than one of the options from the children's menu. Well, you argue with a four-year-old in 35°C temperatures. To finish, I enjoy - and fail to share - a zesty lemon meringue tart with mango ice cream to cool things down.
A word on the staff, who impressively handle the oppressive conditions with smiles on their faces throughout, managing the constant ebb and flow of visitors with patience and kindness.
As tourist attractions restaurants go, The Pavilion is pretty good - offering healthy and tasty food, and an interesting selection of drinks. That said, if you factor in the gate entrance and the Surrey country pub prices, it's certainly not a cheap day out for a family.
The Pavilion, Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond TW9 3AB (Lion Gate is the closest entrance to The Pavilion); www.kew.org
What we ate
- Mains: Jerk spatchcock chicken with garden slaw and piri piri fires, £15.50. Whole bream, garlic, chilli and Kew rosemary with fattoush and shaved vegetable garden salad, £18.50
- Desserts: Lemon meringue tart with mango ice cream, £8.50
- Drinks: Crumbs Bloomin' Amber Lager, £6. Tarabilla Vinto Blanco (glass) £7.50
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