The Restaurant at RHS Garden Wisley, near Woking - On the Tea Shop Trail
PUBLISHED: 17:55 01 June 2015 | UPDATED: 18:00 01 June 2015
Carol Sheppard / RHS
There's nothing like a spring stroll at RHS Garden Wisley, and their Afternoon Tea in The Restaurant is the perfect way to refuel, says Louise Johncox...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2015
Need to know:
RHS Garden Wisley, near Woking GU23 6QB. Tel: 0845 260 9000. Afternoon Tea in The Restaurant is served from 2-4.30pm. See rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley for entry prices.
The original garden at RHS Wisley was the creation of George Fergusson Wilson who, in 1878, established the Oakwood Experimental Garden with the idea of making ‘difficult plants grow successfully’. After Wilson’s death in 1902, Oakwood and the adjoining Glebe Farm were bought by Sir Thomas Hanbury who gave them both to the RHS the following year. In 2006, RHS Garden Wisley teamed up with local caterers Taste of Wisley, and the restaurant was subsequently refurbished in 2013, creating the popular eatery we find today.
What to expect…
As you enter the restaurant, you immediately see the display of cakes in the centre of the room. All cakes are made on site at the Taste of Wisley bakery so they are guaranteed to be fresh out of the oven. On the day we visited, the mouth-watering display included red velvet sponge, Victoria sponge with rhubarb and cream filling, coffee and walnut cake, huge meringues, chocolate eclairs, choux buns and chocolate fudge cake.
I took my mother, Frankie, for Afternoon Tea, and we sat at a corner window table with wonderful views of the gardens. There are 28 tables, decorated with plants, and not surprisingly those by the window (tables one to seven) are the most popular. The RHS library prints on the wall change with the seasons, and the display table contains some seasonal foliage from the garden.
The Afternoon Tea includes a wide choice of finger sandwiches (such as salmon, cucumber and free-range egg mayonnaise) or hot savoury (Welsh rarebit is included) followed by scones (plain or fruit) and clotted cream plus your choice of cake (adult, £17.50; under-eight, £7).
The white and wholemeal bread for the sandwiches stood out for me as being the best home-made bread I had tasted in a long while. Establishments often resort to using shop-bought bread for their sandwiches but not at Wisley where they pride themselves on producing traditional ‘English’ breads such as bloomers, tin loaves and cobs alongside European-style loaves such as sourdough and focaccia.
The sandwiches and warm scones were so filling that we couldn’t eat our cakes so the waiter kindly gave us a box of cakes to take away. One day later, the Victoria sponge was still fresh, light and extra-special with that rhubarb cream filling.
Cakes & pastries…
The restaurant itself doesn’t serve individually priced cakes, but they are available in the Food Hall, Glasshouse Café, Coffee Shop and The Honest Sausage.
The most popular are the rock cakes (£1.95), carrot cake (£3.75), beetroot and seed cake (£3.25), coffee walnut cake (£3.50) and Victoria sponge (£4.25).
If you fancy a savoury snack or spot of lunch, there are plenty of other offerings available on the various menus. For more details, see rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley/plan-your-visit/food-and-drink.
I had never visited Wisley before, despite having grown up in Weybridge and still living in Surrey now, and I’d highly recommend looking around these beautiful gardens before or after tea. During our visit, we came across a flowering plant with a captivating scent so we went to the nursery where a member of staff helped us track down the Sarcococca confusa – which I bought as a gift for my mum. A reminder of our special afternoon tea.
The Coffee Shop is located next to the garden entrance and is open to non-paying visitors. The other eating venues are all within the garden so normal entry prices apply.
Louise Johncox’s parents, Peter and Frankie, ran Peter’s tea shop in Weybridge from 1958 until 2000 when they retired. Louise has written a book about her parents’ tea shop, The Baker’s Daughter, which is out now in all good bookshops (see louisejohncox.com/index.htm)