Beautiful food that tastes as good as it looks, delivered within a stunning hidden retreat from the world – a walled secret garden straight out of the storybooks.
Secret Garden is one of the two great restaurants based at Mersham le Hatch Business Park, a tranquil collection of small ‘artisanal’ businesses including a Day Spa, a Cookery School, a Wine Bar, and many more.
Tucked just off the A20, the old main road between Ashford and Folkestone, it’s not somewhere you stumble on – it’s more of an intended destination.
As you arrive up the main driveway, with the cricket pitch on your right-hand side, you can’t help feeling just that little bit more love for the English countryside.
Car parking is out the front in a communal gravelled space shared by the various businesses. You then walk through the old stables courtyard and get glimpses of fascinating little businesses based in each of the let units. It’s so tranquil here that it made me want to open an office and work here too.
Due to its seclusion, there are many people who drive to the location, enjoy their evening and then leave their cars there overnight, just to get a taxi back in the morning. I’ve done this myself on occasion and on my return in the morning, I discovered I must have been one of ten people with the same idea.
The interior of the restaurant is light and airy, with the tables well-spaced and the bar located at one end of the building. With full-length glass windows along both sides of the restaurant, you can sit looking over the peaceful courtyard or inviting gardens, peeking between the espaliered fruit trees and into the walled garden.
Outside, the exterior provides additional seating all sheltered under the veranda roof plus individual table umbrellas that although functionally unnecessary, they add a false ceiling and a greater feeling of intimacy for your dining group.
The gardens extend away from you, with paths that can take you for gentle stroll with glass or mug in hand, while you wait for your food to be prepared.
There’s a glass house to one side that can cater for private parties such as baby showers and birthdays and comes complete with deliberatly mismatching chairs and crockery – perfect for an afternoon tea party.
The main walled ‘secret garden’ is a mix of operational food gardens along with manicured wedding reception backdrop – including a central gazebo with table and two chairs and a microphone ready for your guests to hear your nuptials.
The menu we tried is an ‘all-day menu’ and as such has a mixture of breakfast, brunch, and lunch options – the difficulty is in choosing which you would prefer! The Secret Garden kitchen are also happy to make adjustments to any dish on request, and subject to available ingredients.
The vegetarian and gluten-free options are highlighted and easy to select from the clearly written components of each item on the menu – plus the serving staff are happy to check with the kitchen and to mix and match ingredients to suit dietary requirements.
Service was well paced for a relaxing meal but slow if you’re in a hurry. I don’t expect many people drive to the middle of the countryside and settle into garden chairs expecting fast-food, but it’s advisable to get a couple of rounds of teas, coffees, and fresh fruit juices ordered to keep you going until the food arrives.
All in all, the restaurant is repeatedly our favourite spot to go for brunch and to take visiting family and friends to. Our only improvements would be a set of new seat cushions to replace the weather-worn current crop, and the toilets would benefit from a lick of paint and a refresh over the winter period.
The Secret Garden restaurant remains our favourite brunch restaurant and should definitely be on your list of places to visit.
Beautiful location and gardens in which to eat a relaxed weekend brunch. Menu availability subject to who got there before you. On a sunny summer's day, the wasps love the fruit trees and gardens just as much as you do. Great menu and fantastic tasting food.