I have to let you in on a little secret. If you venture a few miles beyond the Toon, just over the river outside the beautiful village of Wylam, a secret garden awaits.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sign directs you to a car park. Head up the unassuming path and you’ll come to a small wooden door within a weathered brick wall.
On the other side of the wall is another world – Bradley Gardens. Beautiful flowers flow from pots, plant beds, hanging baskets and Barbour-clad Northumbrians amble amongst them, picking out their next garden ornament. Head further, past the children happily throwing apples into the fountain and you’ll see the lawn and glass conservatory that runs along the back of this Victorian walled garden. On a beautiful summer’s day you can sit outside on the terrace, admiring the view. Today was such a day. Myself, LD and my friend G, beautifully tanned from her exotic honeymoon grabbed the last remaining table outside, making the most of a rare sunny day in the North East.
Telling a passing waitress that we would be sitting outside and wouldn’t need our booked table in the conservatory (it gets HOT in there when the sun’s out FYI), we were pleased to discover that BG now offers table service. I have been here a number of times before and it was a queue up at the till affair (with the menu displayed on a blackboard), but they have steadily been making positive changes since it came under new ownership.
We glanced at The Glasshouse menu, our tummies rumbling. There was a little confusion caused by our sitting outside, with 3 other waitresses coming by to ask if we wanted our original table inside. We stuck to our guns and the requested highchair was swiftly brought outside for LD. Placing our orders for a light lunch – turkey, bacon and swiss cheese on a poppy seed roll for me, and prawn marie rose also on poppy seed for G (both around £6.50) and a couple of old school Fentimans. Our order placed we settled down for a good old natter. Unfortunately at least two other waitresses tried to take our order and a waiter brought our bill (!) prior to our sandwiches arriving, which was slightly distracting.
Our lunch arrived and it was perfectly tasty. Good bread (a bit like the kaiser rolls we had in Dusseldorf), crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, good quality ingredients and a crunchy (if somewhat basic) little side salad. I have visited BG before and been very impressed by their cakes, including frangipane made with Bradley Garden plums. My friend SK is a regular and swears by their rum baba and I myself have had an excellent afternoon tea here but I have yet to be overly impressed by their savouries. Pies and sandwiches are OK but nothing to write home about. Perhaps their brunches are worth a try next, and apparently the ploughman’s is a delight.
After the over eager staff at the start of our visit, we struggled to get our bill and then to make payment, and when we managed to chase a waitress down after our waiter forgot to come back, the card machine lost signal outside and had to be taken inside.
Leaving the Glasshouse we had the obligatory look around the homestore (candles and tweed abound) and cookstore, filled to bursting with countryside favourite Emma Bridgewater crockery and an assortment of pots that wouldn’t look out of place hanging above the Aga. Leaving the pretty gardens behind we headed back through the wall.
Clearly there are a few teething problems at Bradley Gardens, due to the changes that they’re making. Although service was friendly it was slightly chaotic. Food was nothing to rave about, although perfectly adequate but the surroundings more than made up for it. I am sure things will be smoother in the near future, and you shouldn’t let this put you off as it’s a lovely place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. I will certainly be returning and look forward to reviewing again in the future.