Catching up with a friend on a sunny day in back in May, we decided to go to the Mersham Le Hatch park just outside of Ashford in Kent to try out The Secret Garden. It turned out to be more of a secret than I'd first thought but luckily my friend, being a local, knew where to go. If I'd come alone I would have been wandering around like a lost thing as there are no obvious signs or directions as you pull up in the car park.
It was as its name suggests just that, a secret! This all added to the mysterious feel and I liked that, it fits well with the charm of the place as though you are an exclusive member.
The entrance door once found was simple yet elegant, large planters with sculpted greenery and huge storm lanterns either side. Upon entering we were greeted immediately and asked if we were dinning to which we replied we were here just for coffee . The waitress was very friendly, offering us a seat and took us through the menu.
There was a variety of seating from dining tables and chairs to comfy leather sofas and cosy wingbacks with low tables, dividing the area up into 'drink & chat' types and those who were eating in the restaurant. This made it feel welcoming for us just popping in for a coffee and unlike some places, didn't make us feel rushed or like we we're taking up a table.
Opting for some comfy leather wingback chairs near the counter, we pondered over the menu before deciding on a latte each along with a slice of coffee and walnut and a slice of chocolate fudge cake for moi.
Arriving promptly, the portions of cake were enormous. As a chocoholic even I struggled to finish the chocolate fudge but they were super delicious, the coffee cake on par with the quality at The Dolls House.
The presentation of the lattes was impressive with near perfect separation of milk from coffee and they tasted really good too, slightly better than the lattes I've had at Loaf. Now I have heard that this is an expensive place to come and so was prepared for that, but the friendly atmosphere coupled with comfy seating, quiet location and super friendly staff make this a place where you get what you pay for. For a latte and slice of cake your looking at £6 without a tip, so it's up there price wise but well worth it for a special experience.
For us, a great coffee house or tearooms is not all about the food and drink although that obviously helps. It's the atmosphere which completes the experience and this place has it in bucket loads with a sophisticated charm that you expect from a country coffee shop. That does have its downside as you would probably feel out of place rocking up in scruffy jeans and a hoody so it could feel pretentious to some, but for the right occasion the glamour is a welcome change.
If you're lucky enough to visit on a sunny day then the outside seating is a must. Garden seats are set out on a paved area amoungst a beautiful tended garden. Lawn games are availble to use for free to keep the young ones entertained, a nice added touch. The Secret Garden itself is set within what's called Mersham Le Hatch Business Village, along with a handful of other independent businesses.
The Verdict? Hidden Gem
This is a spot I will definitely be coming back to for special occasion coffee and snack. The cream tea looked amazing so that will be on the list for next time as well as maybe coming for a meal in the restaurant one evening. They do a Tuesday Night special which involves 3 courses for £20 per person or a Thursday and Friday night 3 course menu for £25 per person. Good quality food with a high standard of coffee although a tad expensive, friendly staff, beautiful setting creating an overall charming coffee shop.