Last week in a feature I admitted my penchant for garden centre cafes. It’s an obsession I’ve come to later in life...and one I foster on a regular basis (dragging my husband along in my wake).

I mean, what could be better on a lazy weekend afternoon than combining the mindfulness of strolling through row after row of blossoming foliage, with a nice cuppa and a wedge of cake?

Thetford Garden Centre is one I’ve heard about keenly from other gardeners. And having chatted with the catering manager at the onsite restaurant (Lime Kiln Kitchen) last week, who spoke with so much passion about his pride in using local produce, and cooking from scratch, I knew I had to come here.

We arrived on a sunny Sunday, just before midday, nudging the Volvo easily into a space in the large car park, and entering the centre with lots of “oohs” and “aahs”.

From the moment you step foot inside the building there are hundreds of things to catch your eye in wonderfully curated areas. A foodie section with gourmet jams, sauces, popcorn, crisps, local gin, local cakes, local chocolate.

A sprawling aisle of lifestyle goodies from brands such as Emma Bridgewater and Maxwell & Williams.

Furniture. Pets. An aquatics area. Garden machinery. Lighting. Clothing. Books. Gifts. Children’s toys. The list goes on.

We noted interactive signs to help customers ‘pick the right plant’. And there’s excellent signage and inspiration across the site.

We were stupid to think we’d be able to get a table straight away – especially as we’re now seasoned garden centre folk. But the server at Lime Kiln Restaurant gave us a buzzer, a rough half hour wait time and encouraged us to explore.

I lost my husband and son near the pond section outside where they decided we might need a lily pad water feature. And I had a peaceful walk around the plants, noting the pizza and waffle trucks at the bottom of the outside area, where there’s bench seating, outside loos with ramps, a dining yurt, and a covered space with playthings for youngsters. This is just one of the thoughtful touches the centre has put in place.

Others include a trolley/pram parking station outside the restaurant, and a separate dining area for visitors with dogs in tow.

Eventually we were led into the spacious, bright suite of dining rooms where apparently the décor is inspired by the staffs’ travels. There’s an outdoor decked terrace too, looking out over a nearby manicured field.

Staff at Lime Kiln Kitchen clearly know their job inside out, and have been briefed to make service run as smoothly as possible. Case in point is the waiting system. The team acknowledged it was busy, and that they were understaffed. Rather than packing the place (which is considerably sized) out and trying to struggle through, they kept the dining areas half full. This meant a manageable workload of them and the cooks, and a much more peaceful experience for us - because there’s nothing worse than sitting in a hot, overcrowded restaurant where people are so hungry they’re looking for a fight!

The menu at Lime Kiln Kitchen is extensive. I heard a person behind us call it a “book”. She’s right. There are pages and pages of breakfast, brunch, lunch, vegan, child-friendly and afternoon tea options.

On Sunday it’s a bit more limited – you can have brunch up to 2pm, afternoon tea later in the day, a forenoon tea (with breakfastty bits), Sunday roast, or something from the shortened selection of lunches – sandwiches with house chips, homemade sausage rolls, the scone of the day. Families are incredibly well catered for. And I spied plenty of lighter options - even diabetic ice cream for people who are watching what they eat.

According to our dining bible (the menu) Lime Kiln Kitchen bakes over 50,000 scones a year. It would’ve been rude not to try one in that case, so we shared a cheese scone (£2.99) while we waited for the main event to arrive.

Fluffy and tender inside, with a slightly crunchy exterior and plenty of gnarly knots of cheese stuck to the base, it was very nice indeed.

To quench our thirst on the side were an iced latte ( £2.29 and made using the café's own blend of Butterworth’s coffee), a juicy, fresh tropical fruit smoothie (£4.49), and a bottle of award-winning Norfolk Brewhouse’s citrussy Pintail beer (£4.99)

It was followed swiftly by our bigger plates of roast duo of pork, roast beef, and eggs Benedict from the brunch menu.

Let's start with the eggs (£9.99) which were a hefty portion. I know at other places my husband’s had this dish, it’s been a single egg atop a sad looking muffin. Not here. The muffin was split, covered in high quality East Anglian ham, two eggs that collapsed with a sigh when prodded, and a very respectable, smooth, slightly tangy hollandaise. He was more than happy.

My son and I dove into our roasts (£14 each) which came with roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips, creamed leeks, broccoli, a Yorkshire pud and a little jug of gravy – a nice touch that prevented everything on the plate getting soggy.

Let’s start with the meat. The beef was silky and blushed pink, with a melting texture– and there was plenty of it. Ditto the pork. The kitchen had kept the driest cut (the loin) quite moist, the pork belly fell apart, and the crackling was puffy, airy and crunchy (it passed the doesn’t-break-your-teeth test).

Our Yorkshire puddings filled over a quarter of our plates. Balloons of batter to soak up the rich gravy.

And those creamed leeks with wholegrain mustard? Savoury, creamy without being mushy, and filled with flavour.

The part of the meal diners could possibly feel let down by is the potatoes. A good roast spud should have a crackling golden crust that yields to a gloriously mashy centre. Lime Kiln Kitchen’s version, while cooked within, was rather lacking on that ubiquitous exterior. someone who is trying (and mostly failing) to lose a bit of weight...someone who thought it was a bit ‘naughty’ to order the roast, it actually suited me well that the potatoes weren’t covered in dripping or oil.

And I’d imagine it would appeal to other people who are dieting and trying to eat a bit better too. Whether the spuds were cooked that way by accident or design is unknown. Nonetheless, it was a tasty plate of food.

Puddings include local ice creams, warm fudge brownie, sticky toffee pudding, pancakes, or something from the very appealing-looking patisserie counter at the front of the restaurant.

A couple of options we fancied had sold out for the day, so we plumped for a cherry cheesecake and lemon meringue pie (£3.99 each).

We’d asked for our bill before they arrived and noted both desserts were made by a respected East Anglian patisserie. Mr Jarvis’s cheesecake was pretty as a picture – a biscuit base layered with cherry-infused cheesecake cream studded with pieces of cherry, a cherry gel, and a lacey chocolate fan as a final flourish.

I’m afraid I can’t say the same for the lemon meringue. The pastry was pale and floppy, the custard not very lemony and a bit grainy in texture, and the meringue was rather eggy. Not the kitchen’s fault. I’d be interested to try some of their homemade desserts/cakes next time – because homemade is always inevitably better.

Apparently planning permission has been put in to extend the kitchen to allow for more on-site baking, which would be a welcome addition to this place.


A great vibe. People of all ages were enjoying their lunch, and there was a nice energy throughout.


The staff had been well versed to deliver top-notch service. They were buzzing about the place making sure everyone had what they needed, were on top of food allergies, and were generally very pleasant and in control on what was a busy Sunday.


No problem – there is loads of free parking.


Wheelchair and pushchair users will have no trouble, even in the outside areas. The restaurant is at the front of the garden centre building so it’s not that far to walk to get in.


It would have to be the cheese scone. I’d love to try one of the cream teas...preferably eaten outside in the sunshine.


Lime Kiln Kitchen is a great asset to the garden centre, offering a very comfortable place for a snack or full meal, with thoughtful service, and a thoughtful menu packed with local ingredients. While we had a couple of little niggles, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.



Our reviews are based on an anonymous visit, without the business’s prior knowledge, and are paid for by us. All views are independent and based on our experience.