This place is not the sandwich and coffee bar just by the entrance, but the one in the garden itself. There is the right mix of history and modernity that the National Trust does so well. Parquet floors, wood-burning stoves, mock-Deco and Arts and Crafts furnishings, homely baking; but not so much that they do without a decent coffee machine, central heating and clean loos. The terrace outside is accessible, with a decent slope, flat paving and moveable furniture. It is also sheltered and accented with fairly picturesque plants and green, growing things. It is Nature just the way I like it, trimmed and pruned with no unseemly scruffs of overgrowth or wet slimy bits.
The menu is restricted but what is there is all speciality stuff. 'Lemon' and 'asparagus' were bandied about a lot, as were 'date', 'apple' and 'sultana'. You probably would not be surprised to know that 'lightly drizzled' was in there somewhere, along with 'balsamic'. It is the kind of the menu that stops just short of 'coulis' or 'jus'. I settled for an 'open sandwich' which turned out to be a generous portion of tuna mayo and six slices of cucumber laid on one slice of bloomer bread and loosely overlaid with a second slice of bread, accompanied by three cherry tomatoes, a few shreds of red onion and around five or six salad leaves. You have to start eating it with a knife and fork, such are its gargantuan proportions before you can resort to the traditional grab and gulp method. Tasty, very creamy, an ever-so-slightly sharp aftertaste and, interestingly enough, initially cold on the tongue and teeth. By which I mean, not fresh from the fridge but what a cold sandwich should be - not room temperature.
Drew opted for the gala pie, an oblong crusted portion, pale pink, almost Spam colour with a golden yellow egg all of which certified its fresh-made credentials. I was not allowed to taste it. The accompanying Earl Grey tea was just the way I like it, the scent being strong but the taste subtle.
Always worth having a walk around the gardens after lunch, designed by the reclusive, eccentric Laurence Johnson. Though if I was going to get rich and adopt an eccentricity it wouldn't be gardening. Something more me, perhaps. Like crisps. Or cheese.