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Published January 23rd 2020
Tuck in to a hearty meal at refurbished restaurant
It is said that an army marches on its stomach. So, it should not be surprising to learn that the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, which is dedicated to the Armed Forces, should have an excellent restaurant to serve the thousands of annual visitors that it attracts. Simply called The Restaurant, the splendid, spacious eatery was recently renovated and extended during work to create a new-look Remembrance Centre which was opened in October 2016 at a cost of nearly £16 million. My wife and I chose to dine at the restaurant during a Winter Warmer offer, which runs from December 26 last year until February 14. The lunch-time offer consists of two main meals for only £12.95, or two main meals with a dessert at the slightly higher cost of £15.95. All the food and drink on offer is freshly prepared on the site by the Arboretum's own chefs.
Such was the apparent popularity of this offer that the restaurant was pretty full on the Wednesday in January that we turned up, and one of the main meals - steak pie - was sold out before 1pm. But, not to be downhearted, we both chose the Prawn omelette with chips and peas, which was served to our table. Both meals were plentiful, with a considerable amount of succulent prawns within the omelette, while the chips were suitably hot and seemingly freshly cooked. Of course, once we had eaten, what better way of 'walking off' our food than to pop outside the Remembrance Centre and take a stroll through the wintry landscape of the Arboretum grounds. The site measures some 150,000 acres, with 30,000 trees and around 350 dedicated memorials. The objective of the Arboretum, which forms part of the Royal British Legion, is to honour the fallen and to recognise service and sacrifice, with a particular emphasis on the British Armed Forces.
Should the weather prove too inclement for outdoor exploration, the Remembrance Centre still offers plenty of opportunity for visitors to while away an hour or two. As well as the larger restaurant, there is also a shop selling all kinds of merchandise, plus three new exhibition galleries. At the heart of the Remembrance Centre is a fascinating, interactive exhibition called 'Landscapes of Life' which provides a preview of the Arboretum and an introduction to the concept of Remembrance. It is made up of fully immersive audiovisual displays, hands-on interactives, artistic interpretation and the opportunity for visitors to share their experiences. Further space in the Remembrance Centre is given over to temporary exhibitions, such as the existing Arborealists, which is a collection of drawings and paintings that illustrate trees.
The Restaurant is currently open daily between 10am and 3.30pm, but this increases to 9am - 4.30pm during the summer. Visitors can enjoy a hearty breakfast from 10am - 11.30am, with the lunch menu available from 11.30am - 2pm which includes homemade soup, roast lunches, hot dishes of the day, vegetarian options and a fresh salad bar. Afternoon tea then takes over from 2pm, along with a selection of hot and cold snacks. There is also an additional Coffee Shop, located outside in Heroes' Square, which serves a range of barista crafted coffees and iced drinks, as well as a variety of snacks and sweet treats. In the case of both The Restaurant and Coffee Shop, 100 per cent of the proceeds go to support the work of the Arboretum.
The National Memorial Arboretum is open from 10am to 4pm January 1 - March 29; 9am to 5pm March 30 - November 11; and 10am to 4pm 9am November 12 - December 31. For more information, please visit www.thenma.org.uk or telephone 01283 245100.