Whenever you go out for a day's walk in the park, it is always nice to have a short repast to refuel. In the summer, taking a picnic so that you can sit out on the grass and nibble by the lake is a serene, and perhaps all to kitsch image though. With the weather we have in Britain, picnics are more of a twee Jane Austen fantasy than a reality. So when you're in the park, just where do you go? Well, if you're at a park owned by the National Trust, then they have their own tea rooms and cafes.
After a wander down to the Morden Hall garden centre to buy some flower pots, my mum and I stopped off at their cafe, which is open 10am-5pm. At first glance, with its self-clearance policy and canteen-like appearance, I was not expecting there to be anything of much interest, but it turns out I was wrong. The first item on the menu immediately caught my eye, and it made me smile to see some classic retro drinks such as dandelion & burdock up for grabs.
I admit the serving times are a bit peculiar; they serve hotplate food like lasagne in the morning, up until 2.45pm, at which point they change to cold snacks and toasted sandwiches, which they make until 4.30pm. I personally would have thought that this should be the other way round but it was not much of a problem. I was in the mood for one of their gammon, cheese & onion toasted sandwiches for £3.75, which meant having to wait ten minutes while they switched things around. That was fine, however, as it gave Mum and I a chance to sit down and get ourselves sorted.
While we waited, I had a good chance to look around and take everything in; the cafe is clearly suited for families as they provide toys for toddlers to play with at the front of the room. They also have big tables with plenty of seating so the whole family can be together. Because of the Easter holidays, the cafe was filled with kids and their grandparents, all of whom seemed to be having a good day out. There was one family that enjoyed watching as 'Grandpa' approached the table with a tray of cakes; I tried to determine who was going to have what, and easily scored a hat trick. Grandpa had the carrot cake, Nan the scone, and the little girl of course reached out for a deeply decadent looking chocolate cake.
While the decor is nothing fancy, the National Trust have made an effort to show the community spirit involved with running it. The back wall has four large canvas painting depicting the fairies of the seasons; each one was painted by a different primary school in the area. My favourite was the autumn fairy, who had leaves for hair. The rest of the walls had placards explaining how they supported the community by sourcing their ingredients from local producers, which makes the food more important to me.
The staff behind the canteen were all friendly and very helpful. When we ordered our toasties, the man asked what kind of bread we would like, which gave me the added confidence that the food is all made on the spot, rather than being pre-prepared and warmed up. We asked for brown bread, and when our toasties arrived at the table, they looked cooked to perfection.
The bread was delicious, and there was just the right amount of filling. I was, however, a bit disappointed by the flavour. I would have thought using meat from a locally hand reared free range pig with a good diet, would have produced a bit more taste. Equally, Mum thought the tuna in her tuna melt was lost in the cheese. All the same, we enjoyed our toasties, and the salty morsel of crisps.
For afters, I was stuck between a scone and a piece of apple & cinnamon cake. I eventually decided on the cake, which was good value at £1.90 considering it was such as generous size (the woman behind the counter said she'd give me the biggest slice). The large chunks of apple inside, made it beautifully moist, and it must have been very fresh indeed, because it was still warm from coming out of the oven.