Hothouse Café @ The Medicine Garden,Downside Road,Cobham, Surrey, KT11 3LU
Go there for: New chef Tracey Honeysett’s thoughtful menu featuring local products plus their famous brownies, proper sandwiches and delightful desserts.
Avoid: Visiting without pre-booking on hot sunny days, particularly at the weekend.
Is it worth the calories?: Sadly I only sampled two courses of what’s on offer but both get a yes.
Tips: Tracey Honeysett used to run Drakes on the Pond, where Steve Drake got his first Michelin star.
With a food background like this it’s a menu to watch. The hothouse café started out in the old potting shed of the Medicine Garden while the larger site of the original greenhouse was rebuilt. The new build echoes the original and provides much needed additional seating. Like many Medicine Garden groupies, I was waiting with anticipation to see what the re-opening and launch of this bigger space would bring. I wasn’t disappointed. To run alongside the existing food on offer, a modern European menu has been launched by new chef Tracey Honeysett. The hothouse café itself is a collaboration of three partners who, without any previous catering experience, jumped at the chance to open a café here. Luckily they had plenty of time to gain experience in the small potting shed before moving to their new bigger home. I went on a lovely rain-free day a couple of weeks ago. The café was open for day twelve of its new life. The hothouse was smaller that I had imagined but it’s been stylishly accessorised and I was keen to see the menu. It doesn’t disappoint and with six starters, five mains and four desserts, it’s inspired, on trend and not over described. Becky Mcguire who co-owns this eatery twin sister Tory and brother in law Paul Power was on hand to take me through the menu. Everything is freshly prepared in the kitchen apart from bread and some of the cakes. They buy as many ingredients as possible from local suppliers: bread comes from The Bakery at East Horsley; cakes from Ranmore; free-range chicken and eggs are also locally sourced.
A couple of the items on the menu were not ready but I still had a hard decision and it was a close call for the chargrilled asparagus with lemon butter and hazelnuts. I opted for a starter of chicken liver parfait, red onion marmalade and toasted granary bread, which was artfully presented with a sprinkle of sea salt. It was perfect for lunch with a melt in the mouth texture and a pink hue achieved by leaving the liver a little pink in the middle. I had room for a dessert. and I love a panna cotta (ask Jane) but the Earl Grey panna cotta with shortbread biscuit had only just been made was not quite set (next time I hope). My second choice was lemon and raspberry posset, a tart but sweet lemon cream with three perfect plump raspberries poised on top. The combination was a hit and I only wish I had been able to sample a few more dishes. Instead I gazed at the choices of other guests: it was evident that all the dishes coming from the kitchen were of equal standard. I’m not a shy person – I asked a few other people what they thought of the food and it was all thumbs up.
My apprehension of what might happen here has lifted and been replaced with a warm fuzzy glow. I can’t help but think that there is a little bit of Petersham Nurseries magic going on in our neck of the woods and it’s very welcome.