The Secret Garden, Ullswater

The best form of advertising is word of mouth. If someone you trust recommends somewhere, you’re far more likely to act on that than you are any polished advertising campaign. If that’s the marketing strategy a business is using they have to be at the top of their game as no one will be talking if they’re just average. I haven’t seen The Secret Garden advertised anywhere, yet, there’s a fair amount of hype on social channels and group chats. A close to 2-hour round trip was made to cut through all the noise and see what’s what.

The First Rule Of Fight Club

I get the whole not advertising thing, it makes sense. What I can’t wrap my head around is the fact there is ZERO information as to where the restaurant is. Above is their Facebook page, a phone number and email make bookings possible but where the hell is the address? Even the phone number and email address are now pointless as bookings are no longer possible, it’s walk-ins only.

To put how much of an oversight not having any details about the location is into perspective, I joined the long queue for 20 minutes and realised when we were being seated that it wasn’t the right place. We were next door at Granny Dowbekins. I mention this, as we weren’t the only people to have been mistaken…

So to clarify, the address you want is:

Post Office, Pooley Bridge, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2NP

If you’re driving, there’s some free street parking for a maximum of 2 hours or there’s plenty of pay and display parking, all of which is in the village.

Head into the village post office and at the back, in between the postcards and dog toys, you’ll find the entrance to what is most certainly a Secret Garden.

Layout

The restaurant is split into actually it isn’t split at all. The use of floor to ceiling glass doors creates a transitionless space between the indoor dining area and the outside patios. Outside you have a 4 layer terrace lowering slightly each time as you head closer to the river. The owners haven’t skimped out either, all really nice, comfy patio furniture, extremely expensive parasols and even a plethora of patio heaters.

If it’s a meal for 2 outdoor seating isn’t ideal. The tables are a decent enough size, it’s just the base is that wide you’ll struggle to get your chair close enough and with the 2 person tables being in a corner a lot of the table surface is naturally difficult to access. One thing which I did like though was the little platform under the table where you could store your bag, etc. If there’s 4 or more in your party you won’t have any issues whatsoever.

Above is the only image I took inside due to it being rather busy and not wanting to disturb any guest whilst they were eating by taking photos. It’s a nice wide area with a high pitched ceiling, plenty of natural light, solid wood tables with “The Secret Garden” routered in and what looked to be some very comfy chairs. For those that aren’t into al fresco, it looks like a nice space to dine.

The Food

For the starter, I went Salt and Peper Squid garnished with spring onion, chillies and garlic mayo.

WOW. The crispy outer layer wrapped around the ever so slightly slimy squid is a great combination when it comes to textures. Add some fresh spring onion and chilli to your fork and dip it in the creamy garlic mayo and you aren’t far from perfection! The taste doesn’t fall short either. Don’t get me wrong, the squid certainly isn’t local and therefore can not be the freshest, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Another surprise for me was how good the salad was, given that I usually see such things as rabbit food. The simple selection of fresh pepper, onion, romaine lettuce and a drizzle of the chefs own honey and mustard dressing makes me a firm believer in a salad.

Onto the main where I opted for the BBQ Pulled Chicken Burger with chipotle mayo and onion rings, swapping out the chunky chips for sweet potato fries.

Be under no illusion, it’s a properly sized burger, so much so that I resorted to the knife and fork. The BBQ pulled chicken was prepared properly, as in no large chunks and certainly not dried out slithers. The BBQ sauce it was marinated in was nice and rich without being sickly. Like what the Big Mac sauce does to a McDonald’s double cheeseburger, the chipotle mayo does to The Secret Garden’s BBQ Pulled Chicken Burger it’s bloody lovely without being overbearing. All that, along with a hefty battered onion ring inside a toasted brioche.

I’m glad I swapped out the chunky chips for sweet potatoes fries, not because they were amazing or anything, they were okay, nothing to write home about; but because when my other half’s chunky chips came and they were clearly undercooked, I knew I made the right decision. The chunky chips looked a good golden colour on the outside but were almost still raw on the inside. It wasn’t much of an improvement when we sent them back. Perhaps an off day? I mean it is pretty difficult to mess up making chips.

Desert was a tough call between Cheesecake of the day (Which happened to be raspberry) and Sticky Toffee Pudding with the latter being ordered. Served piping hot, in a bed of caramel along with a side portion of vanilla ice cream I knew I once again made the right call.

Once again the portion size was on the larger end of the spectrum shall we say. Coupled with rich flavours, creamy textures and plenty of sugar means it’s certainly one for the fat kids. Something nice to indulge in rounds off a nice 3-course meal served by attentive staff in a nice setting whilst costing about £30 per person including a drink

I’ll certainly be back.

One thought on “The Secret Garden, Ullswater

  1. Hi there, I stumbled across your blog while searching for some old photos online of our shop & restaurant: The Secret Garden! I just want to thank you for your honest review and it has certainly given us food for thought. We are completely new to the restaurant business having previously owned a builders merchants and are constantly learning and improving. We do not have a social media or marketing expert and again are learning as we go. We are please on the whole you enjoyed it and would be happy to return. Believe it or not when we bought the shop less than 3 years ago the garden was just a patch of grass! Thanks once again, Leila.

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