“ Cuisine: Cafe / Address: North St, Mintlaw, Peterhead AB42 5HH / Tel: 01771 623344 „
Happy Plant - Gift and Garden Centre (Mintlaw)
We live relatively close to the Happy plant garden and gift centre which is situated in a small town called Mintlaw all the way up here in Grampian of Scotland. It is a bit of a mixed bag type of garden centre, it has of course an outside section of flowers and bushes, as well as a constant stock of gardening equipment, but it really is so much more. It is a fantastic shop to buy gifts in with a wide selection of ornaments, home baked cakes, jars of the tastiest jam and curds as well as a selection of the best Christmas decorations at that time of year. This is one of my favourite places to visit not only to shop but to eat in, really it is for the restaurant that we return on such a regular basis.
When I was younger I always believed that Garden centres were for older people, I no longer believe that, in fact I would recommend this place to just about anyone. I am in my late twenties now and this is one of my favourite stores to go to regardless of the time of year. This garden centre has received among other awards four stars from the Scottish tourist board and in my opinion it really does deliver a quality service while you relax and shop in well kept and enjoyable location.
There are two different places to eat within the restaurant area, the self service cafe or the sit down Greenhouse restaurant. I have eaten in both of these places quite a few times now and I can honestly say that I don't have a favourite. We usually choose on a whim where we are going to go that day or if it is particularly busy then I do prefer the sit down restaurant, it is an easier way to guarantee somewhere to sit.
The majority of time we come here is for a Sunday breakfast, the full breakfast (which is available all day everyday) is fantastic. I believe that typically it costs £6.69 and for your money you get a plate filled to the brim with sausages, eggs, beans, black pudding, hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes, you also get two slices of brown or white toast served with either butter or jam and of course tea or coffee. Although the breakfast is expensive in my opinion it is worth every penny, the food is well cooked and always tasty, unlike some other places you can taste the quality of the products. We tend to always make an effort to take friends out for one of these breakfasts if they have been staying with us the night before and we have yet to have even one disappointed friend. If a big breakfast is not for you then there are other smaller options available (such as sausage or egg in a bun or beans on toast) as well as vegetarian options.
A word of warning thou, this place gets busy quickly on a Sunday so it is worth making the effort to get there slightly earlier to ensure a nice seat. Also the food is all cooked to order so it does take a moment or two before it will get to you, which can seem like a long wait when you are hungry and everything smells so good.
Since going there we've only had one day where the service was terrible. It was a Saturday lunch time and apparently a few of the staff members had called in sick at the last moment so they were hugely short staffed. We ordered as usual and then about an hour and 10 minutes later some of our food finally showed up, by that point we were all a bit fed up and hungry. However, the Greenhouse waiting staff were great under pressure and kept the coffee and tea mugs topped up and then informed us that they had spoken to their manager and that all our food and drinks were going to be on the house, for the lack of usual quality service. Therefore, I couldn't even fault this place too much on a day where they really were not operating like normal, they went out of there way apologising and I left feeling happy with at least the service despite the lateness and lack of all the food we ordered.
There are quite a few nice options for lunch here, whenever I don't have the breakfast I almost always have a coronation chicken Panini, a slightly spiced mayonnaise sauce with big freshly cooked juicy pieces of chicken. The sandwich itself is delicious but you also get a side portion of salad, coleslaw and some ready salted crisps. The salad is particularly nice (which you don't always find) it is always fresh and as well as having all the usual ingredients sometimes comes with apple or grapes, a nice added touch. They also have homemade pies, macaroni and cheese, homemade soup with freshly baked bread and many other things that are updated and changed on a regular basis. Lunches tend to vary in price, but for your money you do get generous portions and I have never left feeling like I was cheated or disappointed paying for something.
If you don't fancy having a big lunch or big breakfast then there are quite a few rather tasty looking cakes and treats to choose from. To date I have sampled quite a few of them - all of course for the ability to write a proper well researched review. I don't particularly have a favourite cake, I change my mind every time I am in there, but they do make amazing millionaire shortbread, gorgeous scones and the yummiest sweetest toffee filled merguine nests. Recently I tried this fudge topped biscuit base with cherries and almond flakes, it was sweet, it was yummy and it was completely worth every calorie.
The cakes range in price but usually they are somewhere around the £1.50 to £2.50 price range and if anything I often think they are too large. I think I would be happy with a half portion, this is great when you go and meet friends or family as you just need to get a couple for everyone to have something tasty to share with a cup of coffee or tea. I usually always opt for a mug of black filter coffee and they make a really nice coffee, it is strong but probably just on the top end of medium strength and I have never thought it was bitter or cold.
In the cafe area there is a microwave provided for heating up children's food and there are high chairs available. I have only been there with my niece who is not yet one, but I always see plenty of family groups there and children seem well catered for.
They also offer a few options of gluten and wheat free food and are happy to try and address any other allergies that you might have.
And the rest...
I love wandering around the outside garden part of the centre (especially in the summer when it is best stocked) as they offer not only a wide range of plants, bushes, herbs and seeds, but there are also all the other decorative sculptures and pots available. I always feel inspired to do this and that with my garden whenever I am there. Also there is usually always staff wandering around that will be able to help you or to give you tips and ideas to suit your garden. Last year I bought quite a few baby herb plants and chilli plants from here as well as some lavender and everything lived well and grew to be quite fruitful. I always notice that all the plants seem to look well maintained and healthy as well as the whole area feeling easy to navigate.
Inside among other items there is a large selection of cakes and treats to buy that are made on the premises on a daily basis, they also sell a lot of local produce such as cured meats, black pudding, bacon, etc. My favourite is by far the selection of jams, chutneys and curds. I love the lemon curd that you can buy there, I don't buy it often because it is nice enough to eat with a spoon and as soon as it is open I can't help but pick at it. I bought quite a few of these lovely food goodies as Christmas presents. The prices are a little higher than you would expect to pay in a supermarket but as a nice treat or special occasion then I love buying local produce and from here whenever I can.
They sell everything here from garden furniture, clothing, to pet items to rock salt for when the weather is bad. I can spend hours wandering around this garden centre and although most of the time there aren't that many bargains to be had, there are a lot of quirky and interesting things to pick up for your home. There is also an in store Florist shop which I have yet to try but I am thinking about ordering a bouquet of flowers from there for my mum on mother's day this year. The store also changes completely around from time to time throughout the year to bring in new displays and items that are more relevant to the different seasons.
During Christmas time this is by far the best place to shop for decorations, lights or a vast array of things you didn't even know you needed or wanted. They really make an effort to create a special display, and I bought quite a few items that I will cherish for years to come. If possible the garden centre always feels even busier at Christmas time.
There is also quite a lot of free parking available but don't wear any of your best shoes because unless you are lucky enough to get a space right beside the entrance you will undoubtedly have to trudge through some mud.
As you might suspect from reading this review this is one of my favourite places to eat, shop and browse. Therefore, I would give it many more stars than simply five out of five if I could. If you live anywhere near here then it really is a nice place to visit, whether you have a garden or not. I recommend going along to treat yourself to a lovely cup of coffee and one of the large homemade very yummy scones.
For anyone interested in visiting for yourself the details are;
Happy Plant (gift and garden centre)
North Street, Mintlaw,
Opening hours are as you would suspect for a garden centre - Mon to Sat 9 am - 5 pm (9.30 am - 4.30 pm for the restaurant areas) and Sunday 10 am - 5.00 pm (10.30 am - 4.30 pm for the restaurant areas).