Review: Hearts Delight Garden Café, Lawford

The play area at Hearts Delight Garden Cafe

The play area at Hearts Delight Garden Cafe - Credit: Archant

Nicola Warren takes her family for lunch at a garden centre near Manningtree

'Posh' fish finger sandwich

'Posh' fish finger sandwich - Credit: Archant


Dining out with a toddler in tow is not always the most relaxing of experiences.

My soon to be two daughter Jessica is often up and down from a highchair like a yoyo, and just recently tipped her whole lunch on the floor at an Ipswich café (sorry, I did try to pick up all her mess).

Cheese and sausage quiche

Cheese and sausage quiche - Credit: Archant

So last weekend we’d planned to go for a pub lunch, somewhere with a beer garden and play area, to let her run off some steam and sit down for her lunch when she felt like it.

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The weather had other ideas, of course. So, driving through April showers, we went to Hearts Delight garden centre in Manningtree.

A while ago I’d seen a post on Facebook showing their indoor play area and I’d thought at the time I must pay the café a visit.

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I was a little anxious about it though I must admit as there’s another garden centre in Suffolk we’ve visited for lunch with a play area, where we faced a huge queue to order food and we would have had to pay to eat into the packed play area (we decided against it). Also I wasn’t sure how big the café was, or if the play area was still open.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see just how big the café was, and that the (free!) play area was definitely open.

We found a table right next to the play area then went to see what food and drink was available.

Lunch is served from 12noon to 2pm (breakfast is available from 9am to 11.30am too).

Sandwiches were available in the chiller along with details of an offer for a children’s lunch – £4.99 for a freshly made sandwich, a drink and two other options from the fridge.

We decided on this rather than the hot option, which was mozzarella sticks or cod or chicken goujons and chips. Not that Jessica wouldn’t like the hot choice, but because we weren’t sure how long she could wait for lunch!

On the specials board was a ‘posh’ fish finger sandwich, cheese and sausage or cheese and sausage quiche and cheese, onion and tomato potato skins.

Another hot option was a jacket potato, with a range of fillings.

We ordered Jessica a cheese sandwich, which they made straight away, so she didn’t have to wait for that. I ordered the fish finger sandwich and Phil the cheese and sausage quiche with salad (you can choose to have it with vegetables). We also ordered a bucket of chips to share.

There’s a nice selection of drinks here. We got a juice drink for Jessica, a glass bottle of Fentimans Curiosity Cola for me and a Lemon Shandy, also by Fentimans, for Phil.

We got back to the table and Jessica was keen to go in the highchair, so she started tucking into her cheese sandwich on fresh white bread straight away. As well as the sandwich and drink, we’d chosen a rice pudding pot and raisins for her. It was only later on I’d spotted Pombears and pieces of fruit were available too!

We soon got our hot meals, and Jessica had her eye on our chips. These were piping hot – so she didn’t have one straight away! – and golden and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

My ‘posh’ fish fingers, which were goujons, were a meaty white fish coated in crunchy breadcrumbs. They were served with rocket in a brioche bun with side salad.

There was plenty of meat in the homemade hot, tasty quiche. Both of our salads were fresh and crisp. Phil, not usually one to choose quiche, said that the menu was small but actually quite sufficient for a lunchtime.

In the middle of eating our hot meals, Jessica wanted to get out of the highchair and go into the play area. What was great was that we could carry on eating our meals as from the seats we’d chosen we could see over into the play area. We intervened when it seemed she may stand on the furniture in there though!

Before leaving we thought we’d try their cakes, which are made locally. We got two cornflake cakes and a lemon cake. I did notice there was a gluten and dairy free cake available too. To drink, I ordered a decaf tea for me and a gingerbread latte for Phil.

Jessica was happy to get back into the highchair for a bit of cornflake cake, which Phil said was nice and marshmallowy – a welcome change from the chocolate nest cakes at Easter. My lemon cake was nice and moist, with buttery citrus icing.

Phil accompanied Jessica in the play area while I finished my pot of tea.

All in all, a very relaxing lunch with our toddler, words I never thought I’d hear myself say!


There’s a nice selection of hot, cold and alcoholic drinks here. These include the likes of Bottle Green, Fentimans and Barn Farm Drinks as well as wine and Peroni. Hot drinks include coffees, such as flavoured lattes, hot chocolate, a selection of teas and even babycinos.


On the whole I thought the prices were on a par with similar venues. Jacket potatoes cost from £4.95 for example. Others I thought were a little steep, like a pot of tea for two for £4.95, for example. I think for the price of my dish – £8.95 – it might have been nice to get some chips included as they cost an extra £3.99.

Baby changing

There was baby changing available in the disabled toilet – in fact there were two pull-down changing tables, so ideal if you have twins!

Location and parking

Hearts Delight is based in Lawford, Manningtree, and is near the Lawford Service Station roundabout. There is a large car park available.


Welcoming and family friendly, and the same could be said around the garden centre. Jessica took a liking to some of the toys after we’d left the café and came a bit close to some breakable items but they didn’t have a look of panic on their faces (unlike me!).


Tasty home-cooked food in a welcoming café, which is especially good for families.

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