Over the next six years the RHS and Company of Cooks will invest in dining at the RHS flagship Wisley garden in Surrey and work together to make Wisley a restaurant destination and events venue in its own right.
New tasting sessions, cookery classes and preserving workshops will also inspire gardeners to grow and cook great food at home. All dining and associated activities will be presented under the ‘Taste of Wisley’ banner.
Plans include creating a new café at the garden entrance selling goods baked on site as well as seasonal produce and plants. The existing conservatory café will become a British food hall. Cookery courses will be held in the kitchens and there will be regular evening events with British food suppliers offering tastings, talks and demonstrations.
The conservatory dining room is to be changed into a new restaurant with décor changing throughout the year to reflect spring, summer, autumn and winter in the garden. Its menu will also link to the seasons. Meanwhile the glasshouse café will become a family-centred destination with children’s play area and ‘grow and cook’ events for kids.
Canopy, a covered outside dining space, will be set near the fruit and vegetable gardens. A menu of grills and Wisley produce is planned.
A new purpose-built restaurant, Tasting Room, will showcase produce such as edible flowers and the roots, stems and leaves of other plants in the Wisley garden and host educational workshops and demonstrations, say the RHS.
RHS director general Sue Biggs said: "Over the next six years, food at Wisley will become a celebration of the gardening seasons and great British produce, with a closer relationship between the kitchen and garden and wonderful eating opportunities.
"With RHS gardening expertise and Company of Cooks’ food expertise, people will be able to discover cultivars of fruit and vegetables they like the taste of, learn how to grow them and get great ideas to cook them."
Compnay of Cooks founder Mike Lucy said: "This is a very exciting partnership that will create several new eating places and ways to enjoy the Taste of Wisley. We’re delighted to be at the RHS flagship garden for the next ten years. I’m looking forward to developing our food and drink offer and adding value to visits for the one million people who come to RHS Garden Wisley each year."
Company of Cooks culinary director Claire Clark MBE is developing menus.
The company will use menus, recipes and blind tastings to promote rare British heritage apple varieties from Wisley’s orchard as "a priority", while demonstrations in the preserving kitchen will help people make "affordable jams and chutneys from their own home-grown produce".
Biggs added: "By bringing some of the less-known, tasty British fruit and vegetable varieties to the fore and then sharing delicious ways to cook or preserve them, we hope to revive interest and enthusiasm for diminishing heritage varieties and enthuse people to grow them at home. We’re looking forward to working with Company of Cooks to ensure visitors have a great taste of Wisley."