Dobbies Garden Centres was founded in 1865 by James Dobbie, who created a seeds business named Dobbie & Co. After being awarded the Royal Warrant for Gardeners and Nurserymen to the Royal Household, the company expanded into a seed catalogue business, where it built up a customer base of 50,000 over the following century. In 1969 the company expanded out of its Scottish base into England. Up until 1984 Dobbies continued to operate principally as a seed merchant. It was then bought out by David Barnes, managing director of Waterers. Between 1984 and 1989 Dobbies opened five new garden centres in Scotland. The company was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1997 and this led to Dobbies expanding their garden centre operations further South into England. In 2008 the company was fully acquired by Tesco.
Dobbies Garden Centres now operates 26 garden centres and restaurants in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as several large tourist attractions including Plantasia, near Coventry.
Recently a new branch of Dobbies was opened at Eureka Park in Ashford (where there is also a cinema, a gym and several restaurants, as well as a Travelodge), and we were at first reluctant to go to Dobbies as it is owned by Tesco, a major retailing giant (and you know how anti-big bidness I am), and will undoubtedly cause many other garden retailers in the area to tut-tut loudly and complain that they are being driven out of business. I then wanted to go because I had heard a rumour (unfounded, as it turns out) that they would be stocking many of the COOK products that we carry in store and therefore, hurting our business. After all, if you live in Ashford and you can get COOK products in town rather than making the 14-mile trek to Tenterden, you would, wouldn't you? I had also seen in the lovely flier for Dobbies that came winging its merry way through our door that they had a restaurant, so I thought, great - I can go check out the shop and review the restaurant at the same time. Anyway, enough preamble - let's get to the pics, shall we?
|This is what greets you as you walk in. A giant wicker watering can.|
|This is its tag. EEK!|
So -on to the food hall.
And then - the restaurant.
|The amazing salad bar.|
|Sis has a quiche lorraine, among other things.|
|My plate, clockwise from top left - smoked salmon, rice and red pepper salad, three bean salad, pasta salad, couscous, rollmop herring, with a dollop of Waldorf Salad in the centre.|
|Laura had a baked potato with Caesar chicken, apparently, although Laura said it didn't taste like any Chicken caesar she'd ever had before.|
|Jack had the chicken korma. He reports that it was quite good apart from the chicken being a little dry, and not quite enough sauce.|
|Quite a tasty little wine.|
|Didn't eat one of these, but ooooooohhhhh.|
Then we headed to the bathrooms. I have never seen urinals so amazing.
|Then as I exited, Laura swiped my phone and took it into the ladies bathroom...|
|I really want one of these.|
|Laura liked the swing seat.|
|Jack was just hangin'.|
|Kinda makes you feel all serene, eh?|
All in all, I would visit Dobbie's again, more for the food hall and the garden part than the restaurant. The restaurant was beautiful, and clean, and the food was gorgeous and fresh, but it wasn't the taste adventure I was expecting. Maybe I just picked the wrong things. But I am definitely willing to give it another go. But in terms of an aesthetically pleasing place, it is top notch.