Shallowmeads’ Mabel’s cafe goes back to its roots in reopening
MABEL’S restaurant at Shallowmead Nurseries in Boldre is set to reopen with a new management team.
The eatery closed for refurbishment earlier this year, and will soon be relaunching with a menu driven by what customers want, which is “simple, traditional garden centre food”.
Operations manager Lyndon Thompson said Mabel’s originally had a “posh rustic” vibe, offering the usual café fare of soup, sandwiches, toasties and cakes.
But for a while it became more upmarket, with an increasingly adventurous menu and separate areas for restaurant and cafe.
“Hands up we made a mistake,” said Lyndon. “It simply wasn’t what most people wanted. But we have listened to customers and they want the old Mabel’s back.
“They want simple, traditional garden centre food like shepherd’s pie, hotpot, soup, toasties, jacket potatoes and salads. And today, they want it at a tempting price.
“They want to come to Mabel’s for a treat, but an affordable treat, and that is exactly what
we will be giving them. We have listened to all the feedback, and we are reopening it the way people liked it, but even better.”
Due to nearby construction work, Mabel’s is sharing an area which also hosts horticultural classes. But it is set to re-open in its old home, led by a new management team.
The space is now expanded with more chairs and tables both inside and out. A new self-service counter is available for people who just want to pop in for a snack and there will be waiter service for people who want a larger meal and to linger longer.
What has not changed is the glorious surroundings customers are immersed in while they are enjoying their meal or coffee. The landscaped garden the café looks out onto is, as nursery propagation manager Kate Brady says, “truly unique”.
She said: “I don’t think there is anything around here that comes near to it. We are very proud of it.”
The relaunch of Mabel’s is only one part of the vision Lyndon has for the future of Shallowmead, which he would like to become a “horticultural hub for likeminded businesses”.
In time, there will be an area for local artisan producers and crafters to offer their work. Lyndon says it will be “a really vibrant, interesting place for people to visit.”
He continued: “Shallowmead has to continue to evolve, it has to keep going forward.
“What we want to do now is reconnect with our wholesale and trade customers while also making sure our local customers who just want plants for their garden are looked after. Plants are at the heart of everything we do.
“Shallowmead is in the middle of a transition, but what we will be offering is literally something for everyone. We have been here since 1947 and we intend to be here for many more years to come.”
The site has an intriguing history, first as a market garden, then pigs and tomatoes, then a wholesale plant supplier, and only evolving into a nursery selling retail plants after demand from local people.
It was a similar demand that led to the creation of Mabel’s, which is named after the mother of Shallowmead’s managing director. Mabel was still visiting the nursery into her nineties to help the propagation team.
Kate, who leads that team, said: “I started here selling tomatoes as a Saturday job. Now I am production manager. I love it here; I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”
Mabel’s was established around ten years ago to provide refreshments for horticultural courses, but customers said they would love to have somewhere to enjoy a cup of tea after buying their plants.
“We are very customer led,” said Lyndon. “We have a long history and the local community is very important to us.
“We have been here for more than 70 years, which counts for something.
“We encourage feedback and comments from customers, and we act on it.”