In this series of history blogs we’ve tried to identify key milestones in the Bents’ family business.  Our love of roses, our first shop, the growing nursery, our on-site reservoir and love of Christmas, yet there’s still something we’ve not mentioned; something that has been one of our most important and tastiest additions….dining at Bents.

Today we have not just one, but six different dining destinations, all of which have evolved from our love of food and commitment to home cooking, baking and freshly prepared meals.  And it all started back in the early ‘80s with the launch of the Balcony Coffee Lounge…


An Idea is Born

By 1980 Ron and John had built their first purpose built garden centre; one of the first architect designed buildings of its kind.  But never one to stand still, Ron had another new idea to move the business forward and by 1982 plans were put in place for a café within the Centre.

This had always been an aspiration for Ron who had already included a second-floor area into the design of the new building with this special project in mind.  A café was a completely new concept for the industry and Ron put up with a bit of teasing about his ideas from other garden centre owners.  But he was prepared for the uncertainty and enthusiastic about trying something new…something which has gone on to become an expected element of any garden centre.


A Truly Tasty Success

In the spring of 1982 the Balcony Coffee Lounge was launched and Ron’s wife Wendy, who had not only helped develop plans for the café, also got busy behind the counter to make sure everything was freshly made and of the highest quality.  It was in the kitchen of the Balcony Coffee Lounge where long term favourites were developed with recipes for our scones, quiches, almond slice, date slice and fairy buns still used today and proving just as popular.  It was also the starting point for the famous Bents’ Filter Coffee; freshly brewed every half hour sending a tempting scent throughout the Centre.

The team grew and the Balcony Coffee Shop was soon serving freshly prepared meals with lunchtime queues weaving down the stairs a common sight.  Within a year it was already proving to be a huge success with other garden centre owners having to eat their words and many taking the opportunity to launch similar venues within their own centres.

Bents quickly established an excellent reputation for quality home-made food, wonderful flavours and speciality coffees, and was a forerunner in what is now an expected element to any garden centre experience.


A Fresh Approach

Following the success of the Balcony Coffee Lounge thoughts started to turn to something even more ambitious and by the mid 1990s plans were being put in place for the Fresh Approach Restaurant; once again a destination unlike anything see in a garden centre before. The 480 seat restaurant opened in September 2001, offering an even wider range of fresh food, all homemade on the premises.

In 2007 the Fresh Approach Restaurant was extended with a contemporary new conservatory and extensive decking area with fantastic views over the Centre’s lake and beyond to the distant hills of Rivington Pike.  And now, the Restaurant offers 900 covers which include a popular family area with play area, DVD player and children’s books.


A Passion for Food

Since its launch Bents has continued to pioneer its love of food and now offers a choice of six dining destinations.  From the Pet Café and Caffe nel Verde to our Mediterranean style Tapas Bar and Fresh Approach Restaurant all our food continues to be lovingly made and freshly prepared here on the premises, abiding by the commitment made by Wendy, Mary and Jan in the earliest days of the Balcony Coffee Lounge.

During the 35 year history of dining at Bents we have welcomed lots of visitors, many of whom have become regular customers and have continued their journey with us from the balcony tables where they could watch the day to day comings and goings of a busy garden centre to the lively buzz of our Fresh Approach Restaurant.

We have thoroughly enjoyed developing our dining destinations and we hope our customers feel the same.  Food is one of our passions so we are always looking for ways we can improve and offer our customers new ideas and with this in mind we’re pretty sure it won’t be the end of our food journey!