With a name like a classic story book, it’s hard not to be enchanted a little by the Secret Garden, an unusual café in South Perth. And like all book covers, you shouldn’t judge the Secret Garden by its outward appearance, because despite its rather pokey initial impression, this is a garden that goes on forever.
Order first at the register and grab your number, because if you’re there with kids you will want to sit out the back. Head out the side door and walk towards the heavy wooden doors with its welcome sign. As you pass down the side of the building, the extent of the outside area becomes apparent, with plenty of tables under cover (with gas heaters) and even more dotted throughout the quirky backyard, under pergolas and shady small trees.
A small wooden bridge that passes over a puddle of a pond will be the drawcard for most kids, as well as discovering the multitude of critters that reside in the garden (concrete swans, anyone?). It’s a bit like Grandma’s garden, but with people from all walks of life from singles and couples enjoying a quiet coffee, young office workers, and plenty of families with young children.
While children are welcome, it should be mentioned that although kid-friendly, there’s no room for running around: the tables are quite tightly packed and there is no space to play. They can explore though, although heed the signs of the garden center next door about keeping your eye on your children. There is free access between the café and the shop, and the caged birds and exciting plants (some with big spikes) will undoubtedly be a drawcard for curious kids.
Service is prompt and friendly, with help-yourself sauces and bottles of water.
For me, the big attraction is the all-day breakfast menu with the Big Breakfast and Vegetarian breakfast coming in at $19, a variety of omelettes at $17, and crepes with fresh strawberry and banana only $12.
I chose the corn and parmesan croquettes served with two poached eggs and rocket salad, and although the serve looks modest, it was filling enough and cost only $13 which is cheap by Perth breakfast standards.
If all-day breakfast isn’t your thing, they also serve lunch from 11.30 with a range of pre-prepared rolls, salads and light meals such as chicken and asparagus crepe ($16), burgers ($14-$18), quiche ($15) and spanakopita ($16). They also offer a number of seafood dishes which range from $22 to $32, mainly from the grill and all including chips and salad. Drinks include freshly squeezed juices.
The cake cabinet is what attracts children (and parents) with my daughter choosing the ubiquitous Frozen cupcake (there was also a ‘boy’ cupcake as well). She didn’t actually eat it (it was quite rich) but she was very happy with it. I enjoyed it. There are a large range of cake slices, cupcakes and rocky road, no prices which can be a bit annoying, but it all looks delicious.
Interestingly, despite the fact that it closes before dinner, you can BYO wine and beer (or champers at breakfast) for $1.50 corkage per person.
The Secret Garden will please almost everyone, with its huge range, quirky gardens and very un-Perth prices.