By Peter Hiller


Max Gastro’s Restaurant Review Café VH

I well remember the rather posh Van Hage/Peterborough Garden Park opening in the summer of 2010. 

The sun shone, the fragrant Sophie Countess of Wessex did the formal honours and expensive suits floated around deferentially; foretelling great fortunes for this huge glass shrine – built not just for the green-fingered proletariat, but all of Peterborough-kind to visit and wonder at the treasures within. The reality was a little different and the last 7 years have been a struggle for this mammoth crystal palace and its annexed half-vacant shops. Fast-forward and now the whole 18 acre edifice has been bought by a firm who’s expertise is proven in this sector. A friend who has met the management says they are certainly well placed to make the necessary changes and apparently, what they’ve outlined already is appropriate to both the site and its immediate demographic and their plan for the medium to long-term viability of the offering appears pragmatic and sustainable. I know a lot of Tribland folk will wish them well in their endeavours.
That aside, a friend and I decided to pop along for a spot of lunch recently and were rather taken by the Café VH carvery - at a very reasonable £7.50. This sumptuous looking feast (from 12 noon) was expertly and most generously carved and ladled onto our plates and embraced a choice of beautifully cooked roast pork or beef, tasty sautéed cabbage, roast potatoes, buttered carrots and with a healthy dollop of gravy to finish. Truly fare normally for the privileged few, at a price for the pockets of the hoi-palloi. The vast interior of the centre is cleverly divided and the restaurant area is sectioned off to create albeit, not a particularly intimate setting, but certainly one that’s very clearly defined. You don’t get folk wandering by your table with pot plants and wheelbarrows. We were impressed by the cleanliness of the dining area and friendliness of the staff, who appeared genuinely enthused by their various roles behind and in front of the counter, our server/carver/ladler, Claire, especially. This is a really good place to pop in for a shop, browse, maybe meet-up with friends and have a spot of breakfast or lunch – I recommend it.
It’s unfortunate, the normally trustworthy Trip Advisor website rates the Café VH a lowly 331st of Peterborough eating places and from our impression, an unfair score. Also rather incongruous is the Van Hage website’s original grandiloquence, still proclaiming, “…The Park will touch the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people…forming a strategy to offer leadership and support to the local community…a celebration of local children…tranquil places to sit and ponder…” er, it’s a garden centre guys, but I imagine it could be a lot more.
Max’s 5-star rating
Service                       ****
Value              *****
Food               ****
Atmosphere  ***
Café VH
Van Hage @ Peterborough Garden Park
01733 221400

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