The cafe at the John Hope Gateway, the new information centre for the Royal Botanic Gardens in  Edinburgh
The cafe at the John Hope Gateway, the new information centre for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh

Botanic Gardens food tops the Out to Lunch list

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has topped a new league table for children’s food and drink at the UK’s top visitor attractions.

The report was published today by the Soil Association’s Out to Lunch campaign.

Working with an army of ‘secret diner’ parents, the Soil Association surveyed the food and drink on offer at 22 of the UK’s most popular family attractions, on the hunt for those serving up fresh, traceable, sustainable and ethically sourced food.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh led the way, serving seasonal and organic produce from their own Market Garden. A variety of ingredients are sourced locally and from within Scotland, including all the meat on the menu, and meals are freshly prepared on site. All meat is farm assured and fish is MSC certified.

Fraser Sharp, general manager for Sodexo Prestige Venues & Events at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh said: ‘We are absolutely thrilled to have been recognised by our customers with this prestigious award.

‘The team has worked extremely hard over the past few years to deliver the Market Garden and to ensure that we are able to design seasonal recipes that suit the produce year-round.

‘Our chefs are constantly striving to create new and exciting menus using the vast array of local vegetables and farm assured meat and fish that we have at our disposal. It is extremely rewarding for everyone in the team to see that their efforts have been acknowledged by so many customers.’

But at other popular attractions, the results left a bad taste in the mouth. Out to Lunch has uncovered unhealthy pre-packed lunchboxes, dodgy ingredients, and a lack of vegetables in the UK’s most-visited museums, art galleries, zoos, visitor centres, and theme parks, as well as some good food at reasonable prices.

The cafe at the John Hope Gateway, the information centre for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh

Key findings include:

Attractions are using promotional deals to push unhealthy junk food on families;

Attractions are not being honest with parents about where children’s food comes from;

British attractions are failing to support British farmers;

Attractions are serving over-sized children’s puddings loaded with sugar.

There is no correlation between meal price and league table position. Children’s meals at the top five attractions are, on average, 5p cheaper than children’s meals at the bottom five.

Millions of families visit these iconic visitor attractions each year, but parents say that food on offer isn’t up to scratch. Only 5% of parents say they think children’s food at popular attractions is good enough.

The Out to Lunch campaign has revealed that adult meals at popular attractions are typically healthier than children’s meals.

At the National Gallery, most children’s meals don’t include any veg, even though the adult menu features more than a dozen types of vegetable. Only two attractions include a portion of veg or salad in every child’s lunchbox (Science Museum and British Museum) while others included biscuits, chocolate bars and crisps instead of veg.

Rob Percival, coordinator of the Out to Lunch campaign, said: ‘It’s unacceptable that popular attractions are denying children healthy choices. The attractions at the top of the league table are showing that healthy and high-quality food can be fun and affordable. The attractions at the bottom are not giving families the opportunity to enjoy a balanced meal. Some of the food on offer is simply junk. Legoland should be re-named “Deep Fried Crap Land”.’

At Legoland, which scored in joint-last position in the league table, the ‘inclusive’ entrance ticket provides children with refillable fizzy drinks throughout the day and lunch at one of two restaurants, both of which offer burgers, fried chicken and chips but neither provide children with any veg, even though veg is offered on the adult menu.

An interactive league table profiling each attraction can be viewed on the Soil Association website HERE.