A GARDEN centre café has won gold at a national food award ceremony.

Perrywood Garden Centre in Tiptree entered the 2018 FreeFrom Eating Out Awards where they won the top prize in the Newbies category.

The national awards are now in their fifth year and set a standard for ‘free-from’ eating within the food service industry.

All of the winners were visited by one of the expert secret diner judges, all of whom were coeliac or food intolerant themselves.

The judge described the food at Perrywood as “delicious” and said the coffee shop was a “hidden gem nestled within a beautiful garden centre”.

They sampled gluten-free sandwiches, gluten and dairy-free scones and gluten-free coffee cake, all of which were highly commended.

The judge said: “When ordering the staff took allergens very seriously and wrote them down separately, stopping to use a different colour highlighter for each allergen we mentioned.

“All the food that we ordered came on plates with a thick blue ring around them, whereas people ordering food that did not need to worry about allergens just had solid white plates.

“For an establishment like this I thought it was really well thought out and something I wish larger restaurants could do so mix-ups don’t happen.”

Perrywood spokesman Hannah Powell said: “To win gold at the FreeFrom Awards is a fantastic achievement and is testament to our hard-working and dedicated coffee shop team.

“As a business, we are passionate about catering for as many dietary requirements as possible – including vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free.

“Our coffee shop team are always on the lookout for delicious new recipes to add to our growing free-from and vegan menus.

“From breakfasts and sweet treats to afternoon teas, we are very proud of our freshly made to order options.

‘Free-from’ food caters for people who have allergies to dishes which may contain things such as gluten, dairy or peanuts.