There is a hidden marvel nestled in the middle of London, surrounded by an erratic maze of concrete walls. During the winter months when the sky resembles a dreary grey blanket of clouds, we crave escapism somewhere wild and green – almost jungle like. When such yearnings occur we say forget booking a costly trip to the Amazon and instead nip along to East London’s beloved Barbican Centre on a Sunday afternoon. Here you will discover an exotic “secret” greenhouse hidden away amongst its arty galleries and lofty spaces.
Make your way to the art gallery on the third floor and find yourself transported into a lush green haven – tall palm trees provide a refreshing contrast to the stern 1970’s architecture, whilst creeping ivy plants cling to the winding staircase, adorn the walls and cover concrete balconies.
A raised walkway leads to the cacti room, offering magnificent views from above. Various exotic flowers can be seen amongst more than 2000 other different species of plants and trees – many of which grown in this iconic London venue from tiny seeds or cuttings
To explore the hidden delights of this garden in more depth it’s possible to book a tour where a chirpy resident gardener will show you colourful flabby fish and ancient turtles and unpronounceable yet pleasing-to-the-eye plants, and if you’re lucky, some newly ripened fruit for you to sample.
Carb lovers can take a seat in the conservatory café for an indulgent afternoon tea consisting of an ample selection of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes alongside a steaming pot of tea or coffee. Pleasure seekers boycotting dry January can even add a chilled glass of prosecco.
The Barbican’s resident chef takes inspiration from the various plants and herbs growing in the Conservatory. Turmeric – the superfood spice of the moment finds its way into the hearty Coronation Chicken Sandwich, whilst fresh dill grown in the roof allotments of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama will be found accompanying smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Those with a sweet tooth will rejoice at the strawberry and passion fruit macaroons, inspired by the conservatory’s very own strawberry guava plant.
The detox can wait…
Barbican Conservatory is open on Sundays 12-5pm, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS