I first stumbled upon the walled garden five years ago when it was a tumbledown nursery on the Tongswood Estate in the Kentish countryside. Back then, with its dilapidated Victorian greenhouses and mostly fallow beds, it had the desolate period charm of a Tim Burton movie.

So, you can imagine my delight when I returned here earlier this summer to discover a terrace with a tented stretch awning, an open kitchen with a wood-fired oven, and a dozen or so tables where 40 or so diverse diners from all over Kent, East Sussex, and London looked out onto the mostly restored glasshouses and long borders filled with vegetables and cut flower beds. In its new incarnation as the restaurant and shop at "Water Lane," the walled garden feels friendly, warm, and inviting.

This striking transformation is all thanks to new custodians, Nick Selby and Ian James, who founded and built the gourmet deli and grocery brand Melrose & Morgan. They came across the site four years ago when Ian was looking to buy a flower field. And just as Melrose & Morgan is a contemporary take on a grocery store, Water Lane disrupts what you'd expect to find in a Victorian walled garden.

They've created a tented pavilion for dining outdoors, and they've repurposed one of the site's original Victorian glasshouses as a restaurant, Carnation House, for when the autumn and winter months arrive.

The pair hosts several regular food markets and seasonal fairs where they invite local producers and specialist suppliers to showcase their wares, from art and ceramics to seasonal vegetables, fruit, cheese, pasture-raised meat, sourdough bread, pastries, eggs, honey, apple juice, wine, and cider.

Nick loves to cook and often assists head chef Jed Wrobel in shaping the menu, which is undoubtedly Water Lane's main attraction. While you wait, you can sample delicious bites such as garden pickles, almonds, Gordal olives, Plum and Tam's Tipple flatbread, LAM fennel salami, and pickled greengage.

Starters currently include tomato, bread, and Florence onion salad; babaganoush with polenta crackers, sardines and gremolata, or chicken livers and Coronation cucumbers.

The main courses at the moment (late summer) include farinata, ricotta, and caponata; plaice, peperonata, and parsley; rolled pork belly, summer greens, and pickled cherries; turbot, chanterelles, summer beans, and tarragon butter; or half a Sutton Hoo chicken, freekeh, and green sauce.

For dessert, there is strawberry soft serve (a soft strawberry ice cream); fig leaf rice pudding tart with blackberry crème fraiche; raspberry and salted caramel eclair; or Whinny's wheel cheese, beetroot chutney, and polenta crackers.

As Water Lane is only a fifteen-minute drive from my house, I've been drawn back there multiple times. While I have sampled most of the dishes listed above and can attest to the delicious simplicity and freshness of the food, I have also invited my friend Ziad to sample the wines supplied by Keeling Andrew and Co., the merchant arm of Noble Rot, including wines from nearby Kent and East Sussex vineyards Tillingham and Westwell, among a list of classic options and more interesting and unusual wines. The aperitif menu changes with the seasons and includes the Water Lane Bicyclette, Elderflower Sour, local gin-based cocktails, and Vermouths.

With the help of RHS award-winning gardener Jo Thompson, the garden, where Ian spends a lot of his time, is carefully being returned to growing all manner of fruit, vegetables, and flowers to supply the restaurant and shop. The new planting scheme includes shrubs and roses to create structure, including Copper Beech, Hydrangea "Hot Chocolate," and roses such as Rosa "Boscobel" and "Mutabilis." A peach, pink, purple, and mauve palette of perennials from Nepeta grandiflora "Dawn to Dusk," Geum "Pretticoats Peach," and Salvia "Mulberry Jam" gives more summer color. Weaving through these plants are what Jo Thompson refers to as the "fuzzies, ephemerals, and fillers," Aquilegia "Black Barlow," Angelica sylvestris "Vicar’s Mead," and Verbena macdougalii "Lavender Spires." Spring is celebrated with an array of bulbs, including Fritillaria, Narcissus, Crocus, and Alliums, culminating in a show of tulips, including "Black Hero" and "Rococo."

Right now, the plants are all at knee height, and I can't wait to return next year to savor the beauty and serenity of this garden restaurant in all its glory. What Ian and Nick are creating is an expression of their love of food and nature. Their pleasure in sharing it is palpable.