Wren Hall, a specialist dementia care home in Selston, Nottinghamshire, has introduced a restaurant-like experience for both residents and their families. Once a month, the home hosts its “Wren’s Nest” evenings with an à la carte menu, table decorations, music and waiter service.

Anita Astle MBE, owner and manager of Wren Hall, says, “We recognise the importance of going out somewhere special for a proper meal with family. For those living at Wren Hall, going out to a restaurant would create challenges such as getting into and out of vehicles, accessing the building, eating normal textured food and using toilet facilities. With the Wren’s Nest evenings, our ladies and gents can still experience fine dining and socialising.”

Wren’s Nest evenings start at 18:30 and finish around 22:00. Canapés and Buck’s Fizz are served on arrival, followed by a three-course meal and cheese board. The meal ends with tea, coffee and homemade chocolates.

The menu for the evening depends on the theme, but there are usually three or four choices for each course. Themes have included a Mediterranean cruise with dishes relating to various countries on the cruise, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Indian cuisine and Burns Night. Once the menu has been finalised, it is shared with families of the residents, who can then book tables.

Anita says, “All food is homemade on-site. The food has a fine dining twist to give the sense of being a special occasion. Our catering team also prepare textured modified meals for our ladies and gents who experience swallowing difficulties. Going the extra mile, our cooks use moulds to give puréed foods a more normal appearance.”

Considerable planning goes into the event. An everyday lounge is transformed into a smart restaurant. Furniture is moved out, tables decorated with white linen tablecloths, cut glass, new cutlery and crisp napkins so it looks inviting. Staff wear white tops with either black skirts or trousers or they dress in costume for themed evenings. To make sure the meal is enjoyable for everyone, there may be additional staff and volunteers who help individuals who are unable to eat independently.

On average, 30 to 40 people attend “Wren’s Nest” seated in tables of four and six. Anita says, “The evenings give a sense of normality to people’s lives. It makes them feel special. A hairdresser comes in who does their hair and they wear their smart clothes, so it gives them the chance to dress up. To see families relax together, have a laugh and just enjoy themselves is wonderful. No-one is left out. If someone doesn’t have a family, another family will ‘adopt’ them, or a couple of staff may invite them.”

In addition to Wren’s Nest, the care home organises many other activities for residents such as baking and pizza-making. This may take place with children from the next-door Little Wrens nursery, also run by Anita, who visit the care home twice a day. She says, “Intergenerational activities are so important and benefit both sides.”

Wren’s Nest Menu


  • Creamy garlic mushrooms served with toasted sliced panini bread
  • Roasted red pepper and tomato soup served with herby heart croutons
  • Smoked mackerel and horseradish pâté served with melba toast


  • Pan fried duck breast on a bed of shredded spiced red cabbage, served with an orange and red wine jus
  • Baked salmon en croute served with a creamy dill sauce
  • Mediterranean vegetable lasagne served with a pesto drizzle and triple cheese garlic bread


  • Champagne and strawberry posset served with a dark chocolate and almond bark
  • Double love chocolate cake layered with vanilla cream and raspberries
  • Sicilian lemon syllabub served with ginger shortbread thins served
    with melba toast