I first visited The Pavilion Tea Room at Stansted Park within the first year of reviewing restaurants for this newspaper.
Set in the restored fig house within Stansted’s walled gardens, entry is via a long drive through part of the ancient woodland that surrounds this estate.
You can take tea (or morning coffee, light lunches or afternoon tea) in the white table-clothed tearoom with its black and white checkerboard flooring, visit the newly-opened Vine House, or head outside to eat on the lawn.
Counters in both the Pavilion and Vine are smartly kitted-out in pale green tongue and groove wood.
Cakes (carrot, jam and butter cream, coffee and walnut, Victorian fig and peach), flapjacks, macaroons, lemon meringue pie, bakewell tart and apple pie are on view.
A proper coffee machine nestles amongst the elegant tea pots, unstuffy well-trained staff not letting the side down, with their stylish dress of long aprons and black tops.
My sidekick Rusty and I pitched up with her tiny baby in tow but there were no disapproving ‘tut-tuts’ in evidence here. We sat in the Vine and had come for lunch, served between midday and 3pm. The kitchen is keen on local produce – bread from Westbourne Bakery, meat from Starrs in Emsworth and fruit and veg from another local supplier.
Come here for homemade food (lentil, tomato and coriander soup; goat’s cheese and red onion marmalade quiche; hand-raised pork pies; paninis; sandwiches including Selsey crab), or try one of their salad bowls or jacket potatoes. Most dishes are in the £7 range, with soups £4.95. There’s also a Stansted cream tea on a tiered cake stand for a bargain £5.25.
Rusty and I shared a goat’s cheese quiche with a salad mix plus a smoked salmon and crayfish salad bowl. Both were faultless with all ingredients excelling in quality, freshness and presentation.
We marvelled at the depth of flavour in the quiche and the types of salad leaves – just one complaint, pineapple doesn’t belong in a salad.
The only downside to our time there were the wasps, our ginger beer and apple and raspberry drinks a major magnet.
After a walk around the landscaped grounds past Stansted House, we returned for tea in the stylish black and white tearoom, our carrot cake a moist, moreish, slice.
The Pavilion Tea Room takes tea and all its pleasures back to where they belong, in style, but not style over substance.
The charming, highly helpful service is also second to none.
The tea renaissance really is in enhanced hands here.
Our total bill came to just under £26.
The Pavilion, Stansted Park, Rowlands Castle PO9 6DX
(023) 9241 3432.
Open: Open Monday-Saturday, 9am – 5pm, plus special evenings including a paella evening with a Spanish guitarist on September 30 in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support.
Disabled access: fine, although some wheelchairs might struggle in the gravel paths.
How to get there: take the A27, exit at Emsworth, follow signs to Horndean and Rowlands Castle, turn right on Emsworth Common Road. Turn left at signs to Stansted Park then right at Stansted. Follow the road to the nursery car park, the tea rooms are behind the walled gardens.