The Village Tea Rooms in the Miss Marple-like setting of Alverstoke in Gosport are novel and original. In fact, it just doesn’t get any more quirky than this, thanks to the decor.
Installed in what was the downstairs of a tiny cottage opposite the tiny village square, the minimalism carries on inside.
It reminds me of the old Irish tradition of serving tea to passing strangers in the parlour, but the decor is more akin to a cross between Laura Ashley and Cath Kidston thanks to bare floorboards, muted wallpaper, mirrors and shelving with items for sale.
Food items are also for the taking with specialist teas, marmalades, olive oils and wines on sale.
A large leather sofa takes up the window space and there are only five tables.
A small kitchen lines one wall in what was the back room and both rooms are lit by matching chandeliers.
Annie Lennox struggles to be heard above the loud hum of the fridge which houses beers, wines, lemonade and other soft drinks.
The menu is short; it matches the minimalism. Admirably specialising in seasonal, organic and fairtrade produce – sourced locally where possible to reduce food miles – the two woman-kitchen caters for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
You might find a red pepper quiche or corn chowder with bread on the daily specials. But otherwise the choice is limited to rarebit (granary toast and the cheesy mix topped with local apple chutney); jacket potato with organic cheese, beans, sweetcorn or hummus; organic baked beans on toast and main course salads or a selection of sandwiches.
You’d be hard-pushed to spend more than £7 (the salads) and the soup is £5.50.
An English cream tea with organic scones, local jam, Riverford Organic clotted cream and a pot of tea is £4.50 and all the dishes are made in the tiny kitchen, including some remarkable-looking cakes. They do espresso, specialist coffees and teas too.
I sat at one of the tables along a long pew bench and couldn’t help but hear the banter in the kitchen. My choice, the corn chowder with coriander butter and warm granary bread was, dare I say it, meaty, chunky and very filling. The well-flavoured soup was pleasantly presented in a smart white bowl on top of a large plate for the thick bread and butter.
The chef-owner could win any baking competition hands-down. The rhubarb and almond cake, served with clotted cream, was simply the best cake I’ve had in any café in the Portsmouth area. Was it her recipe? ‘No, an old Waitrose card one’ was the honest answer, a real wow thanks to the tartness of the fruit and the moisture of the ground almonds, extra toasted almonds decorating the top. It was delectable and worth the trundle down the long, long, winding road to Gosport for this lightest of cakes alone.
The charming one-off quirkiness was a real plus in our chain-driven bland world. My bill came to just under £10 for the chowder, the cake and a bottle of sparkling water.
The Village Tea Rooms, 2B Church Road, Alverstoke, Gosport PO12 2LB 07954056003.
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 10–4pm.
Food: Four (out of five)
Disabled access: It’s tiny so wheelchairs would have a challenge
How to get there: Take the M27 towards Fareham and Gosport, following the A27 Gosport signs, take the B3333 on Privett Road to the Avenue, bear left on Village Road and left again onto Church Road, the tea room right in front of you by the church. Parking on-street.