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Bay Tree Tearoom and Restaurant, Wickham

Tucked away down a Wickham mini arcade is a restaurant so retro it's fashionable.

Brits thrive on nostalgia – witness the new Vintage at Goodwood event in August, a celebation of five decades of popular culture and a recipe for wistfulness if there ever was one.

The Bay Tree Tearoom and Restaurant provides just what is needed for a good nostalgic wallow.

Go past all the shops filled with cards and nicknacks to find this tiny tea room, awash with cakes of every type, size and colour.

And all home-made says co-owner Debbie, as she places one of the highest-layered meringue pavlovas with swirling cream and strawberries on a glass shelf by the door.

It was almost as wide as some of the pine tables squeezed into the space.

The small kitchen is not only responsible for the trifles, cream gateaux, Bakewell and treacle tarts, banoffie pies, cheesecakes and a lemon meringue pie which defies gravity ('it's made with 14 eggs'), but also 15 main courses, 24 or more types of baguettes and sandwiches, jacket potatoes, soup, Bay Tree all-day breakfasts and brunches plus an impressive list of tea cakes, scones and sundaes.

Dressers, shelves and other spaces are crammed with jams and tea pots.

Naturally, the curtains are frilly and patterned, and the table mats feature sepia scenes of Wickham.

As if the kitchen didn't have enough to be getting on with, roasts are also available alongside cottage pie, chicken and ham pie, salmon and prawn quiche, bangers and mash with onion gravy and a liver and bacon casserole, my choice.

Cooked to order, astonishingly – take note, some restaurants and pubs – and taking a while to wing its way past the packed restaurant, the plateful could have been straight out of the '50s.

But those large chunks of lamb's liver were tender, unlike food of that era. Copious amounts of good bacon and slivers of onion and gravy added to its pleasures.

Only overcooked greens and a watery swede mash let the side down. Carrots and new potatoes overflowed on the plate. That magnificent sky-high lemon meringue pie followed.

Prices are remarkably low. All mains are 6.50, desserts 3.95.

Although unlicensed, you're invited to bring some wine. Coffee, soft drinks and pots of tea are staples here.

For one of the most unpretentious meals you're likely to have – and all home-cooked – vintage Bay Tree is hard to beat.

The only music you'll hear there is the non-stop tinkle of the bell on the door. My bill came to just under 12 including sparkling water.

Carol is a chef, former restaurateur and editor of Savour, the Guild of Food Writers magazine.

Bay Tree Tearoom and Restaurant, Baytree Walk, 9 The Square, Wickham PO17 5JQ

01329 832601

Open: 10am-4.30pm daily (9.30am –4.30pm Sun)

Food: ****

Service: ****

Atmosphere: ***

Disabled access: Tiny space not suitable for wheelchairs.

How to get there: Take the A32 Alton turn-off from the M27 going west and follow the signs to Wickham. The arcade is in the middle of the square on the right near Lloyds Bank. Parking in the square.

 
 
 

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