On February 13, 1945, Britain was still enduring 12-hour blackouts and the front page of the Daily Express carried the iconic picture of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta.
This cheery little reminder of the Second World War is found on laminated placemats at a new tea room, aptly if somewhat convolutedly named 19 Fourteas.
An equally aptly-named twosome, Betty and Doris, both sport the gear of the day and the décor is, of course, heavily ’40s. You almost expect an ARP warden to come in and ask the people inside this tiny tea room in Havant to pipe down – ‘don’t you know there’s a war on!’.
Actually, he’s already here. A full figure model is stuffed in a tiny brick recess complete with gas mask and unappetisingly bloodied bandage.
There’s the usual paraphernalia, the Bakelite phone, large OXO tin and the black-and-white framed pictures of those who lived during this period of conflict.
The music is soundalike Andrews Sisters bellowing out Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree and other ’40s hits. I wonder if Betty, Doris and staff want to whack on some more soothing tones, 16 weeks into their new business. It’s pretty relentless.
The prices are amazingly low, more of that era than of this one. A full breakfast will set you back £4.30; beans on toast, bacon, sausage or egg bap a mere £2.50; crumpets and toast and preserves £1.25.
Sandwiches have the usual filling suspects: tuna mayo, cheese, ham, corned beef and even Spam.
Toasted sandwiches are on the menu too as well as jackets and hot dishes; a homemade chicken, ham and leek pie or steak and kidney pie as well as lasagne (now that would have startled the natives seven decades ago). You can bag one of these dishes for £4.95.
A steak and kidney pie was my choice.
‘What kind of potatoes are served with these?’ I asked. Literalism took over in the mind of the young server. ‘They’re, er, circular, round.’ That’s that cleared up then. Not the square ones we’re used to.
Turns out they are new ones over mash and the like. The pie, a cheat when it came to the pastry – a puff pastry disc placed on top of the meat – was quite tasty, albeit rather chewy, the kidneys lending a goodly taste to the gravy.
The accompanying broccoli and runner beans, though not very seasonal, were fine. For £4.95, what do you expect? It was certainly filling, a week’s meat ration in one meal.
Rationing of sugar and other ingredients would have meant few, if any cakes in those far off days: but blueberry and lemon drizzle, that well-known British Alabama chocolate fudge and triple-layered coffee and walnut are all available – though I understand none are homemade.
A carrot cake was moist and with a good icing but impossible to finish due to the enthusiastic spicing.
The tea rooms have gone down the local sourcing route where possible and include the Portsmouth Tea Company’s loose teas. Hurrah! The tea pot (£1.50), covered in a knitted tea cosy, was china as was the tea cup and saucer.
A fine cup can be had here as well as the remarkable tiered cream tea with a myriad of sandwiches, scones and cake. I would return for this unwarlike spectacle of deliciousness alone. My bill came to just over £8.
19 Fourteas, 68 West Street, Havant, PO9, 1LN (023) 9247 6333. Open Monday to Saturday 9am-4pm.
Disabled access: Very narrow entrance and narrow space may be tricky for wheelchairs. Toilet is downstairs.
How to get there: Follow Havant signs on A27, turn left on West Street, tearoom is on the right. Limited parking in the opposite shop bay.
Ratings (maximum *****)