As readers of this column – and scrutinisers of our high streets – know, tea and cake are all the rage.
The urge to open a tea shop, more specifically a retro one preferably mimicking the Second World War, is everywhere.
Dreams must meet with reality – and business, the key word often ignored in favour of ‘hey, I can bake a cupcake, colour icing, pipe it lavishly, even garishly. Let’s open a tearoom!’
Havant is no slouch when it comes to must-open tearooms either, Lavender Tea Rooms carving out its own tea and cake niche 18 months ago. The smart, tiny 25-seater sports all the style of yesteryear with a smattering of the here and now.
Vintage rose china tea cups, saucers and plates are a given, cake stands too as well as loose tea, teapots – no mugs here – and tea strainers. Dried lavender, bouquets of flowers and two ornate chandeliers are tucked inside the charmingly-decorated white, pale grey and lilac painted walls and counter.
Those who have had their fill of Big Band 1940s’ hits might relish Dolly Parton and Elvis here.
The menu will suit those who shun über-modernity with jacket potatoes, paninis and sandwiches, fillings including homemade coronation chicken, prawn Marie Rose (tried, tested, tired), cheese and red onion and tuna mayo. There’s a ploughman’s, oven-baked Camembert, potted mackerel with horseradish mayo, toast and salad and Stilton, beetroot and haddock salad. Prices? Most around £5.95.
But the reason for coming to tearooms for many is the high tea offering, an English High one (£9.95) with more than enough for two. Jostling for space on a tiered cake stand are three types of sandwiches, a salad with homemade dressing, scone with clotted cream, pot of Tiptree strawberry jam, strawberries, a cupcake and slice of cake. There’s a less hefty Cream Tea (£3.95) as well as a small selection of loose teas. Coffee lovers are not forgotten.
Service? Ace. Three young women run the place with charm, ease and knowledge. Too many seem to be run by harassed staff, more wrapped up in their 1940s’ headscarves than in their customers.
That English High Tea was my choice, soft brown doorstop bread home to an excellent coronation chicken, egg mayo and grated cheese and onion but you choose. The salad was fine, the dressing muted, a kick of seasoning needed.
Terrific clotted cream helped a solid scone along and two blueberries gave a hint of more to come in the well-made slice, the green-grey icing not too cloying. The cupcake, a lemony marvel, surpassed the cake. Assam tea disappointed with its flat taste.
Lavender Tea Rooms beats many of its competitors hands down on many levels. Would-be tea room owners would do well to copy some of its template but it begs the question: do we need another one? My bill came to £9.95 excluding a tip.
Lavender Tea Rooms, 8 North Street, Havant, PO9 1PR (023) 9217 8068 Open 10–4 Mon–Fri & 9–4 Sat. Closed Sun.
Disabled access: fine but small area
How to get there: take the A27 to Havant, turning right towards the station then right at the small roundabout onto North Street. Lavender Tea Rooms on the left near Waitrose. Nearby car parks or limited on-street parking.