Turn left after crossing Hayling Island bridge to Northney for a feel of going back in time, a sense of unruffled countryside and village life.
Once past a hotel – the building can easily dispel that myth of yesteryear – the road meanders past St Peter’s Church, a 12th century beauty of Norman origins, before coming to Woodgaston Lane, home to Meadow Farm Nursery, my preferred gardening centre, and its tearooms.
This peaceful place – there is no music, only the babble of those taking breakfast, lunch or tea – is a two-parter: under umbrellas surrounded by nursery plants over a large area and flowers, or inside the mainly wooden building.
The uncluttered look – a black and white tiled floor, simple tables, wooden chairs of varying hues, a smattering of old photographs, a few colour photos of cherry trees in blossom and of peonies – doesn’t detract from the plant collection outside. But why are the tables decorated with ersatz flowers and not the real thing?
Although the tearoom’s Facebook page declares its ethos as ‘bucking the trend,’ the menu is familiar. The counter is awash with the day’s offerings: quiche; changing bake, savoury slice with salad and coleslaw; the daily jacket potato; paninis with the usual suspects and a soup. Bucking the trend is not apparent although they do make their own cakes, tarts and scones.
Breakfasts (9.30am-11am) do not ring any changes either with scrambled egg on toast with added salmon if you want, Prices? Mostly from £4.95 to £6.95. Breakfasts are cheaper. Cream tea is £4.95, cakes and slices from £3.75. Loose leaf tea is £1.95, freshly ground Arabica coffee from £2.10.
The Special? Coronation chicken, the dish created with a mild curry sauce for the Queen’s 1953 coronation, served with a jacket potato. Taking two components from generic dishes isn’t exactly special in my book. I go for a coronation chicken sandwich with a salad and a Fentimans ginger beer, eyeing the cakes – banana, chocolate, raspberry, lemon – or a strawberry tart, to follow.
Sitting in the garden surrounded by plants and eating a fine, creamy chicken filling and drinking the ginger beer with enough pzazz to drive a rocket, is just what’s needed on a hot day. Just the thwack of a tennis ball or a ‘howzat!’ was missing for the complete English feel.
The salad tried hard to please despite the dried cucumber, the dressing too sweet. Why not go the extra mile and make a house vinaigrette? After all, the message here is make everything from scratch, but one staff member didn’t know if the chicken filling was made here or bought in. Bargain crisps didn’t add to the dish. The strawberry tart (£3.95), luscious and juicy-looking, had a lovely pastry.
Service? Smiling is at a premium for some, others were warm.
Meadow Farm Nursery Tea Room, a great boon to plant buyers, is a year-round attraction for those who also like a quiet cup and home-made carbs.
My bill came to just over £12.
Meadow Farm Nursery Tearooms, Woodgaston Lane, Hayling Island, PO11 0LR (023) 9246 1570. Open: 9am–5.30pm.
Disabled access: fine, but wheelchairs might struggle in car park gravel.
How to get there: follow signs to Hayling Island, turning left once over the bridge, towards Northney, following the road until reaching Woodgaston Lane. Car park.