Lee-on-the-Solent’s residents and visitors have no shortage of places to eat.
Tea shops, particularly retro-style ones, seem to be invading the streets.
Just around the corner from the recently-opened The Tea Party is the equally retro Tea Room and Tinkers Tea Room, a further retro place, is yet another new venture.
Just how thirsty and hungry for tea and cake are locals and tourists? And what makes this threesome – and others in the area – stand out to ensure longevity over fashion?
The name may conjure up the Boston Tea Party, a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, Massachusetts, in December, 1773, who destroyed a shipment of tea sent by the East India Company in defiance of the Tea Act. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution.
I suspect the name was chosen simply to differentiate it from the nearby Tea Room. There is no American flag or menu on view. Instead, it is decidedly English with its flowery tablecloths, mishmash of chairs, old-fashioned flowered wallpaper and gilt mirrors. A crooning Elvis was the only nod to the USA.
The menu demonstrates the uniformity of choice found throughout the UK: breakfasts; sandwiches; jacket potatoes; toasties; salads (warm goat’s cheese and pine nuts, chicken, pesto); tea party specials (fish finger sandwiches, bubble & squeak and eggs; pie of the day).
You’ll also find an unoriginal three-tier cake stand here with a sandwich, scone, cake, tea or coffee (£10.50 per person). There’s a children’s mini tea party for £4.95.
Sandwiches are around the £5.50 mark, English breakfasts around £6.75. So far, so average. But have the owners formulated a more marked customer experience via quality and service?
The latter is in place. The smiles friendly, service reasonably quick and efficient at table rather than ordering at the counter.
I went for carrot and coriander soup in a cup rather than bowl (price differentiation if matching it to a sandwich of choice) and a goat’s cheese, walnut and honey toastie with salad (£7.25 in total).
The sandwich disappointed thanks to rather stale granary and a very sweet filling. The salad was OK. A spoonful of couscous needed some form of cooking ability rather than just adding water to puff up the grains. It was crying out for seasoning, herbs, olive oil, lemon juice.
The soup, served in a retro china tea cup, lacked any flavour of carrot let alone coriander.
Teas – green, oolong, fruit, well-being, black – included a looseleaf Moroccan green tea, my choice, alongside a slice of lime and coconut cake – one of several types of cakes.
The tea surpassed the cake by a long way. A lack of promised ingredients within a dry interior did not win me over. Only the icing gave me some grated lime.
With so much choice in the area, food and drink must shout quality and difference.
Neither is met at The Tea Party in any abundance bar the pleasant service. At least that – and the Moroccan tea – are worth pushing open its doors.
My bill came to £12.40, considerable for a sandwich, cup of soup, tea and cake.
You are invited to leave a tip. I did.
The Tea Party: 144 High Street, Lee-on-the-Solent, Gosport PO13 9DD (023) 9307 0760. Open seven days a week 10am-4 pm.
Take A32 towards Gosport and Lee-on-the-Solent and B3385. Cross to the seafront, turn right into Milvil Road and right again on to High Street. The Tea Party is on the left. On-street parking.