Eating afternoon tea has become much more than a great British tradition.
It is key to a catch-up with friends or a celebration. Which is probably why so many cafes, restaurants, hotels and even garden centres are battling it out for your custom.
So trying to find the best scones, sandwiches and cakes in the area is a challenge I’m more than happy to accept.
It was with that in mind that I headed to the rather lovely Gracie-Ann’s Tearooms, which is a hidden gem located on the first floor at The Trading Post at Port Solent where prebookable afternoon tea comes in at a reasonable £13 per person.
If you are looking for a quirky and beautiful setting then this definitely ticks all the boxes, with windows on one side overlooking the marina and a selection of small shop units on the other.
The stunning views - as well as the cakes - are a big hit with customers who filled every table on the busy Saturday afternoon I visited with a small group of friends.
And it seemed we were very much in the right place, with a number of the tables around us also partaking in afternoon tea – their tables littered with cosy-covered teapots and goodies. A sign of good things!
The tables, some of which are a tad too close together for some people, were delightfully decorated with the appropriate china, which also very much set the scene of things to come.
After a bit of a wait, our hot drinks arrived with our group choosing a range breakfast tea, Earl Grey and coffees to accompany our afternoon trea. We were each able to choose whether we wanted either a plain or a fruit scone which had been freshly made that morning. Unfortunately, having to wait was a bit of a theme as it was more than half-an-hour until our treat arrived - which was unexpected as it was all pre-ordered (£5 deposit each). But it was most definitely worth the wait.
Our three-tiered stack looked more than good enough to eat. And so we all tucked straight into the chequerboard sandwiches, with a delicious selection of fillings including ham and egg, sitting perfectly in between fingers of brown and white bread.
Afterwards it was time to move on to the scones. What a treat they were.
I opted for a plain variety and, as well as it being huge, it was also light, crumbly and absolutely delicious. My friends, who chose the fruit variety, were equally delighted with theirs.
The only thing we had to worry about was what do you put on first – the tasty jam or delicious cream?
After hopelessly failing to agree the answer to these kind of big questions, it was time to move on to the top tier of our cream tea stack – a petit four.
The cake option for afternoon tea at some eateries involves the customer choosing a slice or two, but at Gracie-Ann’s the grand finale was a delightful array of mini treats.
First I went for a delicious little tart with light and crispy pasty and topped with a raspberry and blueberry.
Then I went for the small but chunky square of chocolate brownie, equally delicious, before moving onto to the light and fluffy muffin. Then it was time for a tiny panacotta, which was sheer perfection and the ideal end to a lovely afternoon at this delightful little venue.
If afternoon tea is not your cup of tea, then Gracie-Ann’s offers a breakfast and lunch menu as well as serving cakes and treats all on display by the till.
It also has a children’s lunch box option. But if you want to go all-out then go for the afternoon tea – just remember to book in advance or you might be disappointed. After all, those questions about jam first or cream first are not going be answered on their own!
(ratings out of 5)