Solid customer care at Port Solent tea room

The Trading Post shopping area at Port Solent
The Trading Post shopping area at Port Solent
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Carol visits a welcome change from Port Solent’s chain eateries at Gracie Ann’s Tea Room.

Port Solent’s Trading Post is a collection of 14 shops including Bow Wow (pet accessories), One 2 Remember (contemporary art) and the Sweetie Kingdom.

Gracie-Ann’s Tea Room has the best view of the marina out of all these little shops and the most space on the first floor.

Named after co-owners Diane and Keith’s mothers, it opts for knitted tea cosies and retro-style tiered tea stands.

Window railings have that wedding party or church look, with ropes of white flowers entwined around them and more flowers can be found in white filigree-topped pots on white tables by white-cushioned, pink-patterned chairs.

The look is light, airy and fresh as the proverbial daisy and, intentionally or not, aimed at women shoppers – a lunchtime visit confirmed the only ones taking up tables were the fairer sex.

Service by the owner and her young staff is caring and charming – couldn’t be nicer.

None of the menu offerings are a surprise, going for the tried-and-tested route with a full English breakfast (£6.75), eggs on toast or boiled eggs and soldiers (£3.75) and porridge with jam or honey (£2).

The menu also offers jacket potatoes, sandwiches, baguettes and soup. Is this really all the British public aspire to or is it a lack of imagination by far too many café owners?

A similar approach is taken for the children’s menu with Nutella among the sandwich options and Hula Hoops, mini Kinder snack bars, juice and a ‘novelty toy egg’ playing safe and sugary.

The tearoom does a ‘Luxury Afternoon Tea for Two’ for £20 with finger sandwiches, scones, cream, jam and petits fours or a slice of cake from a selection of six or seven on the counter.

Tea is by Portsmouth Tea, a favourite of mine, plus dairy products from Bere Dairy, Southwick and sausages from Portchester’s Twells.

Butternut soup was up first, served in a lovely green bowl with a brown half-baguette and one tiny wrapped pat of butter.

The soup was more like a hefty vegetable dish – lots of soft but tasteless squash in large chunks – with a small amount of rather taste-free liquid and an insignificant drizzle of yoghurt.

It might have benefitted from being puréed, with good stock and with some herbs or spices.

The specials, one on offer, turned out to be a goat’s cheese wrap with salad and coleslaw. But why would you put a large dollop of very sweet chutney in a mild goat’s cheese wrap? It was like eating dessert, while balsamic vinegar dominated the healthy accompanying salad.

Minus these sweet additions, it could have been a pleasant lunch alongside the creamy coleslaw.

Most of the display cakes are made by a ‘local lady.’ The lemon drizzle cake was dense and solid, but lacked a really lemony zing.

Gracie-Ann’s is one of two lunch-tearooms at Port Solent which are both welcome, independent changes from dominating chains.

Stepping up the quality and choice at this new place could mean the owners have a winner on their hands but there’s no mistaking the staff members’ kindness and customer care – that’s rock solid.

My bill came to just over £12.

Gracie-Ann’s Tea Room, Trading Post, 16–18 Boardwalk, Port Solent

Call:07789961369

FOOD: 3/5

SERVICE: 5/5

ATMOSPHERE: 4/5

ESSENTIALS

Open from 10am–6pm and 11am–5pm on Sunday.

Disabled access: fine, outside lift by side of building and ramp to tea room. Good space for wheelchairs.

Directions: Follow Port Solent signs, park in car park, Trading Post is closer to the complex’s right side.