It’s a lovely little bistro with a unique personality and an ideal place for a drink or snack when in town.
This establishment invites customers to step back in time to – yes, you’ve guessed it – the early years of the 1940s, when wartime Britain was encouraged to ‘make do and mend’ and radio stations played Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again.
You’ll spot green, checked curtains and bunting in the window of 19 Fourteas, which is near the corner of West Street and Park Road.
Walking through the front door is like stepping into another era. Inside, the walls are decorated with Home Front posters, old photographs, and Union Flags, while teddy bears, ration books, crockery, pots and pans, antique clocks and radios cover every surface.
Ephemera from the era – magazines, posters, even vintage Oxo cube boxes – adorn every nook and cranny. It may sound like a jumble sale, but it has been curated to create the cosy, comfortable atmosphere of a tearoom from a lost era.
The décor is a mixture of authentic 1940s items and memories donated by customers.
You can choose whether to sit inside or out in the garden, surrounded by potted plants, wheelbarrows overflowing with flowers, and an Anderson air raid shelter.
Your Dish Detective and their party opted to enjoy the sunshine, and parked themselves on the garden chairs while perusing the menu.
Led by Betty, the tearoom is run by cheerful, chatty staff. Hair tucked into vintage headscarves, the team pull notebooks from pinafores worn over house dresses and pad through the tearoom in comfy slippers over their seamed stockings.
It’s the perfect place to grab a quick brew, whether your beverage of choice is a pot of loose leaf tea for one (£2.20), a latte, cappuccino, or mochaccino (£2.80), or the decadent deluxe hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows (£3.50).
It’s all served on vintage china painted with floral designs many of which have been donated to the tearoom by members of the public.
It’s also an ideal place for a cheap light lunch: I opt for a jacket potato with cheese and beans (£7), which comes with a side salad and decent caesar dressing which also accompanies the egg mayo sandwich (£4.50) my companion orders. Other fillings include ham, cheese, tuna mayo, and even (fittingly) corned beef or spam.
There’s also an all-day light breakfast menu, offering scrambled egg on toast (£3.75), crumpets (£2.50), or a toasted teacake (£2) among other items.
If you want a more leisurely tearoom visit, I recommend the cream tea (£5) which comes with a home-made scone, strawberry jam, Cornish clotted cream, a fresh fruit garnish, and a pot of tea or cup of coffee.
The good selection of cakes includes an ‘angel sparkle’ cake and a gluten-free chocolate fudge. I can highly recommend the bizarre-sounding but truly delicious avocado and courgette cake (£3.50) – topped with chopped pistachio and tiny blue cornflowers. This dish is a light sponge accompanied by sweet and creamy avocado icing.
For a special event, guests can order high or afternoon tea: your choice of sandwiches, pastries and savouries, as well as a selection of sweet treats and a pot of tea or cup of coffee (£12.50 a person, or £2.50 extra with scones).
It is utterly charming and reading through the 19 Fourteas guest book shows the tearoom provides a nostalgic trip down memory lane for older customers.
19 Fourteas has a friendly atmosphere with decent, affordable food – and it’s completely protected from air raids.
Tel: (023) 9247 6333
(ratings out of five)
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