Petersfield is awash with many quirky and autonomous shops. The town is seemingly bucking the trend of high street corporate takeovers, with shops including the 19-year-old independent One Tree Bookshop.
Not only is this two-storey bookshop a past winner of the Independent Bookseller of the Year, but it also boasts a fine café at the back.
Past the fiction, cookbooks, children’s books and other publications is the brightly-coloured smart café.
The wood flooring houses turquoise, blue-hued chairs and comfy sofas, smoked glass and metal tables. There is an etched glass panel with quotes from writers including DH Lawrence, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce of Ulysses fame. The centre of operations was under a panel with a single tree, the shop’s logo.
Hot or cold dishes include broccoli soup; a leek and cheddar or roasted vegetable quiche with salad; risotto cakes with salad; ciabattas (pesto, mozzarella, tomato, parma ham, avocado, mozzarella, chicken and watercress and others); chicken Caesar salad; warmed goat’s cheese and avocado; artichoke and tuna.
Or there’s a whole slew of cakes, pastries and biscuits including Victoria sponge, carrot, peach and fig, lemon drizzle, granola, chocolate tiffin and Florentines as well as croissants, scones and nougat almond twists. Prices range from £1.80 to £7.25, the many coffees, soft drinks and wine or beer from £1.80-£4.
My warm risotto cakes, laden with spring onions, were fine and dandy. The somewhat bland flavours were helped along with a salad bursting with healthy seeds, and yellow and red peppers also pepped up the greenery.
A very good thick, brown bread came with this, but the packaged butter was a bit of a let-down (why not put quality butter in a little dish?).
One of the many dessert options – I counted 14 on display – were pointed out by the excellent staff member, one of three counter staff who showed commendable attention to detail.
My choice was a moreish, locally-made lemon and almond cake of merit and moistness.
One of the better Americanos I’ve had was also ordered, my bill coming to £14.60 on the open tab.
The café had a steady trickle of customers on the Saturday I visited and those unable to bag a table headed to the squidgy, comfy upstairs sofas and chairs by the music, travel and reference section.
I sat downstairs and listened to a father reading from a book on castles to his daughter – the power of dad and books on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Seventy-three independent booksellers shut up shop in 2012, and now it’s down to just 1,028.
The Booksellers’ Association, which represents over 95 percent of UK booksellers, provides a ray of light amid the gloom – 39 bookshops opened last year.
One Tree is deeply community-friendly – it runs a book club, wine talks, posts new adults’ and children’s books and lists local events at the shop and online - but also offers a welcoming, charming café with good food and coffee. Just what a high street needs.
I left with a good feeling, a fun game, a travel book on Venice and a novel for my mum. Nourishment for the soul as well as the stomach.
One Tree Books, 7 Lavant Street, Petersfield, GU32 3EL. (01730) 266119
Open 9am – 5.30pm from Monday to Saturday.
Disabled access: Excellent.
How to get there: Take the A3 to Petersfield and then the A272 exit towards the A32. Take the third exit onto Winchester Road, then onto Station Road. Turn right onto Lavant Street and the bookshop is on the left. Parking is on the street.
Ratings (maximum *****)