I was a little apprehensive to suggest eating here for lunch, having read a few very negative reviews on tripadvisor some time ago, but the lovely little courtyard tea room at the end of one of Holt's recently revived back streets/yards had been intriguing me since its opening.
We walked into the gate to be greeted by a sign asking us to wait to be seated. We had initially only wandered in a way to check the menu to see if it would be suitable for lunch but seeing no sign of a preview we decided to continue anyway (after glancing at a table eating something suitably lunch-like and being approached so quickly). We were seated in the lovely walled garden. It was clear a lot of attention to detail had been paid - the chairs and tables were Lloyd Loom garden furniture, there were large sunshades with dangly sparkles, the courtyard had been paved and planted in a classic cottage garden style. After perusing the very impressive tea menu, I ordered a hibiscus tea and my mum ordered a standard tea. We were left with the menu board while our drinks were fetched. The menu offered an assortment of light lunches - a variety of flavours of home made quiches, salads and tarts. I ordered the special which was baked figs stuffed with goats cheese and wrapped in parma ham. My mum ordered crab salad.
Our drinks arrived in true vintage tea cups. Everything had been thought of - we even got little dishes to place the tea strainer from the tea pot once our tea had reached the desired strength. At £2 a pot, I thought the tea was very good value considering it was loose leaf. My mum had also ordered some tap water which arrived in a beautiful cut glass jug complete with ice and a lemon and two glasses.
There was a short wait for the food but we were not unhappy with this - they were quite busy and it was a lovely day in a beautiful place so we were quite happy just to chat and drink our tea. When the food arrived, it was beautifully presented on vintage plates. I had 3 large baked figs surrounded by a mixed leaf salad with cornichons, sliced radishes, semi dried tomatoes and parmesan shavings. My mum's crab salad came with new potatoes and bread and was equally impressive I'm told. The flavours mixed well and tasted amazing.
The server we had was efficient and friendly and very attentive to our needs. She offered to put our sunshade up for us should we need it.
When we had finished, it seemed quite busy and we didn't have time to wait around really so we nipped inside to pay at the counter. Inside, the décor was a bit OTT shabby chic/granny vintage for my liking but it was still nice they had put so much effort in. It was lovely and light and quite cool on such a hot day, thanks to the bi-fold doors being open. I had a look at the cakes although I didn't have the pleasure of trying any. They looked delicious (especially the lemon, blueberry & basil cheesecake!) and they had a gluten-free option available too. I'm not sure if we were supposed to pay at the counter - we hadn't observed anyone paying outside. It was a little cramped to do so though. We paid with different servers than we had and they were a bit unsure - they didn't seem to know where our order was written or the prices of their dishes.
The only negative I can note is that we had been specifically seated at a table which had 4 seats, even though there was a table with 2 seats available. We were fine with this, but a group of 4 arrived at one point - I'm not sure if they had been seated at the other table or had just walked in and seated themselves, but it felt very uncomfortable while they kept pointing at us and standing there because they didn't have enough seats, until a waitress attended to them and came and took our spare chairs. This and our experience paying were the only signs that they were a little disorganised at times, but they are still quite a new tea room and they have clearly learnt from some of their earlier mistakes (/bad reviews).
At just over £10 each for a delicious lunch and speciality tea in a lovely setting, we both agreed we would happily dine there again!
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