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“Legendary”

Dorchester Abbey Tea Room
Restaurant details
Reviewed 8 March 2014

This is one of my favourite eating places - on Earth!

In short, it is a small room (with tables outdoors at the back) in an ancient building next to Dorchester Abbey, which from 3pm to 5pm several days a week from about Easter (possibly earlier when Easter is later?) until the end of September every year is transformed into a delightful tea room, run entirely by volunteers who bake and serve delicious cakes to raise thousands of pounds for the charities supported by Dorchester Abbey.

This is more than just a tea room with out-of-this-world cakes, it is "an experience" and people return again and again. It is also a very popular detour for walkers on the nearby Thames Path (about 10-15 minutes from Little Wittenham Bridge / Days Lock). As someone else has said, it is "quintessentially English" and you feel transported back to the land of Agatha Christie (who lived nearby) and Miss Marple. I often take foreign guests there and they love it! It was started in 1977 by a formidable lady called Miss Lettice Godfrey (sadly no longer with us) who had just retired from teaching. Miss Godfrey won the British Empire Medal for this and for other services to the community and even by the time she retired as "proprietress" in 1999, it had already been featured by reviews on the radio and other national media.

Those who are lucky enough to get a seat indoors (if you sit outside do not get to see the full range of cakes or appreciate the whole experience) are welcomed to join other people at one of two large tables. You are asked to help yourself to cake, while tea or coffee are served to you (additional cups decrease in price). Prices are incredibly reasonable and you are asked to calculate your own bill on an "honesty" basis, which no doubt means that people tend to round up their bill and be generous as they know it all goes to charity.

It is a tremendously sociable place (I would quite happily go there alone) with an infectious atmosphere of friendliness and politeness and you inevitably fall into conversation with people as they ask you to pass the jam or to recommend a cake.

The cakes are delicious...and go quickly (I am tempted to say "like hot cakes!") As it is run by volunteers, a lot of pride, special effort (and no doubt competitiveness!) goes into baking.
They also sell a recipe book, aptly called "Heavenly Cakes", which features old favourites like their Lemon Drizzle cake, Dorset Gooseberry cake, Blackcurrant Streusel cake, Elderflower cake, Coffee and Mocha cake... and variants on the ever popular scones.

Looking forward to the start of the new season...

5  Thank dicknharry
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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22 - 26 of 28 reviews

Reviewed 12 November 2013 via mobile

Two of us went to try afternoon teas which were lovely, lots of varieties and sanwiches were very fresh and traditional english flavours too. The pianist was brilliant and the songs choice was just perfect. If you want a proper english experience and make it special-it is definitely a right place!Endless teas with the distinct flavours, lovely atmposphere and attentive staff!

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2  Thank Allabella29
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 September 2013

The tea room is adjacent to the Abbey. It is quintessentially English. There are just two communal tables enabling guests to meet and chat. At the centre of the table is a gorgeous selection of home-made cakes and pastries where one simply helps oneself. The volunteer ladies who serve tea are charming. Proceeds from the rooms go towards upkeep of the Abbey which in itself is a wonderful building oozing with history. There is a small interesting museum adjacent to the tea room.

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2  Thank Rich78
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 June 2013

Two of us looking for an afternoon tea whilst in Dorchester - on -Thames, found this tea room. We thought at first we'd gatecrashed a family tea. Crowd of people sitting arounbd a large round table covered in fabulous looking cakes. "Come in, welcome". A unique experience. Fabulous idea. All provided by volunteers. Great cakes too. Lovely to get to speak with perfect strangers. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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3  Thank Petrang
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 April 2013

Do not miss an opportunity to visit this tea room in the grounds of the Abbey, Dorchester-on-Thames. The Telegraph described it once as the best tea room in England, and we agree. You sit at a communal table and help yourself to the most delightful selection of home-made cakes and then confess to the Ladies how many cakes you ate. At the time of writing cakes were only £1.70 a helping, tea only 60p per cup. Profits go to the Abbey.
The Ladies are quintessentially English, welcoming, and engaging.

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3  Thank Coleswood
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
ChristineFE, Volunteer at Dorchester Abbey Tea Room, responded to this reviewResponded 29 May 2013

Thank you so much for your 5-star review and congratulations on being the first reviewer.
I would just like to correct one thing. The money raised (every penny of it) goes not to the Abbey itself but a variety of charities supported by the Abbey and the volunteers, both in the U.K. and overseas. A list of the charities that benefit can be found on the reverse of the Price List.
Hoping you will come and eat lots more cake between now and the end of September!

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