I last visited this establishment probably about 2 years ago as I call in there usually at the end of a days walking if I've missed the train at Amberley station or need refreshment before travelling home. Then I was greeted with a basic clean cafe type area hung with local pictures and selling local produce (jams, cards with local views etc). I purchased a mug of tea and a hunk of delicious cake. So it was with much anticipation I led my friend there after an 11 mile walk along the South Downs way. Rather sweaty and grubby we entered but in our rather disheveled state I immediately felt rather out of place as the interior was very smart. The staff were very friendly but it was table service only. We had a pot of tea for two and I had a Portuguese custard tart which was very tasty but also very tiny and dear enough at £2.55 for a couple of mouthfuls. We sat outside - strangely enough the outside area is much less smart than the inside, despite the palm trees, with plastic ground covering on steps and bog standard wooden picnic benches. I just feel that for the majority of the likely clientele (walkers, bikers, river users) the new image is not right. It's just too posh for where it is situated. Maybe there is an argument for having two seperate areas - one more up market for the clients that the establishment seems now to be trying to target and another area for the more rough and ready types of which I count myself as one after a day out on the trail. It's not that there is anything wrong with the tearooms - maybe it is a little on the dear side but I could forgive that if I felt at ease there which sadly I didn't really. It is a shame because although I visited infrequently previously I would look forward to a visit at the end of a good walk as a real treat whereas now though staff are friendly it's all a little too stiff and formal and self conscious of itself. I have read the responses to other reviews that have been similarly critical and think it's a shame they seem to be totally discounted because there does seem to be a theme to what is being said so maybe there does need to be some credence paid to the general drift of whats being reported. I only like to post a review if I feel I have something valid to say or feel strongly and I would say if you have a special event and want to celebrate in style in a beautiful rural setting then this is the place for you. But if you are a weary traveller and you want a hale and hearty mug of tea and hunk of cake and to rest awhile in a homely atmosphere then I should try the pub nearby instead. We went on there after the tea rooms and all the cyclists had migrated there and I can understand why. It seems a shame because there should be enough trade from cyclists and walkers for both pub and tea rooms and as a customer its nice to have a choice - but I know which I would opt for on future visits - though I will miss that nice mug of tea and chunk of cake. I suspect I will feel the wrath of a reply and be told they are glad I probably won't darken their doors again but it would be nice to think my criticism could be taken as constructive because it is certainly how it is meant.
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