Time for Tea: Isle of Wight’s Best Tearooms
Whether it’s a slice of honey and lavender cake in a 1940s themed parlour, or a chocolate florentine in an old piano shop, Island tearooms offer something for everyone. Joanna Macaulay singles out 10 of her favourites.
The Piano Café
It’s the Piano Café’s provenance that is its most unique feature as over 100 years ago it was a piano shop owned by the piano tuner to Queen Victoria. Her poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, who lived just up the road, used to drop by for sheet music here. With a delightfully bohemian feel, and a favourite of local surfers, this stylish café spills out onto the high pavement above the road. Facing south, light floods in through the huge windows as you sip your loose-leaf tea, indulge in one of their huge slices of cake, or nibble on killer florentines.
Piano Café, Gate Lane, Freshwater, PO40 9PY. Tel: 01983 472874 www.thepianocafe.co.uk
Isle of Wight-shaped scones are the latest thing at this impossibly quaint thatched tearoom, tavern and restaurant in Shanklin’s Old Village. Look out, too, for the ‘scones of the day’, with flavours such as cherry and coconut, melting-middle chocolate and the butterscotch fudge. In addition, there are five different cakes made daily by chef and baker, Paul de Vere, who co-owns Vernon Cottage with his wife Susan. If savoury is more your thing then check out the dishes served all day featuring fresh local seasonal produce, such as the Old Shanklin Pie made with slow-roasted lamb, and the crab and smoked fish cakes.
Vernon Cottage, 1 Eastcliff Road, Shanklin, PO37 6AA. Tel: 01983 865411. www.vernoncottage.co.uk
It’s the fresh cream cakes and meringues that first catch the eye at The Old Smithy in Godshill. Loaded with fresh strawberries and raspberries, these ambitious confections are consistently appealing and all are freshly made in-house. In addition it offers a range of light meals and snacks, which you can scoff in the large conservatory or on the patio during the summer months. And when you’re done eating, you can shop in the adjoining gift shop and ladies’ fashion shop, before hitting the rest of the High Street, which offers other retail temptations.
Old Smithy, High St, Godshill, Ventnor PO38 3HZ. Tel 01983 840364. www.theoldsmithy.com
It’s all about the location at the Pearl Café at Isle of Wight Pearl. With sweeping views of the wild, West Wight coastline all the way down to The Needles from the windows of the café, you can sip tea and scoff on homemade cream teas, which feature local Calbourne Classics IOW Clotted Cream. Or sunny days you can sit on the top of the cliff and watch the seagulls swoop and cry as you nibble on one of its array of homemade cakes. Afterwards you can wander the huge shop full of pearl jewellery, or browse through the little shops that edge the car park.
Pearl Café at Isle of Wight Pearl, Military Rd, Brighstone, Newport PO30 4DD. Tel 01983 740352. www.iowpearl.com
Prepare to be transported back to the days of World War Two at Lady Scarlett’s on Ventnor seafront. A mannequin wears a 1940s ladies suit and hat with a box for her gas mask, the shelves groan with vintage bric-a-brac and Sir Winston Churchill declares that ‘We Shall Never Give Up’ over the door. The loo, meanwhile, is kitted out as an Anderson shelter. This unique, retro themed wartime tea parlour has music playing from the 1940s as you sip tea and tuck into excellent cakes. Highlights include the honey and lavender cake, and the lemon and poppy seed sponge. In the summer you can buy ice creams from the window.
Lady Scarlett’s, 3 Esplanade, Ventnor PO38 1JT. Tel 01983 855872.
Sipping tea from strawberry printed cups, saucers and teapot actually made at this iconic pottery is a delightful feature at this outstanding café in West Wight. You and the kids can even sponge print items yourselves in the adjacent studio. Choose two huge scones from their range of delicious home baked goods for your cream tea, or you can select cakes and savouries from the tiered cake stands. Outside there is a pretty garden with an overhanging willow tree under which you can take shade from the sun on warmer days. Chessell has a sister café, too, called PO41 in nearby Yarmouth, which is open year round, where freshly ground artisanal coffee is the name of the game.
Chessell Pottery, Brook Rd, Yarmouth PO41 0UE. Tel: 01983 531248. www.chessellpotterybarns.co.uk
The Tea House
Yup, you guess it – The Tea House in Ventnor specialises in tea. It offers many loose-leaf varieties, but best is the ‘Everyday Tea’, a mix of a gutsy Assam, mellow Ceylon and powerful Rwandan, all served with a drop of Buttercup Milk from the Island’s Briddlesford Farm. And all are served in dainty bone china cups, in a stylish vintage chic interior. A wide range of bagged teas and Isle of Wight coffees are also on offer both to drink and takeaway, while cakes are all made in-house (the gluten-free chocolate and avocado cake is a highlight). The owners also operate a creative events company, check their Facebook page for more details. The Tea House is licensed and open in the evenings, too.
The Tea House, 40 High St, Ventnor PO38 1RZ. Tel: 01983 731130. facebook.com/theteahouseventnor
Tranquillity is the key USP at Quarr Abbey’s garden café. Boasting beautiful views across the sleepy garden to the imposing red brick abbey buildings beyond, you can hide away in a bower of the garden in the summer, or snuggle around the wood-burning stove in the café during the winter months. Lots of the produce is grown in the sizeable kitchen garden located next to the café and features both on the menu, and in the attached shop, alongside other locally produced food for sale. Little tip: purchase pig pellets to feed the abbey pigs and piglets. The kids will thank you.
Quarr Abbey, Quarr Rd, Fishbourne, Ryde PO33 4ER. Tel: 01983 882420. www.quarrabbey.org
The Royal Hotel
With a name like The Royal, it’s no wonder that you get grand tiered cake stands teetering with yummy delicacies made by hotel’s top notch patisserie chefs. Combine that with the sumptuous surroundings and this is undoubtedly the poshest tea experience on the Island. Choose from a table in the conservatory, the brasserie or on the geranium-filled terrace. For The Full Monty (aka The Royal Afternoon Tea, at £23 a head, or £30 if you want to add a glass of Champagne) start with a dainty assortment of sandwiches followed by an exquisite selection of cakes, pastries and freshly baked scones and cream. Or lightweights can opt for a traditional cream tea (at £7.50) or ‘Cake O’Clock’ (£6). And you’re in good company – Queen Victoria used to take afternoon tea here.
The Royal Hotel, Belgrave Road, Ventnor PO38 1JJ. Tel: 01983 852186. royalhoteliow.co.uk
Romantic 19th century poet Keats used to visit Shanklin Chine. And it was the chine that reputedly inspired the beginning of his poem Endymion – “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever…” Celebrating its 200th anniversary as an attraction this year, the café is located at the foot of the chine. After walking down past the tumbling waterfall and through the lush greenery that borders a trickling stream, you’ll find the conservatory Tearoom where you can take tea, coffee and snacks. A new patio area overlooks the pretty seashore below the chine.
Shanklin Chine, 3 Chine Hill, Shanklin PO37 6BW. Tel: 01983 866432. www.shanklinchine.co.uk