Saturday, 29 August 2015

Fika tea rooms, Lindfield, Sussex – a lack of happiness?

Fika tea room, Lindfield, Sussex
Spying a decent teashop or caff is one of my chief occupations when out and about, but very often I'm disappointed by the outcome. Readers of this blog will know that my recent jaunt to Littlehampton in West Sussex found me a little annoyed by the Moorings Tearooms for not clearing the tables once they were vacated. Now, in Lindfield near Haywards Heath in Sussex, I find myself in Fika, a strange name for a teashop, but a teashop it is and, at first glance, it's alright. There are coastally themed paintings on the walls and resting on a staircase leading to nowhere; there are two huge windows looking out on the main street running through this quaint little village (or is it a town?) and there's a rug on the floor.

On arrival there was a red-headed woman and a man, who I think was some kind of artist, a painter perhaps, and possibly even the man behind the coastal paintings adorning the walls, who knows? We were later joined by a big-boned lady with a pushchair carrying a young girl of possibly two years old and they were later joined by a man and a woman and were followed by what might have been a mother and daughter – 11 of us in total, but something was missing and it was atmosphere. Oddly, while there was plenty of potential, there was nothing 'quaint' about Fika. It was a little gloomy if I'm honest and the waiting staff were to blame; they were miles too downbeat. I think the place lacked a feminine touch, it needed waitresses, but it only had men in black who seemed a bit miserable. One of them finished off his brief conversation with the woman and baby with 'no worries' but said in miserable way, not in the Australian 'no worries, mate' manner.

A nice cup of tea, but the place lacked happiness

There was some nice-looking fruit cake, but little else on display and, well, what can I say? My companions ordered milkshakes and I ordered a pot of tea, which arrived in mis-matching crockery (this is not to be discouraged, by the way, as I like mis-matching everything: crockery, cutlery, furniture, as it brings with it a certain quirkiness. Tea was a bag in a multi-coloured pot with a quaint cup and saucer. The bill was £8 (or thereabouts). I'll admit that I fancied some of that fruit cake, but having scoffed a chicken and mushroom pie and, for 'dessert' a cherry Bakewell while sitting on a bench in the rain, I felt I'd better leave it alone.

In addition to the paintings there was a small display of Teapigs tea, which I assume meant that it was possible to buy Teapigs tea from Fika.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The Moorings Tearooms, Littlehampton, West Sussex

For me the most unforgivable sin committed by teashop and caff proprietors is leaving the tables messy and untidy and not bothering to clear up cups and saucers, plates and bits of food from tables long vacated by customers. It's even more unforgivable when the restaurant in question is not particularly busy and there's a load of waiting staff milling around with seemingly little to do. This, however, was the situation I walked into on Wednesday 12 August on a day trip to Littlehampton.
The Moorings Tearooms, Littlehampton

I found the Moorings Tearooms to be a little on the untidy side. Not only were the tables not cleared, despite many staff being in place to clean them, there was a very untidy vibe about the place.

Yes, it was 'twee' in terms of its general appearance – mis-matching 'Miss Marple' cups and saucers, dainty tablecloths and annoying signs stating things like "What defines us is how we rise after falling" and other platitudes – but the untidy tables ruined it for me and I wasn't that happy with the way the cakes were displayed either. It was all too untidy.

I ordered a slice of apple and caramel pie, but I wished they hadn't bothered with the caramel as when the pie was heated and I picked my way through it with a fork, the brownish lumps of caramel looked as if the pie in question wasn't so much apple and caramel, but apple and tuna. What a horrible thought! Worse still, I asked for a blob of ice cream as there's nowt better than warm apple pie with a dollop of ice cream, but no, if I wanted ice cream I'd have to buy it separately from the the lairy-coloured, branded ice cream chest freezer that looked totally out of place in the twee Miss Marple surroundings.

A pot of leaf tea at the Moorings Tearooms
Another annoying thing about the Moorings Tearooms was the fact that the cups were already on the table, upturned, when we arrived and this is fine, but only if the cups are clean and who knows who had been fingering those cups prior to our arrival? I much prefer it when fresh crockery arrives on a tray with a nice pot of tea and a small jug of milk after I've ordered – at least that way I know that they've come from the kitchen and are likely to be a little cleaner than those left on the tables for countless kids to finger before I arrive on the scene. It was the same for the cutlery: it was there on the table when I arrived.

My companions ordered what amounted to a cream tea – scone, jam and butter, but the scone was a little dry (I don't like scones so I didn't order one and perhaps they are dry).

I can't say I was happy with my experience at the Moorings Tearooms. While it seemed to have all the right ingredients for a decent teashop experience, it was let down by dirty cups, an unappealing apple pie and uncleared tables.

There was a range of speciality teas that were a little on the pricey side too. A laminated menu offered a range of teas served in wine glasses – or that is how the menu suggested they would be served, at £3.00 a glass.

Cups and cutlery already on the table
There were some plus points: first there was leaf tea, not teabags, and we had a small strainer too; second the tea arrived with a three-minute timer (a nice touch as we then knew exactly when the tea was brewed and ready to drink). But that was it. I went back to Littlehampton over the weekend, but didn't visit the Moorings Tearoom, although it seemed pretty busy.

Perhaps I was there on a bad day and any other time would have been better, but there you have it. I will return as I've taken a liking to Littlehampton, and hopefully things will have improved.