|Tiffins, Petworth – a brilliant teashop and caff|
Petworth in West Sussex is one of those towns where one can wander around, looking at antiques and admiring (during the summer months) the splendid hanging baskets that seem to be everywhere.
There's a fair smattering of eateries here too in the shape of pubs and cafés and tearooms, everything you might expect, and let's not forget Petworth House, a stately home the town can be proud of; and while I haven't been there for some time, I expect that it too has a café and a gift shop – for me the highlight of any stately home visit. Let's be honest, if it wasn't for the tearoom and the gift shop, it would be incredibly boring.
But this review is not about stately homes, it's all about Tiffin's Tea Room, a place I stumbled upon a year or two ago and one I keep coming back to with my family as it's perfect in every sense and never, ever disappoints. There's a touch of Miss Marple too, a key ingredient of any self-respecting tearoom thanks to its mis-matching cups and saucers – a touch of the Margaret Rutherfords, perhaps – it's all here, but couched in a bright and breezy environment with friendly staff and pleasant customers.
|Four cheese ciabatta with onion marmalade...tops!|
Tiffins' key attribute is the friendly staff. All the best tearooms and caffs have a 'larger-than-life lady and Tiffins is no exception. I don't mean 'large' in the physical sense, but in presence and while I don't know the name of the woman at Tiffins, I get the impression that she's in charge. What I like about her is she knows what she's doing, she knows the menu, she knows everything and she takes control, which is great. It's important to have somebody there, guiding you through the menu, helping you make that all-important choice and backing up whatever decision you make. It's part of the experience.
I was at Tiffins yesterday (Saturday). We had decided to drive to Petworth and a trip there isn't complete without a visit to this great tearoom. The larger-than-life-lady greeted us like old friends, which was great, we took a seat, a waitress approached and we ordered. I had a three-cheese ciabatta with onion marmalade plus a pot of tea, we ordered two carrot and coriander soups, which always includes a slice of crusty bread and butter, and a jacket potato with tuna and beans, plus another tea. In fact, it was tea all round and a hot chocolate for my daughter.
The food here is wonderful. The soups are flavoursome, the ciabatta was just what the doctor ordered and the jacket potato an ample size, but not over the top (as they can be in some establishments). The tea was pleasant too, it always is, and the other clientele quiet and well-behaved – no babies having their nappies changed in here – although I don't want to give the impression that Tiffins is in any way 'stuffy', it isn't. Quite the contrary – it's a bright and breezy place with specials advertised on a colourful wall on the left as you walk in; they sell their own jams, chutney and honey for £3.50 a jar, there are home-made cakes.
We ordered a Victoria sponge and a rhubarb and ginger sponge. The latter was iced. Both were perfect!
Off the top of my head, I can't remember the final price, but it would have been reasonable – it must have hovered around the £18 to £25 mark as we were a party of four and I don't begrudge paying that sort of money if the food is good and the service impeccable.
It goes without saying that whenever we're in Petworth we find our way to Tiffins for one simple reason: it's perfect in every way. Service with a smile always, decent food and beverages, reasonable prices and a pleasant, bright and breezy atmosphere. It's what a British tearoom is all about after all.