The Tea Terrace at House of Fraser, Guildford - On the Tea Shop Trail
PUBLISHED: 17:29 09 December 2013 | UPDATED: 17:29 09 December 2013
Pete Gardner / Louise Johncox
In this month’s trip to a local tea room, Louise Johncox visits a place with surely some of the best views in Surrey – not to mention a unique rooftop garden setting
Need to know:
The Tea Terrace, House of Fraser, 105-111 High Street, Guildford GU1 3DP
Tel: 0844 8003730 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm, and Sundays from 11am to 5pm.
Located at the top of House of Fraser in Guildford, with sweeping views of the surrounding Surrey countryside, The Tea Terrace opened in July 2010, with a second London branch opening at House of Fraser, Oxford Street, in May 2012.
The setting is a special one not only because of the vistas of Guildford and the North Downs, but also because of the unique rooftop garden setting.
Originally created in 1958 by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, one of England’s most eminent 20th century landscape architects, the garden was re-created in 2000 and is a Grade II registered site in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
Today, The Tea Terrace is run by husband and wife team Ehab and Rowena Shouly who own the company and have created the brand from scratch. They run the two cafés themselves with the help of a hard-working team of staff. The couple have always had a love for eating out and wanted to create something a bit different from today’s bland offerings. Both being avid lovers of tea, they decided to revive the tradition of English tea rooms.
This is a light, spacious tea room with a vintage feel. Decorated in pretty pastels, teapots line the shelves and there are tea-themed paintings and lampshades. Tea is served in china teacups and even the menus are pretty and feature tea-related illustrations and quotations.
There are 44 tables indoors (120 seats) and 12 tables outdoors (24 seats). When we first walked in, all the window tables were taken, which was not a surprise given the views over Guildford. It is hard to single out one table as the best as there are plenty with good views. If you prefer people-watching then a table in the middle of the tea room allows you a good view to look around at who is enjoying tea or lunch. Come the summer, the seating outside would obviously be the place to be, close to the garden and those views.
The counter was filled with a variety of cakes including some with tea decorations, but it was the scones (£3.95), their most popular product, that caught my eye and the decision was made.
“We are told by customers that our scones are better than the ones at The Ritz and The Savoy!” says Ehab. “We serve different flavours: plain; fruit (sultanas); ginger; cranberry and white chocolate; and cheese and herb. We are soon to launch apple and cinnamon scones too.”
We chose the plain and ginger scones, which were buttery and warm, served with strawberry jam. They tasted as if they had just come out of the oven.
The most popular of the cakes is apparently the Victoria Sponge, followed by the Lemon Drizzle, Carrot Cake and Vanilla Fudge, all £3.75 a slice.
Traditional afternoon tea is served from 12noon and includes scones, cakes, sandwiches and tea (£21.95 for two). I spotted one couple tucking into this selection and they looked very happy.
Aside from pastries, The Tea Terrace has a wide menu serving breakfast and ‘elevenses’, lunch and desserts.
The traditional English tea selection is sourced from the Tregothnan Botanical Gardens near Truro in Cornwall – home to the Boscawen family, descendants of Earl Grey himself, since 1335.
One of the quotations in the menu is by Henry James taken from The Portrait of a Lady: “…there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
I certainly enjoyed a most agreeable hour or so with my mum sharing tea and delectable scones at The Tea Terrace with those gorgeous views over Guildford.
I’ll be back soon for the apple and cinnamon scones, and maybe next time a window table.
Louise Johncox’s parents, Peter and Frankie, ran Peter’s tea shop in Weybridge from 1958 until 2000 when they retired. Louise has
written a book about her parents’ tea shop, The Baker’s Daughter, due to be released in spring 2014 (see louisejohncox.com/index.htm).