Among this week’s hopscoff destinations was Lymington, one of the southernmost towns of the New Forest. This vast area of woodland thrives with tourists all year round benefiting from the expansion of greenery, which lends itself to both wellie winter hikes and flip-flop summer strolls. The New Forest is therefore, by default, renowned for its tearooms offering cream teas by the log fire during the cooler months and gorgeous gardens to lounge in with a cuppa when the sun actually decides to make an appearance. Having only been to Lymington once before in January when my Argentinian beauties were over to England, I was keen to see it out of gloomy overcast weather.
The purpose of my little trip was to go and visit Roger, my newly adopted Grandad and the embodiment of British traditions and manners and my most ideal tea-drinking partner! My time with Roger was short but sweeter than any cake I have ever tasted – and there have been many! He is the living proof that a bit of determination and etiquette can get you a long way and I think I learnt more from him in one afternoon than I have done in a four-year degree.
He was the most perfect host and knowing that a tearoom is to me what a bone is to a dog, he patiently took me up and down Lymington High Street showing me all the tearooms the town had to offer. Roger has only recently moved to the area and was therefore also keen to explore with me. He decided to move after his wife sadly passed away, giving him a new forest start.
Roger told me about some of the places he had already been to and took me through his ‘4-second rule’. He quite rightly pointed out that our powerful brains judge places and people alike within four seconds and before we have even seen a menu, we have already decided whether we are going to stay and slurp away or dash for the door. What draws us in differs from person to person and everyone will have their own checklist. Some like the whole grab-and-go thing, some like cheap and cheerful, some like flavour explosions, most should like a big slab of cake 😉 and others are just looking for the free WIFI. Our internal checklist will often cover service, ambiance, product and price. If you are not greeted with a smile you are instantly put off, if it’s a scorching day you are unlikely to want to sit inside, you want a decent variety of cakes, good quality tea/coffee and you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it! Roger kindly shared an insight into his cri-tea-ria. Tea must be served with skimmed milk, never in a metal teapot and preferably with loose leaf – * ding ding * we have a match – teabuddies for life! 😀
During our little stroll through Lymington we passed many tearooms that didn’t quite send our tea radars off the scale, so we didn’t enter a single one. Roger, a retired successful businessman, spent years offering his punters a service with excellence and doesn’t settle for anything less than that. As an exception, the 4-second rule can often be dodged through recommendations. Even if a certain place that has been recommended to us doesn’t quite cut the mustard, curiosity overrides all instincts and we find ourselves lured in by that internal voice – But if they love it here, I have to see what the fuss is about! The tearoom Sophie’s is idyllically placed on the cobbled street of Lymington and I went there with Paz, Martín and Luján in January after it was recommended to us. Yet, there was a reason why I didn’t jump at the opportunity to go back this time, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. In the literally sense since the speciality served was Teapigs, a brand of tea that I have never managed to grow an affiliation for. Yet also in other aspects such as the limited variety of cakes and the served slice that slips slightly too much onto the thinner side of comfort! Our favourite family New Forest teatime hideout is (so far) Rosie Lea’s in Brockenhurst, serving a wide variety of savoury and sweet options as well as out-of-this-world hot chocolates to keep the little’ns content – for a short while 😉
In quest of our diamond-on-the-tooth factor, as Roger would put it, we decided to hop into the car and drive a few miles down the road to Braxton Gardens, host to a tearoom that I had sniffed out prior to my visit. I did actually think it was in Lymington town centre – geography was never my strong point at school! As we got out the car and approached the gardens Roger’s eyes lit up and a quick exchange was enough to reassure us both that this was the place we had spent all afternoon looking for. The gardens were stunning and peaceful, the teapot, teacups and saucers were delightful and the icing on the cake for Roger was being served skimmed milk with his tea. Of course, the British sunshine most certainly added to the ambiance of our stay but The Muffin Galore tearoom, as it is called, also has the cutest indoor seating area as well, perfect for any (guaranteed) rainy day. Any trip to Lymington and the surrounding area must be complemented by a quick hop to this charming tearoom and both Roger and I would give it a 5-teacup rating!
When it was time to say cheerio to Roger I caught site of a stunning plant on his balcony that was overlooking the river Lymn. He told me that he had named it ‘simply the best’, proudly stating that it is called so in memory of his late wife. To nicely wrap this up, as I am aware that your tea has probably gone cold within this time that I have waffled on for, I suppose I can leave you fellow hopscoffers with two things that I learnt on my trip to Lymington that you can ponder upon whilst you crunch on that biscuit. Firstly, what one views as being ‘the best’ is totally subjective, but by your standards do not settle for anything less, if you are going to treat yourself don’t do it by halves! Find the best place for you. Trust your 4-second rule instinct. And secondly, remember that you are ‘simply the best’. Even though Roger spent the last two years caring for his wife who suffered from an alcohol addiction, she will always be his ‘best’.
Despite our flaws and the chips our teapots may have, we are all beau-tea-ful!