“ Address: 59 Castle Road, Portsmouth, United Kingdom „
The Mint Tea Rooms are a relatively recent addition to Southsea's Castle Road. The first time I paid a visit I was about to go and have lunch with friends somewhere else so could only sample the coffee, which was very good. I was with my son, who ordered a carrot, walnut and hummus wrap which he enjoyed very much. I was also impressed by the fact that he was served loose leaf tea in a traditional teapot with a porcelain cup and saucer. I vowed to go back one day for lunch.
That day came one Saturday in January. It was about 1pm, and the place was about half full. It is a tiny tearoom with about ten tables; there is a counter at the back and a dresser to one side where homemade cakes are displayed along with teapots and other ornaments. Bunting hangs above the counter, and underneath is a banner with the advice "Keep calm and have a cupcake." The Mint Tea Rooms are a place where it is easy to get away from life's stresses and relax in a calm atmosphere. Music plays at a volume that could not disturb conversation.
As well as serving a huge variety of teas in traditional teapots and porcelain cups, they offer coffee, hot chocolate and soft drinks. The menu consists of breakfasts, jacket potatoes, sandwiches, soup, quiche and frittata. Sandwiches can take the form of a wrap or a traditional sandwich on white or brown bread. Smaller size sandwiches are offered for children. Tuna and mackerel are among the sandwich fillings, but there are no red meat or chicken options. Vegetarian choices are plentiful. Locally sourced and organic products are used as far as possible.
The Mint Tea Rooms are owned and run by a couple who had the help of one of their mums on that particular day. They are very friendly and polite and genuinely interested in offering healthy, homemade food. My son wanted to order a pot of organic green tea and I decided I would share it with him. Unfortunately they had run out, so we ordered ginger tea instead. To eat I chose the special of the day, chick peas with cumin, spinach and couscous. My son went for a grilled haloumi and salad wrap.
The tea came in a large white porcelain teapot; on this occasion it was made with teabags. A small jug of milk was brought, which we didn't use, and a porcelain bowl of sugar with a delightful pair of silver tongs. The cups and saucers were, of course, porcelain with a rose design. I decided to try the tea without sugar and it was delicious.
The food arrived very soon after that. My couscous was served in a small bowl, and the chick peas came in a covered ceramic pot, both on a large plate. I decided to spoon the couscous into the chick peas little by little. There was just the right amount of sauce, and the dish was spicy without being overly so. I didn't regret my choice at all, and my son was equally happy with his haloumi wrap.
Neither of us was completely full so we decided to try a piece of tempting homemade cake. On my previous visit I had spotted chocolate and Guinness cake, but that day the choice was from apple and ginger, lemon drizzle or banana loaf. They all looked gorgeous, but we both decided that apple and ginger would go well with our pot of ginger tea which had been topped up with hot water. It turned out to be an excellent choice. There was just a sprinkling of sugar on top, and the cake was a beautiful consistency; the small pieces of ginger inside gave plenty of extra flavour.
Our bill came to £12.90 which was extremely reasonable. Of course we added a tip, as service was first rate; every so often we would be asked if everything was to our liking, and it certainly was. The only disadvantage is that payment has to be made in cash, but that didn't pose a problem for us.
The Mint Tea Rooms are open from 10am to 5pm every day except Sunday. There is on-street parking and disabled access. It is possible to hire the Mint Tea Rooms for private events such as baby showers or children's parties.
I sincerely hope that the Mint Tea Rooms will survive. They are situated a stone's throw from Southsea common and about five minutes' walk from Palmerston Road shopping precinct, but there is plenty of competition in the area. I don't think, however, that any other establishment nearby tries to confine themselves to local, organic products. For anyone who is interested in eating healthily in a quiet, welcoming environment, it is worth going a little out of the way of the shops to visit the treasure that is the Mint Tea Rooms.