Tea and scones at Dimbola
The Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron made her home for a short time at Freshwater Bay. During her stay she took some of her most notable photographs, and named her house after the tea estates in Ceylon where her husband’s business was. More than a century later Dimbola Lodge is not only a photographic museum but also a delightful tea shop. You can guess for which purpose Matt and Cat visited it.
The tea room is set in the front room of the imposing Victorian house and has views over the surrounding countryside and undulating coastline. The views are slightly interrupted by the plants in the well-stocked garden and all sorts of authentic Victorian impedimenta in the tea room, including old cameras, a leather sofa, busts of famous people, and even a grand piano.
Matt and Cat settled in and promptly ordered cream teas. There were probably quite a few other things on the menu, but on this rare occasion the expeditious delivery of tea took priority over thoroughly researching a review. The tea room also serves cakes and light lunches, but Matt and Cat did not put these to the test this time.
The order arrived quickly, and, pleasingly, the tea came in one big pot, with a jug of real milk. As befits an establishment named after a tea plantation, the tea was excellent. The milk jug was inadequate for the three in the party, but a request to the waiting staff soon rectified this. However, when a similar enquiry attempted to elicit more hot water, this was less successful.
The scones were not too bad, with good rations of cream and jam. As only one scone each was supplied, your reviewers did have a half an eye on the impressive display of home-made cakes. However, it seems that at Dimbola the advertised 5pm closing time means that at 5pm you’d better be out of there, because by 4.30 the cakes had been cleared away and the staff were cashing up. Maybe another time.
This atmospheric location provides a unique experience, and what’s more, patrons can be comforted by the knowledge that their money is going to support a small charity with impeccable cultural credentials. In some ways it is pleasing to be served by volunteers, and escape the relentless mill of contracted-out ‘heritage’ tea rooms in larger historic establishments. Dimbola would polish their successful formula to an even higher lustre if they could manage to implement more of the service standards of those larger establishments without losing their own individual charm.
Dimbola, Freshwater Bay