At the tail-end of a scorching Bank Holiday weekend we had seen the Island at its best. Hedgerows nodding with fresh flowers, sun glinting on the gorgeous blue sea, beaches full of happy holidaymakers and of course some great meals out. Gathering a few friends we decided to make the most of the weather with a trip to Godshill’s magnificent Model Village. Cat is still smarting from losing a charity auction some years ago when she bid £200 to be immortalised as a model village inhabitant – alas another model village fan had even deeper pockets. Inevitably, after an afternoon of fun in miniature, we decided to round it off with a cream tea. On leaving the model village one is almost obliged to walk through Leal’s Tea Gardens, a convenience of location that is doubtless no coincidence, so that is where we settled.
Godshill is absolutely jammed with tourist traps and tea gardens of all sorts, and Leal’s is one of the largest and most prominent. The site was for many years known as the Willow Tree Tea Gardens, but in 2018 reverted to what was apparently its original name. The gardens have long been famous for the curious setting of mock-classical architecture, water features and topiary. One of our companions suggested that we were about to have a cuppa in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Slightly confused, Cat asked why. “Palmyra.” he said simply, pointing at a quartet of rather magnificent stone columns.
Walking in from the model village end the first things we noticed were the notable ruins – ruins of other people’s cream teas being picked over listlessly by pigeons. True, it was the end of a long hot weekend, but even so we struggled to find a table that was both clear of dirty crockery and in a shady spot.
Cream tea was our target so we skipped over the menu of sandwiches and jacket potatoes, and saw with approval that there were three tea options – fruit scone, plain scone or cheese scone. We placed our order and waited a while for it to be delivered, during which time we were delighted to see some nippers coming round to tidy up the tables.
As there were five of us at our table, a parade of people approached from the kitchen, burdened with our beverages and cakes. The tea came in stainless steel pots, and in good supply. We asked for more hot water and when it came it was in an even larger pot, so after our sunny afternoon staring open-mouthed at the Lilliputian Wight, our parched throats were soon refreshed and ready for scones.
The scones, as all decent scones should, produced audible gasps of delight from the diners. Each tea came with a single, substantial warm scone; fresh and tasty. Matt’s cheese scone tea was served with soft butter, a ramekin of cheddar nuggets, plus acidic chutney. The scone even had a thick layer of freshly melted cheese on top of it. These elements could be successfully combined into a warm, cheesy delight.
Cream tea £4.40
Cheese tea £4.40
The plain scone that Cat recieved was impressive, and she wasted no time in anointing it. Jam and clotted cream came not in unsustainable single-use sealed plastic packets, but generously dolloped into ceramic pots. Evenly-baked, with a firmish shell containing a fluffy heart, this scone was the acme of its type.
Leal’s started weakly with the debris-strewn tables and long wait; but very much redeemed itself with a superior cream tea and attentive service at a competitive price. Of course, the decorative tea gardens are worth seeing anyway, but whilst you are there we’d certainly suggest you get your order in early and enjoy those scones.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Central location
- Good scones
- No plastic pots of jam and cream
- Historic feature garden
- Took some time to clear up
- Right by the main road