Travellers along Newport’s Whiterails Road can not have failed to notice the entrance to the Lavender Farm at its junction with Blacklands Lane. Viewers from distant galaxies can probably see the farm’s colossal signboards from space; earthly visitors can have their pick from the array of human-scale signs that populate the roadside.
Unable to resist the signs’ urgings any longer, Matt and Cat forwent their usual lunchtime sandwiches and bounced the Catmobile down the Lavender Farm’s sinuous drive. This surprisingly long, but not unpleasant approach, will reward the traveller with views of some beautiful examples of the ancient rural craft of hedgelaying, some outstanding field oaks and a line of ancient ash trees. On their eventual arrival, your reviewers found plenty of parking at the farm and, even though M and C visited on a Monday lunchtime at the fag-end of the season, the place seemed to be doing a brisk business judging by the number of parked vehicles.
The Old Dairy Tea Rooms is on one side of a pretty courtyard, with a shop, ‘factory’ and farmhouse on the other sides. A central planter filled with lavender adds a delightful splash of colour and scent. In fact, it is impossible not to experience the pervasive smell of lavender; even the toilets have lavender-scented soap.
The tea room was very nicely appointed, all of the tables had fresh flowers (not lavender!) in vases, clean linen and even a trivet for a teapot. Matt and Cat settled at a cosy table with a view over the neat farmyard, close to the real fire (not alight yet, but offering the promise of lovely warm winter lunches).
The menu was pretty basic, a selection of sandwiches, Cornish pasties and sausage rolls, soup of the day and home-made cakes. Matt was keen to try pork and apple pasty but alas, the hot cabinet only contained a lonesome sausage roll; all pasties were sold. Cat’s choice of sandwich filling – chicken tikka – was also not available but at the waitress’ suggestion she happily substituted it for coronation chicken on white bread, salad on the side. Matt chose ham salad sandwich on brown bread to continue his pig-based meat product theme. Both ordered tea and a huge steaming China teapot with milk jug and two teacups and saucers was handed over. The copious tea supply proved to be just what was required.
With barely enough time to admire the sideboard positively sagging under the weight of the Lavender Farm’s many awards, Matt and Cat were served their lunch. The lady bearing the plates of sandwiches offered her apologies for the (unnoticed) tardiness of the delivery explaining how she had got the breads muddled and had remade the sandwiches.
Both sets of sandwiches were served with different salads; along with lettuce, Matt’s salad had cucumber and tomato and Cat’s was accompanied by a dollop of coleslaw. The food at the Old Dairy was good, simple fare – nothing fancy, but all well-served and reasonably-priced.
The sandwiches were very nice but the things that particularly tipped the scales in favour of Old Dairy Tea Rooms experience were the general ‘niceness’ of the venue and the attention to detail from the fireplace to the table’s trivet, the lavender hand wash and the tea room’s rural setting. Lovely, if not particularly gastronimique.
Old Dairy Tea Rooms, Lavender Farm, Newport