Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Due to entirely foreseen circumstances, Matt and Cat found themselves without internet access one clement autumn day. This enforced Luddism could have inspired a...

Due to entirely foreseen circumstances, Matt and Cat found themselves without internet access one clement autumn day.

Luxury cream tea

This enforced Luddism could have inspired a frenzied bout of housework or perhaps baking, but those who know M&C well will already be guffawing at such ridiculous options. No, they decided to embrace their temporary broadband-free existence and where better than at Quarr Abbey – site of a monkishly simple life as long ago as the twelfth century.

The monks at Quarr Abbey have engaged with the Island community for years and, more recently, have increased their profile and perhaps their revenue stream. Their enterprises have included creative ceramics with Brother Alexander Tingay, bookbinding and the tea room. Once a bit of a shack in part of the abbey’s walled garden the café has, with the help of an EU grant, evolved into a decent business venture with the worthy objective of supporting this religious foundation. Will eating at the café become a regular habit?

Prawn cocktail sandwich
Matt and Cat’s bill
Sandwich of the day £6.50
Luxury cream tea £5.50
Tea for one £1.50
Quarr Abbey tea garden

Matt and Cat drove to Quarr, although cycling would have been more in keeping with their technology-free lunch. There are tracks and trails that lead walkers and riders right through the monks’ estate. It’s even on the scenic coastal path which also takes in the ruins of the old Cistercian abbey dating from 1132.

Passing the snuffling pigs – probably the most photographed domestic mammals on the Island, (obviously excluding the tigers and ring-tailed lemurs at various other attractions) Matt and Cat bumbled through the orchard to the walled garden. This certainly would be a delightful spot for an afternoon tea al fresco in warmer seasons – and now the spacious tearoom allows visitors to enjoy refreshment indoors in all weathers. Pausing to admire the ancient espaliers, bushy asparagus ferns and nestled seating, they entered the café.

Like most rural shops, Quarr Tea Room took the opportunity to display some local produce; Garlic Farm chutneys, candles from St Cecilia’s Abbey and even Quarr’s own hyper-local fruit and vegetables (no sign of sausages – although you can buy pellets to feed the pigs). A counter laden with fresh cakes was nearby, and a polite lady behind it took the order.

From the modest range of light lunches, Matt chose the sandwich of the day: prawn cocktail and salad with skinny fries. There was also soup of the day – the spicy-sounding chilli pumpkin – but Cat decided to try the Quarr Abbey luxury cream tea. Taking their seats indoors after a brief flirtation with a slightly chilly spot on the patio, Matt and Cat looked around at the venue.

Inside, the café was reminiscent of other farm shops. Light and spacious, with wonderful rickety-looking mismatched wooden furniture. Think school room crossed with church hall; mahogany-coloured tables and spindle-legged chairs with genuine antique patina. Protected by an old-fashioned fireguard there was a woodburner, which was ablaze during Matt and Cat’s visit and literally gave the place a delightful warm glow.

The food came without much delay. Matt’s sandwich was a fair size, and looked good. Dribbling from its edges was Marie Rose sauce, the ubiquitous juice for prawn cocktail. The prawny mixture was of reasonable quality, encased in sliced bread and unexpectedly decorated by an ostentatious doodle of balsamic reduction. A good allowance of salad was on the plate, and a handful of those delicious vegetable crisps. Alongside came a big bowl of skinny fries, which were generously anointed with a salt-and-pepper mix. Matt might perhaps have preferred to add his own condiments to the chips, but as he too had a pot of good tea to wash it all down with, the salt overload was easily diluted.

The luxury cream tea was 70p more than the regular cream tea, and differed in having a choice of speciality tea or coffee and the addition of local jam and a fresh strawberry. Cat was delighted to take possession of it and decanted a lovely cup of tea from the generous pot which was, as it should be, accompanied by a milk jug and extra hot water. Her scone was fruity and crumbly – certainly not too dry – and pleasantly warm. The sweet and runny local strawberry jam had visible bits of fruit, and there was plenty of jam and cream to go round. Coming as it did straight from the fridge the butter could have been a bit softer, but with a brief bask on the teapot’s lid it soon softened to a spreadable consistency. Cat ended up eating her scone with a knife and fork as the crumbly, sticky sweet cake with its tottering sliced strawberry threatened to make an excellent creamy mess of her hands. Delicious!

The new tearoom is an impressive and well-executed venture, and one imagines must be a satisfying way to fulfil the Benedictine rule which guides the monks and says boldly “All guests are to be welcomed as Christ”. Indeed, it seemed a good opportunity for visitors to begin to understand the life of the monastery through the everyday. As the diners sat nibbling, bells rang to remind them of the monastic offices being observed in the chapel just a little way away. Amongst the newspapers were copies of the Catholic Herald, and the menu even pointed out that on Abstinence Fridays there would be sustainable, locally-caught fish on offer.

Matt and Cat had cleared their plates, enjoyed the cosy environment, and examined the cakes in the chiller and the wares in the shop. During their brief visit the café had started to fill up with the sort of people who have out-of-season mid-week leisure time, a good sign for any Island business heading towards winter. The Quarr Abbey tearoom is most definitely worth a visit and Matt and Cat have already pencilled in a summer appointment with one of the cosy arbour seats.
Quarr Abbey Tea Garden

  • claire says:

    Like Raquel. Not recommended. Massive rip off, abysmal service, terrible food, mean portions, Take your own picnic, I will next time I go. Truly awful. I have e mailed a complaint.

  • Raquel says:

    Went to the tea gardens on Sunday with my family, its beautiful there and the pigs were so cute, but the tea room was expensive,first we were told we could not order fries with our sandwiches as they were running low on them! if we wanted them we would have to have the days special sandwiches, which was cream cheese and ham, not suitable for a daughter who cant eat cheese because she is lactose intolerant , i had a BLT sandwich that had lots of lettuce a tiny piece of tomato and one tiny slice of streaky bacon in two sandwiches,so you could hardly taste the bacon, they also forgot to bring son in laws pot of tea out (waited 15 mins in the end), and my daughters coke tasted of detergent from the glass she drank it from, and then a visit to the loo was not possible as all 3 toilets had run out of toilet tissue!! we had 3 rounds of sandwiches 2 cups of coffee and a diet coke and it cost us £24.00, i Dont think we will be going there again for coffee and sandwiches….

  • Lucy says:

    Hi Matt & Cat,

    I have just been looking at the lovely comments that we recieved about the teashop. It is always good to get feedback so we know our customers are happy.

    Our customers might be interested to know we will be introducing a new Quarr Abbey meringue dessert this Easter weekend which we think is delicious, and our chef is always creating exciting new daily specials so i would urge anyone who hasn’t done so already to come along and give them a try.

    We will also be launching our summer competition where customers can win £500 worth of luxury home & garden accessories just by answering a few simple questions about our farm shop, which will make coming to our teashop & farm shop well worth a visit!

    We look forward to your next visit to us!

  • da wy wyth says:

    The good brothers of Quarr must have taken note of the feedback on tearoom volunteers (above), as they have now taken on an East European member of the team, who is charm and helpfulness personified!

    The humming bird cake was truly memorable, and it was great to see such tempting products as “Pear, Apple and Lavender Jam” in the farm shop – and what’s more a January sale taking place there!

  • Chris Harding says:

    The food is good and the surroundings very pleasant, so it is a shame that the service is often very slow, and the staff don’t seem to care.
    45 minutes to wait for a meal from the specials board is a long time, especially when people who ordered their meal after you, receive theirs first!

  • Lynda Evans says:

    We took a lovely walk to Quarr Abbey today the sun was shining although it was chilly in the shade. The Abbey and grounds were beautiful and very peaceful. My sister in law and O enjoyed tea, coffee and cake. My husband enjoyed a bottle of Goddards ale. We then fed the wonderful pigs, a delight to see and small baby pigs, only a couple of weeks old.
    In all the years we have been coming to the Island we had not been to Quarr Abbey, what a secret! we can’t wait to come back!

  • Carolyn says:

    I’m writing from Singapore where I’m from. I visited Quarr Abbey and the tea room just a week and a bit ago and had to be dragged away. I set myself a mission to try every cake and sweet they had on offer because they were that yummy. And the peace and serenity of the place made it a divine eating experience. It’s a long way to travel, but I hope to visit Quarr again soon. PS: And I bought bags and bags and bags of feed for the darling pigs.

  • Mrsr1ck says:

    Went to the tea shop yesterday as an early mothers day treat…. First time we’d been… 3 adults and 2 toddlers… We were all delighted on arrival to be confronted with 3 week old piglets and grown pigs to feed & stroke.

    We had booked a table earlier in the morning, which was great as at about 1pm there was nowhere left indoors to sit!

    We enjoyed the specials board, picking Red Snapper on a Shallot & potato cake which was gorgeous. The toddlers enjoyed a cream tea and we also devouered two bowls of delicious thin cut fries. Genuinely very happy with the venue 🙂

    Advice to parents though, if you need a highchair it’s best to call ahead as they only have one, or bring a booster seat.

    I imagine this placewould be even better in the summer when you can sit outside in the stunning gardens!!

  • Jo says:

    I have visited here a couple of times recently and have nothing but praise for both the excellent food and the aesthetically pleasing surroundings.It is indeed rare for me not to find something amiss as my friends would agree! I am looking forward to my next visit which I will combine with a gentle stroll to admire the architecture and ruins and visit the latest art exhibition.

  • John Woodhouse says:

    We had Christmas lunch at Quarr on December 1 – marvellous! From welcoming mulled wine through to mince pies. Good food & plenty of it, reasonably priced & very attentive & friendly staff. Definitely a place for a return visit

  • Bill Cunningham says:

    My wife and I visited the tearoom shortly after re-opening, and were very impressed. The only problem we had was they were not yet ready to accept payment with a debit card. A member of the staff offered to pay for our meal, as long as we would return in the near future and repay her. No time frame was given, and they just wanted to know we were islanders. I tend to eat quickly, while my wife likes to savour her food, so I nipped up to Tesco on Wootton High Street to withdraw some cash. Of course on this day the machine required servicing! On to the Post Office in the Spar up the road, where funds were secured.

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