Teatime in Sandridge

Heartwood Tea Rooms.

Heartwood Tea Rooms. - Credit: Archant

Herts Ad food columnist Becky Alexander explores a new village café...

Heartwood Tea Rooms.

Heartwood Tea Rooms. - Credit: Archant

We often walk in Heartwood Forest and have been watching the development of the Heartwood Tea Rooms next to the Sandridge village stores for a few months.

It opened at the end of September, ready to welcome all the walkers, dog owners, cyclists and villagers, so we popped in last week to see what was on offer.

There are a couple of tables outside, and I was surprised how spacious the café is inside, with two rooms and a sheltered terrace area at the back.

The front room is cosy with an old fireplace, and the back room opens up with a lovely beamed roof that creates a light, spacious feel.

Heartwood Tea Rooms.

Heartwood Tea Rooms. - Credit: Archant

David Hearn, who owns the café and the shop next door explained that the oldest part of the building dates to 1690, and he wanted to make the most of its history; the sandblasted exposed walls date to the 1800s and he has just renovated the old cellar.

He had the idea for the tearoom several years ago, when he was asked by the Woodland Trust to help cater during the tree planting sessions in the forest. David knew that visitors to Sandridge would want teas and cakes, and he thought it would complement the pubs in the village.

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The café is open from 9am-5pm every day, and you can get breakfast, light lunches and afternoon tea and cakes, so good for any time you want to visit.

From the small kitchen area, the team manage to produce a good range of breakfasts including bacon, sausages and eggs; the meats are provided by John the Butcher from Sandridge – he is based just up the hill. Bread comes from Simmons bakery. You can also get avocado on toast.

We went in for lunch and there was a nice choice, including a seasonal soup for a reasonable £4.50. There was a bit of a muddle about what soup was available, but when my tomato and pepper soup arrived, it was very nice, and I like that they warmed the bread roll that came with it. Sandwiches include beef, rocket and horseradish, which my partner enjoyed.

Shelves are lined with large pots of loose leaf tea, and this is a focus for the café, with a tea menu with over 20 varieties including chai and orange pekoe as well as the classics Earl Grey and a black tea called London Calling.

Tea is served in pots along with a tea timer, which I’m not sure is really needed but seems to be a trend in some of our local cafés now. Teas are priced up to £3.45 a pot for one person which is similar to The Saddlery at the Osprey shop, but otherwise quite high for the area.You can also get a good range of coffees, hot chocolate and juices.

I thought they had a lovely selection of cakes, including gluten-free options. David explained that they make some of the bakes themselves and others are made by a baker in St Michael’s village. I had a delicious lime cupcake and I noticed that they also do a set afternoon tea, which would be great for a special occasion.

There is also a nice ‘bar’ area at the front if you are popping in on your own, although I’m not sure The Sun newspaper on offer is in keeping with the vibe of the place.

The Heartwood Tea Rooms have already become a popular meeting place for villagers – the vicar was in recently – and is a very welcome addition to the area. I am glad they are open just in time for lots of autumn walks.