The Riverside Tea Garden, Fordingbridge

Date visited: Tuesday 16th May 2023

The entrance to the tea garden is down a narrow alley from Salisbury Street.

From the street, The Riverside Tea Garden is easily missed, as it is accessed through a narrow alley off Salisbury Street. As its name suggests, this tea garden is on the banks of the Avon in Hampshire. Open, weather permitting, Mondays to Saturdays from early May to late September, the tea garden has about seventeen tables for those wishing to take tea, with four of those tables at the side of the river.

The menu includes separate breakfast and lunch offerings, with breakfast served until just before midday. For breakfast various sizes of full English breakfast are on offer, as well as some lighter options such as teacakes, sandwiches, crumpets or toast. For lunch a selection of sandwiches and jacket potatoes are offered, as well as a range of ‘light bites’ some of which look more substantial than the sandwiches and jacket potatoes! On the day I visited, three cakes were on display at the counter, with a fourth, empty, stand for chocolate brownies. Beverages include six different teas and one tisane from the New Forest Tea Company, though three of the teas are flavoured. Coffees, hot chocolate and soft drinks are also available.

A hog roast sandwich with ‘a pot of gravy for dipping’.

For my visit, I chose a hog roast sandwich, a slice of Victoria sandwich cake, and a pot of Brockenhurst breakfast tea for £17.00. The doorstep sandwich included ‘a pot of gravy for dipping’. I’m not sure what it was that was meant to be dipped in the gravy: tortilla chips are usually an item that is often dipped, but the gravy was too runny for that. However, I found the sandwich bread to be an excellent absorber of the gravy, albeit in a way incompatible with its prime purpose of holding the sandwich filling – tasty but messy. The Victoria sandwich was light but not too dry as often happens with light sponges. The only minor disappointment was that the pot of tea was only just enough to last the two courses.

A slice of Victoria sandwich cake, and a pot of New Forest breakfast tea.

With my visit being at a sunny late spring lunchtime, the tea garden was busy, with about half the tables occupied. The patron came to apologise for the delay in my meal being served, but as that was less than fifteen minutes, that really wasn’t a cause for concern. By early afternoon, the tea garden was much quieter.

As one might expect for a tea garden subject to the vagaries of the English weather in a small town that’s off the main tourist trail, the menu is a little limited. However, service is good and, if one is in the area on a sunny day, this is a tea garden worth seeking out, especially if one can get one of the tables right beside the river.

The Great Bridge viewed from The Riverside Tea Garden. The bridge is Grade II listed by Historic England. It dates from the fourteenth or fifteenth century with additions on this side of the bridge in the nineteenth century.
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