The Tea Shop at Watts Gallery

Minestrone soup with warm breadDown Lane, Compton, Guildford, Surrey, GU3 1DQ

A delightful café in the old pottery on the North Down’s Way with a changing seasonal menu.

Go there for: Scrumptious English nursery classics like Welsh rarebit and generous slices of home-baked cakes.

Avoid: Mondays – they’re shut (and on Tuesdays after a bank holiday weekend).

Is it worth the calories?: Heart-warming soups and salads complement the house specials of rarebits and cakes. Indulging is fine – especially if you walk to the chapel!

Tips: A great stop on the North Downs Way for walkers and bikers – or visit the gallery or astonishing chapel.

This charming eatery is in the grounds of the gallery that celebrates the work of the renowned Victorian artist Frederic Watts. Established 25 years ago, the tea shop was given a facelift when it was taken over by the gallery in 2009.

New manager Agnieszka Czabak started in 2012 and keeps the front of house moving at a crisp pace, tables are cleared efficiently and orders taken swiftly. Head chef Aly Breakwell’s cooking is creative, homely and extremely good. The menu is temporarily smaller than before and the café’s famous rarebits (from £4.95) are on the specials board.

A new menu is about to be launched and Aly has been testing innovative dishes like confit of duck and cabbage leaves stuffed with barley, walnuts, sultanas and dill. Buying local foods where possible is high on the agenda here and drinks such as cider are sourced locally. They also use an ethically sourced coffee and have their own blend of ‘Potters tea”.

Butternut squash and feta tart, table flowers and chicken and mango sandwich

I was sad the celeriac soup with walnut and parsley pesto had run out but the minestrone was thick and hearty, using barley and red kidney beans instead of pasta (£5.50). Packed with vegetables and garnished with fresh Pear & custard tart with cinnamon and clotted cream herbs and local rapeseed oil, it was the best I’ve had in a long while. My daughter ordered a grilled chicken and mango sandwich on white bread (£5.50) the chicken succulent and the mango delivered a  tangy sweet finish . My butternut squash and goat’s cheese tart (£7.50) had crisp thin pastry, the squash was soft and buttery, and the cheese added a deliciously salty kick. It came with a generous selection of salads. There is also a pudding on the specials board each day and we sampled a complimentary slither of pear and custard tart with cinnamon, clotted cream and toasted walnuts, it was gorgeous (£5.25).

Aly said they can’t bake enough cakes on site to meet demand but she does as many as possible. On display was a handsome Victoria sponge, a coffee and walnut and a gluten-free chocolate all at £3.00 a generous slice. But what caught our eye was a spectacular rosewater and pistachio cake; a creamy sponge topped with rose-scented icing and a sprinkle of pistachio and rose petals – and it’s gluten free. It lived up to its enticing exterior and was meltingly light and delicate.

Rosewater and pistachio cake

The tea house has big plans for the future, with an extension to the café planned for spring 2013. Aly is keen to add more vegetarian options and experimental specials to the new menu. The cooking we sampled was great, so expect good things here in the future.

Phone:01483 813590