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Eat My Words: We discover the quirky Jacksonwood tea rooms in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey


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Let's be brutally honest, Sheppey may be sun-kissed but it is hardly known for its culinary expertise.

There are a few places worthy of note, such as the Playa pub with sea views on The Leas, the award-winning Ferry Inn at Harty where the burgers are so fresh they come with horns, the Queen Phillippa at Queenborough or, hopefully, the soon-to-open Banks Restaurant in Minster village.

Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street, Sheppey, has tables on the pavement
Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street, Sheppey, has tables on the pavement

The rest are a perfectly adequate mix of takeaways, bistros and cafes such as Rumour, The Beano, Rio's, Arizona Diner and the relatively new Fairweathers' Caribbean eaterie. All are based in Sheerness, the Island's main town.

But nestling near the town's clock tower is a very strange creation called the Jacksonwood vintage tea room. Its front window is festooned in tea pots and just beckons in the curious.

This is quite clearly not one for youths to hang out in. It is packed from floor to ceiling with a plethora of things from the past. Customers can be heard gasping for breath as they admit: "My Nan had one of those."

There was a Bakelite radio perched on a sideboard playing tunes from Matt Monroe for mood music, next to a television which had never shown a colour programme in its life. For those liable to eat their own words, there was even a dish of old radio valves.

There was, of course, a wind-up gramophone with a horn, lots of vintage paintings, a shelf of dog-eared Rupert annuals and a bookcase full of Dickens' novels which is quite fitting as Charles spent his childhood on Sheppey. The menu invites guests to read a book while visiting.

Spooky gas mask looking down at customers at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
Spooky gas mask looking down at customers at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
Old Rupert annuals at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
Old Rupert annuals at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
Old radio valves at Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness
Old radio valves at Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness

To be fair, you could spend an entire afternoon here and not eat anything. But then, there would be no point in this review.

The menu, it must be said, is a tad limited. Unlike the town's other eateries there is no all-day breakfast. No, this is for the more genteel grazer in need of a five-minute break from shopping or a chance to catch up with friends.

It certainly attracts some interesting locals. When I called on market day (Tuesday) there was a lady of indeterminate age called Glynis who told me she was sleeping in the same bed she had been born in.

Also enjoying a break was the wild-haired red-head Chris Reed who runs her own street band. She had parked her bike outside (one of the joys of having a pedestrianised high street) and proceeded to tell me how Sheppey needed to sell itself better.

She had commandeered the much sought-after window table where diners can spy on passers-by while at the same time remain hidden by shelves of tea pots. I noticed folded cardboard under one leg stopped it rocking. For those who like to be seen, there are two Covid-compliant tables on the pavement outside. All tables inside are sectioned off with their own isolation panels.

Chris Reed grabbed the window table at Jacksonwood tea rooms in Sheerness High Street
Chris Reed grabbed the window table at Jacksonwood tea rooms in Sheerness High Street
You can see life passing by from Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
You can see life passing by from Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
A fine China tea cup full of coffee at the Jacksonwood tea room
A fine China tea cup full of coffee at the Jacksonwood tea room

But I digress. You want to know what the food was like, don't you?

I forsook the sandwiches (£3.50) and toasties (£3) and after eyeing up the Victoria sponge (£2.80) and bread pudding (£2), all organic and "homemade" on the premises, I went for the cream tea (£4.50). Alas, I couldn't make up my mind which tea to go with it (Yorkshire, PG Tips, English Breakfast, English Afternoon, Earl Grey, Lady Grey - is that a thing - spiced ginger and nettle) I settled for a Cappuccino coffee which pushed the price to a fiver.

The coffee arrived in a posh China cup and the sultana scones arrived shortly after with butter, strawberry jam and clotted cream. It was here I should have sat back and taken a photo of it for your perusal. Instead, I tucked in like a glutton and suddenly all there was to show for it was a clean plate.

So, full marks for quality.

Full marks, too, for staff. Owner Stephen Jackson leaves you alone but is always ready for a chat if needed. It turns out he's something of a singer. I'd already guessed that because I'd seen it written on his sewing machine.

Owner Stephen Jackson at work at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
Owner Stephen Jackson at work at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
Stephen Jackson, owner of Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street, Sheppey, taking a break with a cuppa
Stephen Jackson, owner of Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street, Sheppey, taking a break with a cuppa
A veritable library of books at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street
A veritable library of books at the Jacksonwood tea room in Sheerness High Street

Ratings out of 5

Food. Excellent quality but menu a tad limited. ***

Drink. Can't fault the coffee but there was no squiggly design on the froth. ****

Decor. Awe-inspiring. *****

Staff. Attentive, polite and good for a chat. *****

Price: Competitive. If you want to up the game with an all-singing all-dancing "afternoon tea" with all the works, you need to splash out £13.50 but it has to be pre-booked. *****

For more news on big brands and good places to enjoy a tasty bite, head to our Eat, Drink, Shop section

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