♥ How the dream started
Many of our customers are curious about us and how the dream started as a business. Evelyn's was conceived many years ago. Well, that makes me feel old but it is now a fair few years since weekends spent at my grandparents led to the inspiration for a vintage, home-from-home, welcoming place to enjoy a cuppa and cake!
It is the little moments together that make the best memories forever...
My childhood was a happy, family centred existence regularly peppered with a wide variety of cakes, steamed sponge puddings and fruit pies and custard. All of course, homemade and enjoyed around the family dining table with much laughter. There was also lots of talking and a shared love of the food and family experience we were part of. Many of these times occurred when staying at my grandparents' house. My grandmother, or 'Nan' as we all called her, was a prolific home baker who could turn her hand to making bread, to rock cakes, to suet puds, to light as air sponges to rich, traditional fruit celebration cakes. In fact she insisted on baking fruit cakes for all of her grandchildren's birthdays, covered in marzipan and a thick, layer of royal icing piped swirls, rosettes and shells. Vivid icing with cochineal or bright blue food colouring and the obligatory piped birthday message and multi-coloured candles!
I regularly stayed with Nan, watched her weigh, mix, stir and whip many different cakey creations. Sometimes I was allowed to help and if I was good, lick the wooden spoon or scrape the cake bowl of left over mixture once the cakes were in the oven. Thumbing through her recipe books and torn out recipe pages from favourite 'women's weeklies' was a favourite past-time; looking at what she had made and what might be to come.
Behind every great woman there is a great man!
Of course, all good cake or pudding needs a cup of the lovely stuff to wash it all down! My grandfather Reg, or Paps as we called him, loved tea and always had tea in the tea pot and not a teabag in sight! Only tea leaves would do, stored in a tea caddy with a tea measuring spoon. The use of cups and saucers and a silver tea strainer was obligatory. I remember how he taught me to make a pot of tea and why it is important to leave it to draw; the malty smell filled our nostrils. We spent many afternoons dunking Rich Tea biscuits into our cups, losing half the biscuit in the depths of the cup and scooping out the sludgy crumbs with a tea spoon!
Fast forward forty odd years and I found myself at a crossroads in my career. I have always loved baking and feeding my family and friends with a variety of cakes and bakes, clearly inspired by Nan, Unexpectedly, I was given an opportunity to follow a childhood dream and create a homely, welcoming place to serve homemade cakes and bakes and to offer a wide range of specialty teas. Loose leaf of course! I grabbed that opportunity with both hands and with the help of my family, friends and the support of the local community of Fair Oak, Evelyn's opened in August 2015.
Four generations in the making
The rest as they say, is now history......
So if you have wondered about us and how we started out, my dream of opening a tea rooms and continuing in my Nan's footsteps was really just a pipe dream for most of my life. 'Evelyn's' and all that it stands for could only have been named after one woman, who inspired my love of baking and all things cakey and vintage. Many of the recipes we use are Evelyn's, handed down on a scrap of paper in her cursive, 'old fashioned' handwriting.
And Reg? Well, he is responsible for inspiring my love of tea and the huge collection of teas we stock at Evelyn's (now over one hundred different types). Oh! And the traditional tea strainers we give you to use!
As for the vintage china, tea cups and saucers? Well, tea doesn't taste the same out of a mug, does it? xx
P.S. In December 2015, way before we thought it possible, my daughter Melissa joined me at Evelyn's. She now manages the tea rooms and is part owner. Liss also bakes all of our cakes. I have a deep satisfaction knowing that Nan and Paps approve wholeheartedly with our partnership and the continuance of the gifts they gave to me. We are now four generations in the making of family values, traditions and recipes with a touch of modern day sass, courtesy of Liss! xx
P.P.S. More recently, in July 2018, we moved to larger premises to Thornhill Park Road and we changed our name to 'Evelyn's Tea House'. It is a sign of our customers' loyalty and our baking success that we have become known for our home made cakes and food but I really wanted to draw attention to our unique position in Southampton as a tea specialist with a huge stock of loose leaf teas. Re-naming the business has drawn our customers' attention to our teas and our lovely new premises allow us to display them altogether for visual impact. We continue to be inspired by Evelyn's recipes and we have also incorporated some of my mother's recipes too in our menu. Evelyn's will always be more than a building; our greatest asset are our staff team and the traditions and old fashioned values upon which we base our service. And that is something that will never change!