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Historic Stratford tearoom makes its full comeback



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Iconic Stratford restaurant Hathaway Tea Rooms at last fully reopened after a change of ownership during the pandemic, writes Lily Farrah.

Award-winning independent baker Sarah McMillan took over running the team rooms, housed in the Grade II-listed building at 19 High Street, in October. While the bakery has been doing a roaring trade since opening last month, the table service-side of things only became fully operational on 4th December when the three tea rooms - Big, Green and Molly - opened to customers.

Sarah McMillan has reopened the Hathaway Tea Rooms in High Street. Photo: Mark Williamson H40/12/21/9054. (53554513)
Sarah McMillan has reopened the Hathaway Tea Rooms in High Street. Photo: Mark Williamson H40/12/21/9054. (53554513)

The tea shop has been part of the fabric of Stratford life since it opened in the 1920s by current landlord John Kingsley’s grandfather. The family also own Number 20 next door, which houses Roly’s Fudge.

Sarah runs independent business When It’s Scone It’s Gone from her Warwick home, but this is her first café. She said: “Hathaway Tea Rooms is an amazing name in the town, and we are excited to be here.”

Keen to keep up its traditional origins, Sarah is serving Tudor-themed food alongside the usual café offerings. “We are serving modernised Tudor food on a traditional trencher (a sort of plate) with handmade crockery. It is something slightly different.”

She was joined on Saturday in welcoming customers by her new team: Lola, Alice, Sophie, Ella, Leo and Max, all 15-year-old Stratford High students, and all looking suitably Tudor-themed in linen aprons and chemises.

One of those first through the door was Vivien Noble who worked as a waitress at Hathaway in 1968. Flanked by her daughters and granddaughters, she reminisced: “Back then two ladies ran it and ruled with a rod of iron. It was always heaving on Friday market days, and the smell of baking pervaded the whole building.

Mayor of Stratford Cllr Kevin Taylor and his wife Pauline dropped in to Hathaway Tea Rooms on Saturday morning where they offered their support.
Mayor of Stratford Cllr Kevin Taylor and his wife Pauline dropped in to Hathaway Tea Rooms on Saturday morning where they offered their support.

“Apart from the cakes it was simple fare, lots of egg dishes, roasts, and we would carry a large tray to the tables for customers to choose from the macaroons, éclairs and pretty cakes.”

While Mayor Kevin Taylor popped in on official business, he took time out to enjoy a bow of beef pottage. He said the hearty soup took him back to his childhood: “It reminded me of growing up in the Black Country. At this time of year my dearly beloved mother would always make these incredible meat and vegetable stews in enormous amounts because I'm one of five children.”

Meanwhile downstairs in Molly’s Room (named after a past waitress), Steve and Rachel Murphy from Welford-on-Avon tucked into brunch with daughter Isabella, seven, while four-week-old baby Olivia-Rose slept in her pram.

“It’s the baby’s very first trip out,” said dad Steve. We’ve come to the Hathaway because we used to come here when Isabella was little, so it holds a lovely little place in our hearts.”

Towards the end of the day, having been kept busy serving coach parties as well as local people glad to see Hathaway open again, the exhausted but happy team seemed blessed with unexpected messages from past colleagues.

The team marvel over details of shifts written down for posterity and found in a chimney breast cupboard. One reads: “Ellie, Mandy, Pip, Amy, Jane, Laura, Rick, Steven, Reece and Judith were shattered after our busiest day ever, 26th April 2014 (that year’s Shakespeare’s Birthday celebrations).” While another simply observes: “Ellie was grumpy all day until she had some toast.”



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