We admire the crystal chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling in Jameson’s Café and Tea Rooms.
“Straight out of Only Fools and Horses,” says my wife, taking a bite from a dainty Brie and cucumber sandwich.
Just then a leggy young waitress glides by our table in a short black uniform and white pinny, a Saucy French Maid outfit to my masculine eye, to ask if we need any more hot water.
“I thought I’d stumbled into a remake of ‘Allo ‘Allo,” I tell her later. She looks blankly back at me, too young to have seen the Eighties sitcom.
It’s grey and has been raining and I want to cheer my wife up so I promise her afternoon tea.
“It’s more like a pasty and a mug of cocoa sort of day,” she says as we head along Abbeydale Road, Sheffield.
No sooner have we opened the door of this former antiques shop than owner Sarah Jameson is welcoming us like old friends and says the table we have chosen in the corner is her favourite.
It’s not just me who thinks she’s a natural.
“You look just the sort of lady I imagine running a tea shop,” says a customer who follows us in and Sarah purrs her thanks.
Jameson’s is only a couple of months old but it feels as settled as tea leaves at the bottom of the pot.
Sarah grew up wanting her own tea room.
Perhaps it was because when she was a little girl her grandmother lived next door and life was full of baking: scones, cakes and pastries.
She opened her first café in Sheffield Antiques Centre, around the corner in Broadfield Road, two years ago, followed by another in Chesterfield. She closed that to open Abbeydale Road, a property she’d had her eye on.
Too often tea rooms fall down because they don’t observe the little rituals and niceties which make afternoon tea so English.
Sarah brings bone china cups and saucers and a capacious teapot to the table along with hot water and a jug of milk.
There’s a tea strainer because it’s loose tea and you don’t monkey around with tea bags in a place like this.
There’s a wide choice: Earl Grey, gunpowder, Assam Broken Pekoe and Darjeeling Mid Season, among others, but we go for the house blend from Kenya, Assam and Ceylon, which is a good strong cuppa with a hint of finesse.
Jameson’s is open all day and does beans or crumpets for breakfast and sandwiches and salads for lunch, plus specials, but afternoon tea is the high point and you can have it any time.
Afternoon teas are two tiered, like the cake stands they come on.
The Traditional Afternoon Tea is £9.95 per person where you get only one choice of sandwich, together with a scone and cake.
The Splendid Afternoon Tea at £12.95 is a superior offering with a selection of more upmarket sandwiches.
While we are waiting my wife recalls our afternoon tea at the Ritz, where they have a harpist, and I wonder whether crooking your little finger while taking tea is a bit over the top for Abbeydale Road.
Just then a piano in the corner bursts into Somewhere Over the Rainbow because Paul, a young student, has arrived for the afternoon shift. I don’t remember a pianist in Betty’s.
The sandwiches are crustless, so your hair won’t curl, and we’ve got salmon with cream cheese, thick cut juicy ham, Brie with cucumber (it’s been peeled) and prawn mayonnaise. They’re classy.
The scones are home made with a choice of plain, cheese, fruit or banana and sultana, with strawberry jam, and blackcurrant and star anise and lemon and passionfruit curds.
These are made by a small artisan producer and are alive with flavour.
We liked the scones – short, light and moist, particularly the banana, which came with more cream than is virtuous.
It’s quite a spread and we haven’t yet got to the cake. Your money buys a slice of whatever you fancy and we select Victoria Sponge and coffee and walnut.
Sarah says they make just under 100 eight-inch cakes a week, with her mum Jean and husband Mark, who runs an antiques business at the Broadfield Road centre. It makes a change from French polishing for him!
The cakes would please Mary Berry, particularly the coffee and walnut which has received a rave review or two on TripAdvisor.
This is a pretty impressive set-up to achieve in such a short space of time. If I was going to be picky I would much rather see sugar lumps and tongs than paper sachets, although neither of us takes sugar. It just feels right.
Sarah says they do have them, which was a mistake, as was forgetting to give us a bottle of ‘posh pop’ which comes with every order.
And it would be nice to see some little individual cakes or French fancies when Jameson’s gets into its stride.
Sarah tells me marrying Mark was a good move, and not just for his baking skills. “Jameson’s has more of a ring to it than Rowlinson’s, my maiden name,” she says.
If all that tea and cake has made you feel in a good mood they have a little antiques and gift shop next door.
We paid £25.90.
Jameson’s Tea Rooms, 334 Abbeydale Road, Sheffield S7 1FN. Tel: 0114 255 1159. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-4pm. Credit cards. Gluten-free cakes and cream teas. Credit cards. Music (some live). Disabled access (through gift shop) and toilet. Street parking. Web: www.jamesonstearooms.co.uk
My rating 5