Tea with Alice at The Garden Society
I always see these fun events advertised on Facebook, but they’re usually up in London – which can be a bit of a mission to get to from Portsmouth. Very occasionally, something a little closer to home catches my eye, and when that happens I freak out and book tickets straight away. In this instance, it was an Alice in Wonderland Tea Party, held about 20 minutes up the road at The Garden Society.
Sunday morning came, and I instantly regretted picking such an early spot – it was a 10am start. Both Jess and I were still kind of hungover from the previous nights activities, and were not feeling a morning of miniature sandwiches and pastries. Still, we got up and made our way up to Eastleigh, because that’s what you do when you’re a professional fangirl, even if you want to spend the entire day in bed.
This was my first visit to The Garden Society, It was a little out of the way, down a long country road – not somewhere I’d ever ventured before. The building was made up of greenhouses and barns, and surrounded by big, open fields. We walked into a room full of beautiful trinkets and quirky little accessories, and all I wanted to do was buy everything in sight, but we had a tea party to attend, and were already ‘late for our important date’.
The receptionist directed us out the back of the building, towards a door entirely made of plants and covered in half painted roses, which instantly had me singing ‘we’re painting the roses red’. The door led us through a dark tunnel of clocks and books, decorated with fairy lights and picture frames. It genuinely felt like I was falling through a rabbit hole, though that may have been the life size bunny standing in the corner which – I’m not going to lie – completely terrified me.
The tunnel led to a beautiful room entirely made of flowers, where the walls were literally covered in tulips and carnations, and if you looked close enough at all the detail, you could spot so many Alice in Wonderland references – from the contradicting signs saying ‘which way’ and ‘this way’ to the giant toadstools and flamingos. There was even a massive caterpillar in the corner of the room smoking a pipe.
We found our name tags, and took our seats at the long wooden table covered in mismatched tea pots and tea cups. It was exactly how I pictured a Mad Hatters Tea Party to be. We were then introduced to some familiar faces – Alice and the Mad Hatter – who proceeded to climb up onto the table and pour each of us a cup of tea.
Annoyingly, the tea turned out to be orange juice – what I would have given for some caffeine – but the cake that came out next was very real. Each treat was laid out on a tiny piece of turf rather than a plate – it was super cute – and on it was a sandwich quarter, a piece of rocky road, a jam tart, and a fondant fancy, that rather bizarrely tasted like roses – I can now safely say that I do not like the taste of roses at all.
As we tucked into our snacks, Alice and the Hatter started a sort of improv, back and forth type thing, where they talked to each other about the Queen of Hearts, and interacted with us, asking questions and giving us little tasks – like painting the roses red. Yes, the song was still in my head.
They stayed in character the entire time. It kind of reminded me of Disneyland – when you meet the characters in the parks. Occasionally someone would pop up on the screen behind and join in the conversation too. At one point it was Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, then we saw the Cheshire Cat, and eventually the Queen herself came on screen, insisting everyone lose their heads for eating her jam.
It was a little hard to follow at times, but still a lot of fun to watch, even if you couldn’t always work out what they were saying. When the show ended about 45 minutes later, all the kids jumped up on the table to have their photos taken with the actors. I was super jealous.
We headed off to have a look around the rest of the garden centre, which was incredibly beautiful. I noticed they do an Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea in their cafe, so I can’t wait to go back and try that next.