The millennial tea trend meets British pub food in an historic Ontario village house in Ilderton with the arrival of The Village Teapot. Add a splash of craft beer, wine and the occasional roast supper inside a cozy two-room parlour and you have the makings of a relaxing experience.
The venture is the result of a new business partnership between two self-declared “moms”, Gaynor Deeks and Jana Yassine. They met through their children, who attended the same Oakridge neighbourhood school in London, developed a friendship and discovered they both had a passion for cooking. Deeks had operated a home daycare while Yassine was a full-time stay-at-home parent after managing a London hotel. Both had some customer service background and so when Deeks’s employment was winding down, they decided that the years of talking about opening a restaurant was ready to go to the next level.
In early spring of 2017 they assumed the lease on an empty restaurant in an 1800s building in Ilderton after “falling in love with the house” says Deeks. Their families pitched in to help renovate the space, adding an accent of red throughout, with seating for 32. The hardwood floors and simple tables provide a cheery atmosphere.
The Village Teapot opened in June 2017 and the new business owners say they quickly learned their first hard lesson. “Get your feet wet first and learn the ropes of your business before your grand opening,” says Yassine. Deeks nods enthusiastically in agreement. “Do a soft opening,” is her advice to other first-time restaurant owners. However, neither have any regrets despite the exhaustion of serving 90 people in the first few hours of opening their doors. “I would just say go for it,” says Yassine. “We could have sat back with many reasons why we shouldn’t do it but we jumped in. We are confident we have a good product and, as they say, if you build it they will come,” she adds.
They humbly describe their food as “honest and simple” but it is far more delightful then they give themselves credit for. Their signature scones are light and airy, served warm in several flavours: cheddar chive, raisin, cranberry lemon and plain. These are high quality, flavourful biscuit-like cakes that can be ordered on their own or as part of a Cream Tea service which includes clotted cream and preserves. The scones are also served alongside homemade soups, and sold for take-away by the dozen.
Cornish pasty are also house-made. These famous British “all in one meal” pastry pockets are stuffed with a variety of fillings including ground beef with vegetables; spinach and feta; sausage, scrambled egg, cheese and mushroom; and a vegetarian version that includes leeks, potatoes and seasonings in a creamy sauce.
Another traditional British staple, the simple yet satisfying sausage roll, is a popular menu item which is also available for take-away. The duo also sell their sausage rolls and scones at the Ilderton Farmer’s Market in season. They are busy outside of the teahouse hours with catering.
A traditional tea triple platter and a ploughman’s lunch is a lovely way to experience the Teapot’s yummy slow-roasted ham sandwiches alongside devilled egg, artisan cheeses with chutney, pickled onion, veggies with dip and desserts including Shaw’s Ice Cream, butter tarts, cookies and more.
No afternoon tea is complete without a wide choice of teas. The Village Teapot offers at least 10 specialty teas in silk pyramid tea bags to enhance flavor release, served in individual red pots. “I feel like I’m in a candy store, taking the teas out of the jars”, says Deeks as she happily fills pots from the high bar counter. They also offer French press coffee, local craft beers and wines as well as sodas. Special occasion seasonal teas are planned for Easter and Mother’s Day. “Tea is really coming back with the younger age group,” says Yassine.
A roast dinner is offered the first Sunday of the month. Past dinners have featured a traditional roast beef, lamb, and turkey.
Both Deeks and Yassine share the cooking and front of house service roles with help from one staff member. This past year they had the honour of hosting CBC London Morning for a live remote broadcast. As well, they have put on a fashion show, bridal showers and hosted the popular Red Hat Society.
Now, after almost a year in business, the women say what they enjoy most is the friendships they have made with customers, and being their own bosses. Their other advice to new business partners? “Make sure you really like each other,” says Yassine with a laugh. It is clear these two are successfully managing friendship with entrepreneurship while providing a delicious new destination.
Wednesday to Thursday: 10:30 am–3:30 pm
Friday: 10:30 am–7:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10 am–2 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Bruce Fyfe is a frequent photographer for Eatdrink and is Head, User Experience & User Services, Western Libraries for Western University.