COOK by name and cook by nature, one Steyning businesswoman has turned a dream come true into an award-winning success.
Kim Cook, 32, took over Steyning Tea Rooms, in High Street, nine months ago and has turned the business around to become one of the most popular in the world.
“We have recently been awarded a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence award for 2013, which means our customers have given us such consistently great reviews that we are now among the top 10 per cent of all businesses on TripAdvisor worldwide,” she said.
“We weren’t expecting the award. We are now the number one place to eat in Steyning on TripAdvisor and 15th in West Sussex. It is a fantastic achievement for the community.”
Running a tea room had always been her dream, so when she and her husband were looking to move to Steyning from Worthing, it was ideal, has it has accommodation above.
“My husband always calls me Miss Blennerhassett, after the tea room owner in Withnail and I,” said Kim. “It fitted in with what I wanted to be doing. I was in IT before this, so it is totally different.”
She admitted it is much harder work than she thought, but she loves baking all the food for the tea rooms.
“We have not really changed the menu or the staff, but we have gradually introduced homemade jams and changed our suppliers, so we are now using local sources,” she added.
“The only product that is not local is the clotted cream from Cornwall, because it is the best.
“We have concentrated on making it a nice place for people to come. People like the atmosphere here and obviously the food.
“It is such a beautiful town, Steyning. This building is about 500 years old. It used to be a cobblers many years ago. It is a very pretty setting. We get people travelling from Portsmouth specifically to come here.”
The tea rooms offer breakfast, lunch, cakes and scones, with a specials board. There is a selection of gluten and dairy free items and the loyalty card scheme has proved popular.
Kim added: “We are coming into our first summer and we are getting busier and busier. We are finding people have to book at busy times.”
Out the back, there is a big garden, which cannot be used for customers as it is enclosed and surrounded by residential gardens.
But Kim and her husband are in the process of clearing an area to grow fruit and vegetables, so products in the tea rooms will come straight from the garden.
Kim was so keen to get her new business up and running, it was closed for only three days when they moved in.
“We moved in one day, and opened the next,” she said. “We have taken out a 10-year lease and the landlords are very happy with what we are doing, so we are hoping that can eventually be extended.”
n Steyning Tea Rooms, which has seating for 32 inside and more out the front, is open seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm.
Look out for a special offer voucher in next week’s Herald, for one free tea or coffee per person with each lunch or scone purchased.