Lavender N’ Lace

Lavender N’ Lace

What Every Tea Room Dreams of Being

BY MARIALICE QUINN

Since 1991, a beautifully restored 1920s cottage sitting serenely on picturesque Lake Alfred has been home to the Lavender N’ Lace Tea Room, where the Victorian ambiance and an antique china collection take you back to the simpler times of years gone by.

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Owners Hafeez and Sehar “Sarah” Bajway serve gourmet teas and delicious entrees made with the freshest ingredients. Spectacular homemade cakes and pastries are baked in the internationally-renowned bakery by pastry chef Sarah.

After your delicious lunch, a visit to the Gift Shop will satisfy your appetite for shopping with thousands of unusual, hard-to-find items and antiques to browse.

And desserts. Lots of desserts – every one of them made from scratch. Hummingbird Cake, Orange Italian Creme Cake, French Silk Pie and Chocolate Ganache. Two sisters, Carline and Nicole, help Sarah in the kitchen, and “have helped me take it to the next level. All the staff is what makes me last for 25 years. There’s no way one person can do it. I’ve been fortunate that I have found people who I can rely on.”“Because I’m from Pakistan, we brought some of our seasoning into our dishes, but mostly our recipes are for the southern palate,” said Sarah. “We learn as we go. We do specials every week; and if it becomes a huge favorite, then we make that a part of the menu. But we still have our basic dishes that we’re known for and that everybody comes for, such as our house salad, Cottage Pie, Country Chicken, Puff Pastry and Chicken Salad. Those things we cannot touch.”

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Born in Pakistan, Sarah joined Hafeez, an English Merchant Marine Shipping Captain, as he sailed the seas and traveled the world. In her shipboard kitchen, Sarah honed her cooking skills, often reflecting the influences of the many countries they visited. At times she took over the ship’s kitchen and fed the crew, much to their delight.

On a visit to Lake Alfred years ago, Sarah fell in love with the city and told Hafeez this is where she wanted to settle. He asked her what they would do in such a small town, and though she didn’t know, she did know Lake Alfred was where she wanted to live.

In 1989, after Sarah dropped off her son for his first half day at day care, she wandered across the street to a small tearoom called Lavender and Lace, where she met the owner, Joy Neugent. Sarah asked Joy if she needed any help and offered to work with her for free so she could stay busy and wait nearby to pick up her son.

The next day Sarah dropped off her son and went to work in the kitchen. “I really enjoyed that because I love to bake and I love to cook,” said Sarah. “After we finished, she asked me to come back the next day. We had such a good time. I did this for a month. She offered to pay me but I didn’t want it to become permanent. Finally, we decided to make a partnership.”

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Two years later the building burned, and Joy decided to retire. Sarah leased space from a bed and breakfast in Haines City for about a year, and then she and Hafeez decided to bring the Lavender N’ Lace into their home they were remodeling.

“I never thought of how long I would be here,” said Sarah. “It was just a process. You open something; you love it; you do it every day and you never think of stopping. Even now I don’t think of retiring. This is what I love doing. This is my passion.”

“Hafeez is a big part of this,” she added with a smile. “I’m the dreamer and he’s the doer.”

Located at 430 N. Lake Shore Way in Lake Alfred, Lavender N’ Lace is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Phone 863-956- 3998 for reservations, and check out the website at www.lavendernlacetearoom.com to see their complete menu. 

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