A popular tea room whose customers include stars such as Helena Bonham Carter and Jarvis Cocker is to close.

Owners Gordon and Birthe Chater are retiring from The Mock Turtle in Pool Valley, Brighton, next month after more than 30 years of cooking up some of the best brews and cakes in the city.

The couple, whose business has come to typify all the best in traditional seaside tea rooms, has decided to leave the kitchen in pursuit of some long-overdue time off, catching up with friends and relatives and travelling abroad.

The announcement has left some of their most loyal customers in tears.

Mr Chater, 69, said: We feel very sad about it but we cannot go on forever.

"I am five years over the retirement age already and I feel we need to do a few other things before I fade away.

"We put a board up recently saying we were going and some of the customers nearly fell down weeping.

"We have been here so long now we are part of the background of Brighton but there comes a time when you have to pull the plug and that time is now."

Mr and Mrs Chater took over the business in 1972.

They opened on the first day to gale-force winds and have been turning out freshlycooked produce ever since.

The apple cakes are made with fruit from orchards in Eastbourne, hand-picked by staff and served with cream from Guernsey cows.

Mrs Chater sticks to the savoury recipes while her husband perfects the selection of between 20 and 30 sweets.

Their business has attracted the attention of tourists, Korean film crews and families from across Sussex.

The cafe's reputation has won the owners a host of celebrity customers, including actors Peter Ustinov and Oliver Reed and, more recently, actress Helena Bonham Carter and ex-Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker.

Mr Chater admits the decision to leave has been a difficult one as both he and his wife try to cope with the thought of not firing up the ovens each morning.

But the pair remain buoyed by the success of their business and the sentiments of their customers and staff.

Mr Chater said: "We have tried to run the kind of place we would like to go to ourselves.

"We like home-made stuff and a cosy old-fashioned atmosphere and we have also tried to make it friendly.

"I still love making cakes after all these years but I am looking forward to the opportunity to do other things."

Monday, January 9, 2006