Earlier in the week, after escaping the Barnstaple Pannier Market, I spotted “The Cream Tea Cafe” down an alley opposite the market, although it was partially obscured by scaffolding. It’s interior looked inviting, but unfortunately it was full, so we ended up having hot dogs from the outlet opposite.
Undeterred, I enquired in the cafe if their scones were home-made. The affirmative answer piqued my interest and I resolved to return later in the week to see if the cafe was worthy of its name.
A couple of days on, and spurred by the BBC weather forecast that once again summer was unavailable, we decided to spend the afternoon in Barnstaple. My forecast was that my 3rd cream tea of the week was to be consumed some time around 3pm (which turned out to be more accurate than the BBC’s forecast).
The cafe projected an ambience of a comfy, traditional English tea room. Service was at the table, which made me instantly happy. After a couple of minutes perusing the menu, the proprietor came over and took our order. Naturally, I ordered the cream tea. The only option was the two scone tea at £4.95, though there was a choice of fruit or plain scone. If there had been a single scone option, I may have considered it as I was still at happy tummy levels from lunch. My daughter couldn’t decide on the cake she wanted, so the proprietor took her up to the counter to peruse the goodies (she would have had them all if she had her way). I liked the personal touch and my initial feelings were good about this place.
When the tea arrived my initial impressions were good. Medium sized fruit scones, substantial portion of clotted cream and a pot of jam that was not as thick as others I’ve had, but from my experience its consistency gave all the impressions of being home-made. There was loose leaf tea in the pot, and an individual strainer was provided. Nice. Quality traditional china as well.
I proceeded upon assembly. Scones weren’t warm but smelled fresh. Easy to cut, very little crumbliness with a firm, but not too firm feel to them. I resorted to my preferred assembly method of cream first. I slathered on the cream to form a good foundation, there was so much cream provided I actually didn’t use it all, which is unusual for me. Then to the jam.
At first I’d been a tad concerned that there might not have been enough jam for my liking, as I do like a good portion. But its consistency allowed me to almost pour it onto the cream base, which comfortably covered the scones. The jam was also very dark for a strawberry jam, I thought it might have had some other fruit such as blackberry in it.
It was then that I tried a sample of the jam, and all bets were off.
Have you ever watched a Tom and Jerry cartoon where Tom is chasing Jerry in the garden, runs around a blind corner, steps on a rake and gets smacked in the face? That’s what it felt like for me (but in a good way) as the intense flavour of the jam smacked me round the chops. It took me a few seconds to regain the power of speech after incoherently making cooing noises.
As this is Olympic fortnight, I was hoping that the scones and cream could at least be medal contenders as the jam was a shoe-in for the gold. Before diving in, I needed a drink. After straining the tea, I found it to be a very good full-bodied blend with a satisfying bite to it.
I tried the scones. As expected, first thing to hit was the jam, but I could taste the complementing cream underneath. The scone had a good buttery flavour. It didn’t shout its presence, it was more like a polite introduction to its flavour. Texture was not as moist as some I’ve had, but it was still pleasing. The combination of flavours worked very well.
I spoke to the proprietors afterwards. Second time in a week I’ve passed on compliments for an excellent cream tea – I’ve been spoiled! I had to ask about the jam. It is home-made, apparently with a hint of lemon to add tang. It definitely works!
So, to the verdict. Nothing let the side down, it worked very well. Service and ambience were excellent. If I were to try this tea house again (and if I get the chance, one day I will) I’d like to try the scones when they were fresh out of the oven and still warm.
Overall rating: 9/10
Again, a 9 score! I asked if the cafe was worthy of its name. It most certainly is! It is definitely worthy of a very long journey to sample their wares. I hope the scaffolding comes down soon so their establishment is no longer obscured from passers-by so they too can sample that wonderful jam!