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We ended up in Totnes almost by accident. The day started out on a jolly steam train ride on the South Devon Railway from Buckfastleigh to the outskirts of Totnes. I have a soft spot for steam trains, and there’s something childlike and magical about riding on them. So the intention was to ride back. But we realised we had a couple of hours until the last train, and realising that the centre of Totnes was only 10 minutes walk away, we force marched the children into Totnes.

I’ve no recollection of going to Totnes before, though I’m sure I must have done so as a child. The narrow, hilly and windy roads with many locally owned independent shops are worthy of exploration, and at some point I’ll need to go back to spend more time there.

So after some time spent going up and down hills the time was right to source a cream tea. There are plenty of establishments to choose from, so I could easily spend a few days partaking and reviewing all their delights. We went into a couple towards the top of the hill on the main drag, but on inquiry it was established their scones were not home made. As a result, they were not to benefit from my custom.

About half way down the hill the first offspring noticed a cafe down a side alley, or to be precise, a terrace. Hence the aptly named “The Terrace Coffee Shop”. It has a small outside seating area, with an inside that is clean, but world weary.

On initial inquiry the good news was forthcoming that their scones were home made, and Brucey bonus they had a choice of fruit or plain scones. The jam was bought in, but home made jam is a rare treat. Therefore the cream tea was ordered with the fruit scone option. I was a silly arse and forgot to note the price, but I do remember it was reasonable.

When the tea turned up it was well presented, two scones, good quantity of cream and jam, complete with a delicate china cup. Unfortunately one of the scones was plain rather than fruit. A quick word with the proprietor led to the immediate promise of rectification.

It was at that point I became concerned.

There is a large fridge next to the door. I noticed with concern the proprietor heading towards said cooling facility and subsequently remove a Tupperware box, replete with numerous scones. A scone was extracted which then proceeded towards what might have been a discretely hidden microwave oven, possibly for the purposes of warming, but at the last minute it was diverted in a plate-ward direction. The plate, now with a brace of fruit scones, was returned to me.

I now had one slightly warm scone and one cold scone. Not a good start, especially as I was now making the assumption that the not cold scone had achieved its state via the medium of microwave radiation rather than a freshly baked scenario. It was therefore with some trepidation that I proceeded to the construction phase. To bolster my spirits for the upcoming task I tried the tea. To be brief, not unpleasant.

The scones were exceptionally crumbly, so I had to proceed very carefully with the slicing. Despite being a clumsy arse, I was able to slice the scones so they remained intact. But as a result, the decision was made to experiment, and build the scones both ways.

I tried the cream first method. The scone integrity was under serious threat going that way, so the second scone was definitely jam first. As you’ll see from the picture, my construction skills were left wanting this time around, but I pray forgiveness due to the consistency of the cream and the fragility of the scone. I hope you’ll bless me with your absolution.

I took a bite of the first scone. The scone was somewhat dry. I say “somewhat”. What I mean is that I felt the moisture evacuating my mouth and my cheeks being sucked in, only to be suddenly relieved by the upcoming moistness of the cream and jam, resulting in my cheeks popping back out to their usually chubby form. I like the word “moist”, so to be able to shoe-horn it into this review gave me some pleasure. More pleasure than the scone experience, I can honestly say. Suffice to say I offered to share my scones with the first born. That’s not a common occurrence, safe to say it’s because I’m a greedy bugger when it comes to scones.

I left the establishment seriously questioning the freshness of the scones. I’m sure they were home made, but I’m unsure as to when they were home made. We made our way back to the heritage railway, and we returned on a lovingly restored diesel engine, whilst I rued the wasted cream tea opportunity.

4 / 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the past few years I have consumed a few cream teas across the country and watched my waist line go up and down like an indecisive balloon. I am more world weary than ever, but a return to Devon for the first time in many a year has inspired a resurgence in my blogging genes.

I will however point out that in the intervening years I did make a return visit to the Cream Tea Cafe in Barnstaple. That experience was even better, but I’ve lost my notes, so cannot create a full blog post. Suffice to say it was a 9 1/2 out of 10, and it was so good that when I’d finished I wanted to curl up into a ball and sob like a baby because the experience was over. It was, by far, the greatest cream tea experience of my life.

But I digress. Back to 2017.

So the first establishment to benefit from my custom this week was The Flower Cafe in Plymouth. I’ve omitted to take an external shot, but it appeared jolly and welcoming so was deemed worthy of a punt.

The interior was small but perfectly formed, with an impressive display of home made cakes. On further inquiry the scones were not home made per se, but bought in from a local source. Feeling generous in my old age, as Mills Lane, the referee in Celebrity Death Match would say, “I’ll allow it”. I was not so happy, however, at the absence of fruit scones. Only plain. If you’ve read my other posts you’ll know the absence of a fruit from my scone is an immediate point deduction.

On further interrogation of the kindly proprietor (there was no need for waterboarding this time) it was determined that the jam was not home made either, though claimed to be of fine local provenance, as was the clotted cream. I must be getting old because I didn’t throw a hissy fit at that point, but instead agreed to proceed with the transaction for one of their cream teas. Locally sourced, preferably from a small independent supplier, will be deemed acceptable, though with the understanding a perfect score will never be achieved.

I was also asked what sort of tea I would like. An English Breakfast blend or something else, perhaps? Brownie points for taking the tea into consideration, many establishments fall at that hurdle. Naturally I requested their English Breakfast blend.

When the dish arrived, I noted the pleasant aroma of the scones which were warm and dressed with a light dusting of flour. I would normally find such adorations gauche, but for whatever reason, I cannot quite put my finger on, I was not offended.

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There was also just the right amount of jam and cream supplied. I abhor waste (which can also go to explaining my waist), so smiles all round for that. The tea was supplied in a pot, which I allowed to brew during the construction phase.

The first cut into the scones found them to be rather delicate, but in a good way, so much so that I fluffed my slicing of the first scone so I did not have two perfectly formed halves. My fault on that. A sample tasting found the flavour to be of a similarly delicate nature.

The decision was taken to build the scones jam first on account of the delicacy of the scones, so as not to cause further disruption to their integrity. A solid foundation of jam was equally applied across all four halves, after which the cream was spooned on, as equally as possible, with a light spreading to allow for optimum coverage. My OCD must be appeased.

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I decided, for a change, to sample the tea before diving head first into the scones. After an acceptable brewing period, the tea had a good colour to it, and after the milk and sweetener was applied (I consume enough sugar in other forms as well as lots of tea, so I use sweetener), the tasting proved to find the tea well formed and a decent cup of English Breakfast. No complaints there.

Now onto the main billing, the scones. First bite, very pleasant. A buttery, warm flavour, reasonable moistness. Jam and cream were both pleasing. A quality combination. I’m unable to find exceptional superlatives, but it was nevertheless a very pleasing experience.

So, to summarise: if you’re ever in Plymouth, I’d recommend a visit to the Flower Cafe. A good showing at 7 / 10.

 

 

 

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!

http://www.thecreamteacafe.co.uk/

Cream Tea Ho!

I saw an advert for the Tea on the Green cafe based at Westwood Ho! in the 2012 North Devon Good Food Guide. I felt it challenged me to sample their cream tea. Their website (http://www.teaonthegreen.net/) proudly proclaims that they are “Winners of The Best Tea Room in North Devon 2011/12 from the North Devon Food Awards”.

So, are they worthy of the title? Only one way to find out. Off to Westward Ho! (!)

We found the Tea on the Green cafe easily enough. It is by the sea front, by a green, just as its name implies. From the outside it was better presented than many of the establishments I have visited, and even in the late afternoon was busy, inside and out.

The interior is styled to give a 50s/60s ambience, with period music playing unobtrusively in the background. Even the menus were styled to complement the experience. I was pleased to see that it was waited service.

I headed straight for the cream tea section. Very pleased to see a range of options – fruit or plain scone – and more controversially, a savoury scone option. I stayed with my preferred fruit scone option, and reviewed the options:  cream tea for one with one scone (The Hepburn), for one with two scones (The Grant) or tea for two (The Taylor).

The waitress came to take our order and I chose “The Grant” at £5.50. I winced a little at the price – the menu claimed the scones were “very, very” large – but I’d heard that one before.

After a short time our order turned up. As my wife had ordered tea, we had a teapot for two. I was pleasantly surprised by the crockery. It was colourful, different and it looked like a lot of thought had gone into this aspect of the “Tea on the Green” experience.

When the cream tea turned up, I forgot about my slight wince at the price. The scones were of biblical proportions, with a helping of jam and cream that could feed a family. The jam was thick, with intact pieces of strawberry. The cream was not as thick as I would have expected for my usual clotted cream experience, but I was not unduly perturbed.

I felt an odd sensation, one I’ve not experience before at this intensity during my cream tea travels – excitement!

The scones were warm, fruity, with a very buttery essence. I tentatively sliced into them – it took some time to traverse their girth. The texture was good with a level of crumbliness that gave me confidence.

It was at this point I decided on a change of tactic. Due to the potential viscosity clash between the jam and cream, I decided to spread jam first. I hoped I would not come to regret this.

There was sufficient jam to spread a substantial portion for each scone half, with a little left over for a sample. The jam was sweet with a good strawberry tang.

Then came the cream. I was concerned because it was not as thick as I would have expected. Not runny, but an eyebrow of concern was raised. The sheer quantity of cream available allowed me to lavish the scones in the same manner as a lothario might lavish gifts upon a mistress, leaving the scones substantially upholstered.

I took stock of the bounty that awaited me. I was full of anticipation of the joys that were potentially moments away from my mouth. So I sampled the tea before I dived in.

I’m sorry to say I was disappointed with the tea. I don’t know what blend they were using, but it didn’t have the edge that I crave from a decent English Breakfast blend. It wasn’t offensive by any means, but I felt slightly deflated.

With no further dwelling on what might have been with the tea, I dived into the scone. I detached my lower jaw and took the first bite.

Deep joy was beholden. The sheer burst of creamy, buttery flavour from the scones made me stir and tingle in places a scone has no right to stir and tingle a gentleman. The sweetness and flavour of the jam also danced around my palette like a gyrating pole dancer. I was therefore tinged with minor disappointment that the cream could not quite make it a triumphant triumvirate of joy. Perhaps because the flavours of the scone and jam were so full-on they overwhelmed the cream’s more subtle flavour.

However, overall the package was excellent. The scones were so substantial that had it not been for my son enjoying one half of one the scones, I might have been defeated by their might. After finishing my three halves, I was ready for the birthing blanket.

So, to the final rating. I think I’ve said everything that needed to be said. I believe this tea room’s accolades are well deserved. Although I initially was concerned about the price, the sheer quantity and quality of the produce make it very good value for the money, as it is in a different league to those that I have blogged about until now. Were it not for the slight detraction of the tea and the cream, I could have seen fit to award a perfect ten.

Overall rating: 9/10

My highest rating to date. I even went as far as complimenting the proprietor for the quality of her scones. Would I travel a couple of hundred of miles to sample this again when not on holiday? I think I would!

The resurgence of the blog occurred at “The Thatch” in Croyde, North Devon. A so-called family pub boasting about its food, drinks and cream teas. The bait was cast and I was reeled in.

Once we’d worked out how to get in to order food, we worked our way through the fog of the smokers in the front garden to the far end of the pub to the food ordering station.

I enquired from the young girl taking the orders about the details of the cream tea. “One scone or two?” she asked. I enquired as to their respective prices, and for a moment she looked at me as if I was speaking in tongues. I repeated the question, and she tapped away on her screen. “£1.40 for one, £2.80 for two”. I thought that was excellent, until she said that the tea was extra. £1.95 extra, to be precise.

So I ordered, naturally, the two scone cream tea. But you don’t get a pot of tea, only a “generous” mug. It would be brought out to me. I also wanted to order beverages for the family. I was advised I’d have to order them at the bar, though when I pressed her about not wanting to have to pay twice, she reluctantly took my drink order. But I would still have to go to the bar to collect the drinks. Under no circumstances did they have the ability to put one and one together to form a decent concept of customer service and bring the cream tea AND the drinks over to us.

Marks lost for what can only be described as piss poor customer service.

After a visit to the facilities (which had quirky descriptions which made me even more irritated) I returned to find my cream tea had been delivered.

Initial assessment: well presented (a nice dusting of icing sugar), good portion of jam and cream and the scones looked good. The scones were warm with a pleasant buttery fragrance, and on cutting they were of a good texture so they maintained their consistency with just the right amount of crumbliness. Not fruit scones, but never mind. I learned later that they were home-made. Well done.

“But what about the tea?” I hear you ask. More disappointment. Firstly, it was a mug, but more parsimonious than generous. Also it was Tetley. I find Tetley tea weak and ineffectual, but never mind. But if you’re going to leave the tea bag in the mug, at least give me a bloody receptacle into which I can place the bag.

As a matter of principle due to their lack of foresight, I dumped the tea bag on the bench (we remained outside but away from the smokers).

So, back to the scones. I tried a sample of the scone. Not too bad. I’ve had worse. I constructed the scones – jam first, then cream – as is my style. Now to the serious business of eating.

The taste of the scone was quite creamy and buttery, but not quite enough to get me excited. The jam and cream had a pleasant taste to complement the scone, but I detected an undercurrent of dry texture which was disconcerting.

On closer inspection of the scone, I noted that the base of the scones were a worrying dark shade of brown to a depth of at least a millimetre, and that said base was dry and crumbly. Oh dear. I’m guessing that either the oven or the baking tray were too hot. Either way, it was a serious detraction from the experience.

So, to the verdict. Value for money at £4.75 for a two scone cream tea was quite good. As already stated, points lost for customer service. I’m being more relaxed about the fruit / plain scone thing this time around, although a fruit scone will still beat a comparable plain scone for me. Also, points lost for the whole mug of tea debacle and the curse of the overcooked base, though I’m still giving a small amount of kudos for the home-made nature of the scone.

Overall score, a just scraped 6 / 10

After another glorious day in Woolacombe, we ventured to “The Captain’s Table” for afternoon tea. Again, another establishment whose sign makers cannot grasp the simple basic concept of the apostrophe! But once again, I was in a forgiving mood. This time, my forgiving mood was rewarded.

I chose the cream tea for one. Unfortunately, I omitted to note the price, but I do remember it being reasonable. This came with two home made plain scones, a decent sized pot of tea, and a generous helping of jam and clotted cream.

Service was friendly, prompt and trusting (when it came to paying, I realised my wife had gone to a shop next door with my wallet and they were happy for me to leave and return to pay).

As you can tell from the picture, the scones were quite generous, and they had a soft (but not too soft) texture, and their flavour was very nice, fresh and buttery. The jam and cream were also full of flavour, and the combination provided my best scone based experience of the holiday.

Woolacombe’s cream tea reputation has been restored.

Overall rating: 8 / 10

( would have been 8.5, were it not for the missing apostrophe 😮 )

The last two days of our glorious Devon holiday were spent enjoying the picturesque seaside village of Woolacombe. The first day, we ventured into Normie’s Ice Cream and Coffee Shop.

The facade of Normie’s was bright and inviting, rather complementing the rather nice location of Woolacombe. After a day on the beach spent laughing at the surfers and bodyboarders in their wet suits lining up like penguins to try the rolling Devon surf, it seemed to be a treat. The promise of a Cream Tea with “Jumbo” scones was too alluring. The sign was missing the apostrophe in Normie’s, but as I was in a forgiving mood, I chose not to go postal in the presence of such an unforgiveable and basic grammatical error.

The service was at the counter, so I had to wait while the assistant collected the ingredients. Not a brilliant start, but not the end of the World. The only option was a single jumbo fruit scone tea at £2.95. I observed the scones, and immediately questioned their definition of ‘jumbo’. If the proprietor thought these scones were jumbo, then they were either easily pleased or had faced a life of constant disappointment. They were distinctly average in size. In fact, the one I was given was not only average, but unfortunately on the thin side. If it had been any thinner, it could have been considered a supermodel scone.

The ample portion of jam and cream were served in an ice cream dish, and I then commenced with the construction of the cream tea. The scone sliced easily, though I had to be careful considering its lack of girth. I tried a sample of the scone, and was immediately disappointed as the taste was as similar a let-down as that experienced by someone who thought they were lucky enough to get a Michael Jackson ticket at the Dome last year.

I loaded up the cream and jam, and on eating, I could taste cream, jam, sultanas and very little else. The only saving grace was that the ambience of the place was nice, and it wasn’t that dump in Combe Martin. Perhaps I should have gone postal about the apostrophe after all.

Overall rating: 5 / 10