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!


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

I should have written this last year, but managed to lose my notes! However, I have now found them. So, for your reviewing pleasure, two more reviews!

Firstly, a home brew on holiday.

Considering the amount of clotted cream I had left over from the last review, I thought it might be a good idea to use it on a home brew. Having purchased a packet of 6 ‘Rowan Hill Bakery’ scones (£1 from Lidl!) a couple of days earlier, and being in possession of some squeezy Hartley’s jam, it was too good an opportunity to waste.

The cream was still as fresh the next day, and the Hartley’s jam is rather nice. So it was down to the scones.

I opened the pack, which was still within 2 days of use by, and was pleasantly surprised by the butter odour coming from the scones. They were fruit scones, and an initial nibble did not let me down with a rich butter taste, pleasant texture and plenty of currents / sultanas. The scone sliced easily without crumbling. Once combined with the jam and afore mentioned cream, it was indeed very nice.

The ‘Rowan Hill Bakery’ scones are excellent value for money and highly recommended, if you can face the prospect of shopping in Lidl to get them.

Overall rating: 7.5 / 10

Sorry, no images for this cream tea!

The next cream tea for review is of the take out variety, for assembly and consumption at home. Will it be an Ikea tea, or fail like MFI?

The location was The Old Cream Shop at The New Bakehouse in Croyde, Devon. Croyde is an idyllic North Devon coastal village with surfers queueing like penguins for a fleeting moment on the crest-ette of a wave. Anyhoo, I digress ….

We entered the shop at 5:55. The sign on the door said “closes at 6”, so we had 5 minutes. A ‘caution, wet floor’ warning cone had been placed in the doorway as an attempt at a deterrent for last minute customers. It will take more than that to keep me from a cream tea. On entering the shop and reviewing the selection of ice creams for the children, I could over hear a less than subtle conversation between the two teenage girls behind the pasty counter hinting that the shop closed at 6. I ignored them.

After ice creams had been selected, I turned my attention to the take out cream tea at £2.95 for two scones, with jam and clotted cream. There was an option of a 4 scone tea, which although tempting, for consistency I went for the double scone option. Again, no fruit scones were available, which disappointed me, but considering the lateness of the hour, I forgave them. I was also offered a plastic knife, which I declined as I was going to construct this back at the cottage.

On inspection I noted two good sized home-made looking scones, possibly wholemeal, a pot with a generous helping of strawberry jam and a pot of Langage Farm clotted cream. Back at the cottage I assembled the cream tea – the jam was more than sufficient, and there was enough cream for at least a third, maybe fourth scone. The scones cut nicely and smelled nice, and an initial taste found them to be buttery with a nice hint of a crunch on the edge. Overall the combination worked well, tasty jam, cream and scones.

At £2.95, even taking into account the lack of tea as it is a take away, I would say that it was good value for money.

Overall rating for the take away cream tea: 7.5 / 10.