Category Archives: Out and about

Review of Yaxley vintage tearoom

Sophie T’s Vintage Tearoom opened in Yaxley, Peterborough, a few months ago and it’s already become very popular with the locals, including me! I first read about it in the Yaxley Gazette and had my first cuppa there 24 hours later – I couldn’t wait to see whether it was going to be a welcome addition to a village that, whilst having a large population has a woeful number of places for tea and cake (or coffee or sandwiches for that matter). Sophie’s is run by Lynn and when I first visited I recognised her husband, Andrew, who was helping out with the weekend rush, immediately – we were at infant, junior and secondary school together!! Also checking out the tea and cakes that weekend was another amazing reminder of my childhood in Yaxley – the wife of our wonderful head teacher, Mr Ash, who lives in Yaxley. This brought back such memories for me – I loved Yaxley infant and junior school (liking school wore off by age 12!) despite being forced to eat cabbage on Day 1 and getting my first (and I have to confess, last) detention from Mr Ash for talking in the dinner queue. Oh Happy Days!!

Lynn and Andrew have kitted Sophie’s out like a vintage living/dining room with well-worn furniture and even vintage hats and coats hanging from the coat hooks. There is a vast array of mismatched vintage crockery – I love the tea cups all hanging on the wall and the wonderful tiered cake stands (which are available to buy). There are vintage newspapers on each tea table too, a nice touch.

Lynn serves soup, sandwiches, eggs/beans on toast plus, of course, scones with jam and cream and a selection of homemade cakes. On previous visits I’ve tried the sandwiches and soup which were both very good. Last weekend I finally got to try a piece of cake – which was a difficult choice because they all looked so inviting. I plumped for a piece of coffee and walnut layer cake and, to my surprise, so did Mr Tea – he always maintains it’s not a cake he likes but he was seduced by the depth of coffee buttercream in the middle and neither of us were disappointed. It was sweet, moist, rich with coffee and most definitely the nicest slice of coffee and walnut cake since I last tasted my Nan’s version, circa 1982.

There is a function room upstairs which is available to hire and this is also kitted out like an old fashioned dining room. A piano was a new addition downstairs and a lovely gent was playing Christmas songs whilst we ate; what with the twinkly lights in the window and a steaming pot of tea (with wonderful double layered, hand knitted tea cosy!) I’m only too happy to while away time in Yaxley again..many, many years after I last did so.

 

Advertisements

Love, care, family, tea, cake

This post covers a multitude of cakey sins…..(and for anyone waiting for a blog post about last night’s FABULOUS Lemony Drizzle and Tilly-Rose vintage Christmas craft soiree..I will write this up as soon as time allows..but this post is just bursting to get out..).

Yet again I return to ‘what’s it all about’, in terms of why do I bake? Why do I feed people with my cake? Why do I keep struggling to fit this in with my full-on day job?

A few things have strengthened my conviction that it’s all about love, care, family, tea, cake…

1. Nine year’s ago (9!) I wrote out all my favourite recipes, in gold/glitter ink no less, in one of those fancy moleskine notebooks (which were probably new on the scene, back in 2002) as a Christmas gift for some friends. I wondered (worried, even) at the time whether they would appreciate the time, effort, care and love that went in to digging out all my recipes (from my notebooks and my memory) and writing them down, long hand. I categorised the recipes into starters/soups, mains, and desserts, cakes, chocolates etc. Only 1 recipe out of the collection was ‘untried’. Anyway, I’ve barely thought of this collection of loved foods since 2002 – until this week. I had dinner with the said friends (don’t you love old, tried, tested friendships?) and ‘A’ dug out the notebook – now splattered with foody splodges and with the pages wedged with additional notes and recipes pulled from magazines and newspapers. Yes they use the book; yes they have tried (and now love) many of my recipes and yes, they did indeed appreciate the time, effort, care and love that went in to producing that low cost gift back when we were all a little bit younger. Think about that as you’re rushing around the high street looking for gifts this festive season……….

2. It’s very, very rare that myself and Mr Tea frequent a tea room or cafe that we truly feel ticks all the tea/cake boxes. Today we did and so I’m more than happy to give it a plug in the hope that business picks up for this new establishment in these economically hardened times. The place is Margaret’s – it’s on Wentworth St in the centre of Peterborough. Who’d have thought that my home town would FINALLY, FINALLY, get a decent, non-chain tea room right in the City centre. The tea room is named after one of the owner’s mothers. There are pictures of Margaret and her family dotted around the place – now, perhaps you’re thinking, Oh God No!!!! But the photos are simply wonderful,nostalgic, limited in number and placed on a couple of stylish, vintage pieces of furniture. There is fashionable wall paper, crisp white tablecloths, a superb display of mouth watering, homemade cakes under  stunning glass cloches, little hand written notices on the tables inviting you to eat warm scones and clotted cream. The menu includes an impressive list of loose leafed teas – we had the house/Margaret’s blend and it was VERY flavoursome, served in a large white tea pot. Margaret’s manages to combine love, care, effort, family – with style, thoughtful/ethical food (some locally sourced) and excellent, friendly service. It’s just a shame that I’d had a big breakfast and couldn’t sample the cake! But I will be back – hop along and try it out yourselves to ensure Margaret’s is a local success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed this week by the Editor of  the local Nene Living magazine. She’s writng a feature on vintage tea rooms (and it was she that told me about Margaret’s) and wanted a few Lemony Drizzle thoughts about why they are popping up all over the place. So I waxed lyrical about nostalgia, the importance of community and coming together in difficult times (well, did you hear the Chancellor’s budget statement this week? Don’t get me started…). I said that taking afternoon tea is an INCLUSIVE affair – I get many men attending my tea parties for a good natter and a slice of cake and I’ve seen ‘strangers’ in Sophie T’s vintage tea room in Yaxley (another great place I will review properly at some point) lean across and chat to people at the next table (how rare is that?). I’ve had guests get rather tearful when they see my beautiful tea sets because it reminds them of the china their own mothers or grandmothers used. My china is almost all sourced from within my own and Mr Tea’s family attics and I think of my nearest and dearest EVERY time I use it. Love, care, family…

4. Finally on this topic (for the time being!)….I’ve taken the plunge and applied for the next series of the BBC’s Great British Bake-Off! Well..why not – I’m a show off, and not only do I love to bake (had you guessed?) I love to FEED people and see them eating and oohing and aahing over my cakes (when all goes well anyway) so I’d love to have a go on the telly though I have NO illusions about getting very far because the standard is going to be incredibly high in the next series, even if I manage to get picked. The application asked for details about my ‘signature’ bake (I don’t have one, yet), family anecdotes and recipes etc…. so again I got to talk about the importance of love, care, family, tea and cake, cake and more cake! Who knows what the producers will think – but I do know I wrote the application from the heart – and not once did I talk about ‘my journey’ – something Mr Tea absolutely baulks at on these reality shows!

Ta ta for now….I’m off to bake a Victoria sponge for my own lovely Mother’s birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday Mum x x

 

Harvey Nicholl’s disappointing tea experience!

Hello cake lovers…I just thought I’d share an email I received from a lovely friend of Ms Drizzle about her disappointment at the afternoon tea experience offered by Harvey Nicks in London. You’d think they’d know a thing or two about quality and tradition but it would seem not…. !

Here’s an extract from the email:

“It was only £22 ph so not as expensive as the Ritz etc and it did say it was Tea with a modern twist.The savoury selection was served on a piece of square orange plastic with a tiny item of food in each corner. A bagel with smoked salmon, an egg roll, half a small bagel with beef on it and a tiny bit of bread dripping in oil with one cherry tomato, a bit of cheese and half a basil leaf. The sweet stuff arrived on a wooden platter which was a chocolate truffle cake with blue candy floss on top, an orange macaroon, the tiniest bit of red battenburg, a small almond slice and two tiny scones, which we all saved for last as they did al least come with clotted cream and jam. Our friend said he was getting a really bitter taste, and it had said on the menu that the chef was using spelt flour so of course it tasted bitter none of us could finish it. The only good thing was the tea, i chose a lavender one which was very nice. I am obviously a traditionalist and will not be going back to Harvey Nicholls as it really was not worth the money..”

Blue candy floss?!! That made me chuckle. And only £22 per head….I could offer a much better culinary and taste experience for quite a bit less – sometimes it’s best not to tamper with tradition – unless you really do know what you’re doing!

Happy baking x

Does size matter?

When it comes to cake, does the size of the slice matter? This has been on my mind since having a delicious slice of lemon curd and fresh cream sponge at a lovely little tearoom in Burnham Market in North Norfolk last week. Mr Tea ordered one of his favourites, Victoria sponge with jam and fresh cream. I knew when I saw the small slither that Mr Tea would not be impressed!  The look on his face said it all!! He maintains that it’s not greed that led to this disappointment (hhmmm), but the thought he’s not getting good value for his hard earned pennies. The cakes were both moist, with plenty of filling and were not a disappointment, but I must admit, I also felt cheated. So I’ve become a bit Carrie Bradshaw and have continued to ponder whether size really does matter. Maybe when it comes to cake we just can’t equate a measly portion with enjoying our indulgence. Anyway, be assured, there will be NO small slices of any cake served at a Lemony Drizzle tea party!!

Torta di Pescha

We had a wonderful time at ‘Ecco la cucina’ near Siena whilst on holiday. Six of us spent the morning cooking with chef Gina Stipo, and learning lots about Tuscan food, as well as Tuscan men and their mothers!  Fascinating! I learnt how to make gnocchi, a new thing for me though some of my friends had made it before. Gina thought we did a pretty good job of the little potato dumplings, which we enjoyed with a tomato and ricotta sauce. This was preceded by fried sage and courgette flowers, fried in a simple, light batter. The gnocchi were followed by a wonderful roast chicken dish, with lots of caramelised lemon, herbs and roasted summer vegetables. Simply delicious. Dessert came courtesy of a lush torta di pescha, or peach cake. By far the nicest cake I had in Italy! This had very little flour in it and LOTS of ripe juicy peaches and nectarines. I would serve this type of cake with a dollop of creme fraiche, double cream or even ice cream but this being Tuscany they just don’t ‘do’ dairy/lactic lusciousness! It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the pud though and I’ll certainly be recreating the torta di pescha at home, perhaps trying it with apples rather than peaches this Autumn.

Back from my Tuscan travels

Well what a lovely week was had in Tuscany, Italy. We stayed with friends in an amazing farmhouse villa in the middle of nowhere. Delighted to find that ‘Nonna’, who lived next door and was an elderly, very elegant Italian grandmother, had left us a huge madeira-type cake as a welcome to our holiday home – but….. this was SO dry and was the first indication that Tuscans just don’t do luscious cakes. I spoke to a local chef, an Italian American who has lived in the region for more than 10 years about the disappointing cakes I tried in Tuscany and she agreed they were generally disappointing. She felt this might be because Tuscans have a ‘just good enough’ attitude to food – not feeling the need to add extra sugar or butter to make things taste good. Well it certainly saved me from eating extra calories last week!

Ms H’s Hitchin tea party

I must tell you about the wonderful tea party I was invited to last Saturday. It was organised by my good friend H, in anticipation of her forthcoming nuptials. So, a hen party? yes but a very civilised one on a gloriously warm and sunny day. The wonderfully laid table and food were provided by Posh Plates and Posies in Hitchin, Herts. The centre piece posies were fabulous and I particularly liked the mackerel and horseradish sandwiches. We enjoyed scones with jam and cream and I also tried my first ever ‘thunder and lightening’. Never heard of it? No neither had I; try black treacle with clotted cream on a scone – I quite enjoyed it! This was followed by raspberry meringues, lemon drizzle cake, gorgeously frosted cupcakes and washed down with some splendid tea. Good luck to H – I’m sure she’s going to put on her own tea parties once she’s a married woman!

http://katherine.food.officelive.com/default.aspx

Out and about in Stamford

So where was I…. ah yes today’s walkabout in Stamford, one of my favourite places around here. As always, Mr Tea and I started with a coffee at the Fine Food Stores. They sell the most amazing cakes… my fave is the white chocolate and banana, but I’m also partial to their courgette cake. Yes vegetables grated into a cake… lovely and moist with a big dollop of frosting. Yummo as my Aussie mates would say. I like the Fine Food Store because it’s so laid back and yet the service (and the food) are second to none. It gets rather busy but we can usually elbow our way to a table. This great place is run by Jenny and her team. Website is a little bizarre and certainly does not do them credit. But go along and try the cake…. you will not be disappointed!

http://www.thefinefoodstore.com/coffeeshop

After the caffeine hit we amused ourselves around the myriad of vintage and charity shops in Stamford and I picked up some great glass bowls for holding jam and cream and a cake stand. I paid around £7 for the lot! Bargains to be had. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that as you’ll snap them all up and they’ll be none left for me!

Mr Tea dragged me out for a cheeky glass of pinot grigio this evening and we started to think why don’t we hold Top Secret Tea Parties in our very own summerhouse down the bottom of the garden….. it’ll be like being in a beach hut with a gang of friends – and of course if the weather is good our guests can all sit in the garden and just run back inside if it rains…. hhmmm something to think about.