Sunday, 14 July 2013

Where to eat? The Bridge Tea Rooms, Bradfod on Avon

Last September on our way back from Cornwall we stayed two days in  Bradford on Avon and Bath. In Bradford we had the opportunity to eat fantastic lunch in a traditional tea room - a place that has been awarded many times and for me this is the best example of how tea room should be run like. 

The building itself is dating from 1502 and this makes this place quite specific - not too spacious, with low ceilings and exposed beams, you can also hear every single step from the first floor. Tables are situated on the ground and first floor, there is not too many of them (still enough to cater for 45 people!), so if you are desperate to eat during the high season then better book in advance. 

 For me this is a quintessential English tea in good old style: delicate bone china, subtle classical music in the background, fresh flowers, antique furniture and also... a sculpture of Queen Victoria proudly exposed in the spotlight. An  interesting touch is also made by waitresses dresses in Victorian style outfits typical for the servants that old days. They also behave in very friendly way, like the customers were just a bunch of friends coming to a tea, still with a professional touch though. They are warm, friendly, very happy to help and advice and answer your questions.   

I was in many British tea rooms over the years but the selection of teas in this particular one was the most impressive. They have over 30 varieties and blends! And they know how to make a proper brew. They serve good quality leaf teas, with extra hot water on the side and a strainer. I was really spoiled with their selection but finally decided to go Jane Austen blend (she spend several years in Bath nearby) and my partner had very tasty and strong Assam.

For a lunch we both had one of the afternoon teas from the menu - these start at basic one (scones, clotted cream, preserves and tea) but also menu offers a great variety of different ones: including a savoury one or one with a glass of champagne.  We had the savoury one - scone with herbs (served warm), Cheddar, Stilton and Camembert, butter, celery sticks, apple, grapes and chutney. And a pot of tea of our choice (as above). It was our food heaven. It tasted great, the selection of cheese was spot on, so was the scone, slightly toasted the way I like. Although we were really full after having this savoury afternoon tea we had to finish it off with something sweet. 

 We shared a traditional cream tea. It is not stated that it is big enough for two, but it was big enough not only to sample, but to get a satisfying dessert for both of us. We had two big fluffy scones, two jams - strawberry and blackcurrant and my beloved clotted cream (traditionally made in Devon and Cornwall - Protected Designation of Origin). With this one we had a tea blend called  Empress of Pecking - a medium strength China tea with an aroma of orange blossom and citrus fruits. 

On the  menu apart from the traditional afternoon teas and very impressive cakes exposed in the glass chilled cabinets there are some savoury bits available too such as traditional sandwiches (egg & cress, bacon, lettuce & tomato), red onion & goat cheese tart, jacked potatoes or soup of the day. Until 11.30 am you can also eat traditional English breakfasts: Full Monty, eggs benedictine, or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon). The tea room is also available for private parties.

If you are a lover of tea, if you like old fashion touch and fancy an afternoon in a tranquil environment then this is a right place for you. If you are a tourist and want to see something quintessentially English then again - this is a right place for you. I will definitely go back there one day. 

The Bridge Tea Rooms 
24a Bridge Street 
Bradford on Avon
BA15 1BY
tel. 01225 865537

Monday - Friday  9.30 - 5.30
Saturday 9.30 - 6.00
Sunday 11.00 - 5.30

We had: savoury afternoon tea £9.75 each, sweet £6.65, all the prices can be found on their website. There is also children's menu available.   

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Where to eat? The Temple Cafe, Northton, Isle of Harris

My partner and I knew the shops and petrol stations are closed on Sundays on Outer Hebrides but me – enthusiastic (and naive as it turns out) foodie managed to convince him that apart from few bottles of mineral water stuck in our cool box (it was a hot day) we shouldn’t take anything else and some places will be serving lunches. Yeah right… 

We headed south from Seaforth, where we stayed (a beautiful spot!) and we passed one open bar in Tarbert however it was still too early to have a lunch. The further south we traveled on Harris the more we realised it is nothing but a desert when it comes to serving food. All cafes, pubs, galleries serving snacks were closed. My partner spotted a place with several car parked outside and we decided we are going to check it out. I was so hungry I would settle for a sandwich made with cotton wool like bread, margarine, coloured cheddar served with crisps (probably my worst nightmare sandwich idea ever!). Instead we actually had very tasty and fresh food for lunch in rather interesting place.

Interior is very cosy, big enough to accommodate and serve food to around 20 people. The building is made of stone and looks like an ancient temple indeed. One side is made of glass and the view is spectacular. The best that Harris can offer: hills, sea, lovely sand. And sheep grazing peacefully. An idyll. 

I was very happy to see an open kitchen too. It is tiny and three people make a crowd in it and I was delighted to see it has a coffee grinder, homemade bread and fresh vegetables. We had lovely lunch and were very happy to discover that they serve evening meals too, so we booked two spaces for Friday night. Booking is essential, because the chef (and owner - Gail) is only able to serve a limited number of covers, and this place is not very spacious too. On Friday night we have witnessed people being send back because they didn't book and the cafe was fully booked that night.

Menu is short, which I like - it means all food is freshly prepared in tiny kitchen (they have some kind of storage outside too, that gives you an idea how small the kitchen actually is) and if they run out of something it comes off the blackboard and chef has to prepare new lot. No frozen nonsense, no microwaved defrosted crap. In the evening they serve food from 6.30 pm and when we arrived just before 7 pm the scallops and chorizo came off the menu already! What a shame! The choice was still satisfying though. In general I think there are always (well at least at 6.30pm) three starters, three mains and few desserts including a cheeseboard to choose from. Oh, and you bring your own booze. The cafe is not licensed to serve alcohol, but they are more than happy to serve you a wine or beer glasses so you can enjoy whatever you brought with you. By the way - the glasses are mismatched. So are the plates. Love it. My kind of place.

For a lunch we had squash, sweet potato, pea and coconut soup served with homemade bread, followed by summer vegetable tart (with caramelised onion, roast peppers, courgettes). Both dishes were very tasty - soup was rich, well seasoned, with chunks of vegetables and the bread was fresh. Tart base was very crumbly, not soaked in egg and cream mixture (very popular for some reason?) and the vegetables were al dente. It was served with couscous,  salad, olives and chickpeas. For a dessert we decided to have a coffee (excellent, freshly ground and they have a soya milk, yay! Perfectly steamed and frothy) and my partner had a white chocolate and raspberry scone while I was really keen to have a carrot cake. Unfortunately it was not available yet still on a blackboard, so one of the girls (south European looking, so was her accent) asked me if I fancy chocolate cheesecake because she can make it for me. So 5 minutes later I had very simple, improvised cheesecake which was basically a stack of digestives, sweet cream cheese topped with melted chocolate. Top score for trying to make a customer happy. 

For a dinner we both started with a selection of charcuterie, olives and bread. It was served with a caramelised red onion. For a main my partner had a beef goulash and I had a veggie lasagne. I was surprised (I shouldn't really as this is quite common in UK to serve potatoes with pasta dishes - for me personally it doesn't work) to get a roast new potatoes with my lasagne, but these were happily consumed by my partner and I thoroughly enjoyed pasta dish served with raw vegetable salad and courgette & carrot ribbons. What a lovely raw salad it was! Fresh, crunchy, sweet, peppery - thousands of light-years away from a boring and most popular traditional Coleslaw. 

For a dessert I finally got to try their carrot cake. It was scrumptious. Quite light, not too sweet with slightly salty topping. Probably the best one I had in a long, long time. Not too big too, for me it is an advantage, but my partner had to order another sticky toffee pudding to be satisfied. With all meals, lunch or dinner time we had water - you can get mineral water, but it is worth trying Hebridean tap water.

This certainly isn't a place serving parmesan foam or snail porridge, but what you will find here is what I call- honest food. Tasty, freshly made by a woman who seems to be really excited about tasty food and good ingredients. Gail when she finishes the service comes out of the kitchen, talks to the guests, sometimes she pinches a salad dressing from one table to give it to another. I thought it was funny when she was playing with her Ipod and asked us if there is any type of music we would be offended by.

She is also very open to the various dietary requirements - vegan, gluten free, non dairy diet? No problem. The cafe also hosts private parties.

This is one of these places that I will not forget. Great spot, spectacular views, lovely atmosphere and simple, delicious food. What more would you wish for on a holiday? I recommend this place with all my heart.

We paid £30 for the lunch, and £42.50 for the evening meal and it worked like this: 2 meals £15 and 3 meals £18. Good value for money definitely.  

The Temple Cafe
HS3 3JA 
Eilean Siar
United Kingdom 
tel. 07876 340416

Closed Mondays, Tuesday - Sunday 10:30am - 5:30 pm, evening meals 6.30-9.30pm but I have an impression it is only during the summer time, so better ring and ask!

Monday, 8 July 2013

A review coming up!

It has been a while since I up dated my English blog and although not many miss it (or only few actually let me know they do) I will have a new post coming up in a couple of days. My partner and I had fabulous holidays in Outer Hebrides and we have found a cafe that deserves a review. Gail - the owner and chef seemed to be really excited about me writing a review and I was so happy about the quality of food and the atmosphere so I though it would be nice to write it in English too - for the lovely girls that looked after us and hopefully for you too - perhaps you are planning a holiday on Outer Hebrides and looking for a places to eat. That certainly was one of the most interesting we visited. So stay tuned! 

I hope you are all OK folks. To be totally honest - I miss my English blog, but simply don't have time to carry on - that's life...

Take care of yourself, eat well and be merry. :)