Category Archives: Food

The Scone Chronicles XIII

And yet again – no scones.

The venue was the bookshop at Brierlow Bar and though Julia looked carefully, she could see no scones.

She did, however, buy two slices of glistening home-made cake. It looked sumptuous. And delicious. And once again I had to relearn that tough life lesson that looks can be deceptive.

As you may have noticed, I’m not the cheeriest or most modern of people and I am suspicious of change. I’m still not fully convinced that the bookshop needed a cafe, or that a crowd of people and dogs is of benefit to a bookshop with narrow passageways. I’m almost certain that anyone who parks a pram in a gangway, so that fat men with walking sticks nearly fall over getting past, should be prosecuted by social services and their children put into a gloomy gothic orphanage.

In a way it’s a shame I didn’t fall as the combination of damp floor and blocked gangway is a dream for an ambulance chasing lawyer.

Much as I despise the current compensation culture it would be fun to sue and make a few cogent comments to the court about people running cafes in a space that should be filled with books.

I’m not sure whether I would then give the money to Julia for a new polytunnel or burn it on You Tube just to prove a point. (The point being that the money wasn’t important, not that I am stupid).

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Good in Parts

Anyway, back to the cake. It was apricot and some sort of nut. Julia was in “Bear of Very Little Brain” mode and forgot the details on the way from counter to table. You’d have thought she’d have been brighter after an hour and a quarter of top flight conversation with me in the car, but apparantly not.

It tasted a bit like walnut, but there was definitely a large identifiable piece of cashew in there too.

I said: “Cashew!”

Julia said: “Bless you.”

After you’ve been married 30 years this is what passes for humour.

It was confusing cake because some of it tasted of ginger too. The top, where the glaze had soaked in, was nice and moist, but the lower two thirds was dry and quickly reverted to crumbs. Fortunately we had cake forks to deal with this problem.

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Appearances can be deceptive

To sum up, and to put my personal bias to one side, the tea was good, as it always is (made with proper leaves and a strainer), the ambience is getting better as they sort things out, the cake could have been better, but even that wasn’t too bad, and the book stock seems to have improved.

I’m actually quite impressed with what they have done at Brierlow Bar, despite my resistance to the 21st Century.

 

The Scone Chronicles XI

Another one without scones, I’m afraid.

After Wetherby Services we looped round through Teesside and drove down the coast through Saltburn (report later) to Whitby. It’s a great drive.

We finished by parking outside Mrs Botham’s Tearoom and entered the 1950s. I’ll cut straight to the food and ignore the rest of it if you don’t mind. I love the ambience at Botham’s but I’m writing about it elsewhere so I don’t want to repeat myself. Note that Botham’s retain the apostrophe, where Bettys have dropped theirs.

We selected their freshly made crab sandwiches on multi-seed bread. There’s a clue to quality there – the bread was wonderfully fresh, as was the filling, another contrast with our Bettys experience.

The salad was fresh and beautifully dressed too – I actually enjoyed it rather than just enduring it, which I often do.

Sorry it’s short – have to and pick up Number Two Son from work.

 

Wetherby Services

I have so much material from the last few days, I’m struggling to get it all down. However, as promised, I am having a rest from scones.

I need more time for the Harlow Carr post that I’m going to move to the next day. The first stop on the way to the Yorkshire coast was Wetherby Services.

On looking it up for the link I was amazed to find that it’s now ten years old and scores highly for customer satisfaction. I’ve always found that it scores highly for being crowded and uncomfortable. I don’t know why, I just don’t feel relaxed there. The crowds, I suspect, are evidence that other people like it. On Wednesday a lot of the crowds were university sports teams.

We had coffee there, and the barrista put a heart in Julia’s coffee. I got a blob.

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Coffee at Costa

Then we bought a vegan sausage roll on the way out and photographed it. Last time I had one I didn’t get a photo. It was equally as good as the last one and, like the last one, I ate it in the car. I am very predictable.

We would have had one each but they only had one left. Yes, massive service station – just one vegan sausage roll. Strange.

 

The Scone Chronicles – Number Ten – Bettys II

After some more garden viewing (which I promise I will get round to) we had a look at the alpines, walked round the plant shop, marvelled at the woollen compost and browsed the bookshop. We probably need at least one more day here to see the rest of the garden, if not two. Fortunately, with being members, we don’t have to pay extra each time we visit.

There had been a queue out of the door of Bettys when we had arrived (the main one, not the shed in the garden) but that had gone by the time we got out of the bookshop, so I suggested a cup of tea. I knew Julia had always liked the idea of afternoon tea, and that Bettys was a famous tearoom, so what better plan could a man have to treat his wife?

We had to wait by a sign, a bit like Little Chef. Then, after a man in a suit showed us to another sign, we had to wait again. Another man in a suit showed us to a table. This was quite a cosy arrangement, with us being close enough to the neighbouring tables to join in the conversation. In fact, we were so close it was difficult to avoid. You probably know from previous posts that I’m a bit of an eavesdropper, but I like it to be an option, rather than an inevitable consequence of crowded tables.

On one side a middle-aged woman talked to her mother about Doctor Who, before going on to use a noisy game on her phone.

On the other side two women in their mid-30s discussed work, dating and drinking. I know how old they were because it came up in the conversation. If only that was the only thing I knew about them…

Eventually, the food arrived.

At £19.50 each, I was expecting something quite good. It may not be expensive compared to the £58 charged by The Ritz, but it’s still enough to pay for a few sandwiches and a bit of cake.

So, was it good?

The waitress was very pleasant. The tea (loose leaf this time) was very good. The tiny cakes were good too – a fruit tart, a rich chocolate cake and a citrus macaroon.

I liked the sandwich fillings too – cream cheese and cucumber, smoked salmon, ham and mustard and coronation chicken. I normally steer clear of coronation chicken, but I really enjoyed this one. Good flavours and plenty of filling.

The scone, though not boxed or pre-jammed, was much the same as the earlier one. Note how I have avoided the jam/cream debate by doing one of each.

So far it’s not setting my world on fire, but it’s pretty good. What spoiled it was the bread.

Two of my sandwiches were dry. One of them had the suspicion of a curl. Two of Julia’s were a touch dry too, though not as bad as mine. That’s a pretty basic error. In my naivety I’d assumed they’d be made to order but they obviously weren’t.

I was actually so annoyed by it that I nearly complained. However, Julia doesn’t like it when I complain, and it was supposed to be her treat, so I let it slide.  That doesn’t mean I can’t complain on the blog.

My verdict – if you can’t make fresh sandwiches you don’t deserve a good mark for an afternoon tea. It’s so basic it’s ridiculous not to get it right. It was excellent in parts, but that’s not what you remember. You remember the lacklustre scone, the dry bread and the feeling of being herded.

Without the dry bread you’d probably remember the excellent cake and sandwich fillings.  Though I suspect you’d still think it lacked the elegance you’d hoped for.

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Excellent cake at Bettys

It was pleasant enough, and not bad value in terms of afternoon teas, but I expected more from the Bettys hype and, to be honest, I don’t expect dried bread from anyone.

We will take a flask and sandwiches next time we visit, though we may well visit one of their other Bettys tearooms and give them another chance.

 

 

 

The Scone Chronicles – Number Nine

We went to Harlow Carr garden today – the northern garden of the Royal Horticultural Society. It was a lovely spring day and the gardens were quite crowded as every pensioner in Yorkshire seemed to be having a trip out.

I’ll cover the gardens in more detail later. For now I will talk about the first scone of our day.

The queue for scones at Bettys Tea House (which is a shed in the garden rather than the posh cafe at the entrance) contained around 30 people when we joined it. Well, when Julia joined it. I have a bad knee – I can’t queue.

(Note – Bettys was originally Betty’s but they have now become Bettys. The increasingly cavalier disregard for apostrophes seems to be mirrored by a general decline in standards and I wonder if the two may be linked.)

Despite the decline in standards and the deficiency in apostophes the staff were absolutely top class. They were quick and accurate and kept smiling as they coped with a constant queue, which averaged 20 people long for at least half an hour. My research method was to count the queue three times while I was sitting there. I can be scientifically rigorous when the occasion demands.

They served Julia with two cups of tea and two scones in boxes (with the jam and cream already applied), and only took £10 off her.

The tea was excellent, despite being a teabag in a vending cup. It probably tasted better because I was drinking it outside on a sunny spring day as a robin sang from a neighbouring tree.

Tea, scones and sunshine. Bettys, Harlow Carr

Tea, scones and sunshine. Bettys, Harlow Carr

The boxed scones were convenient, though they were still rather chilly from storage. They were also, and I’m sorry I can’t come up with another description, a bit tight in texture. Fresh home made scones have a nice open, crumbly texture. Well, mostly. I have had one or two disasters in my time. Commercial scones tend to be closer in texture and come with neat, even air holes.

So, staff, tea and surroundings – excellent. Scones were good, but not as good as the rest of the meal. I felt they weren’t quite as good as some of the other scones we’ve had this year, either. They must be doing something right because they have been going for 100 years this year.

Bettys - 100 years this year

Bettys – 100 years this year

This is not a criticism of the scones, just an observation. You can’t serve thousands of scones without making some compromises.

Not Quite Scones – but I’m calling it Number 8 in the series

We had coffee with blueberry muffins in the Mencap garden this morning as part of my programme of guerrilla snacking. This came as a surprise, as until I needed a word to describe my random intake of sugary calories I didn’t know I had a programme of guerrilla snacking. The coffee came out of a flask and the muffins came from McDonalds. Consequently, I have to admit that quality wasn’t necessarily the keynote of the morning. However, real life can’t be all cappuccino and croissants. Or scones.

I’m calling it Number 8 in the series, just to add some light and shade to the Scone Chronicles. Location was good, company was excellent but muffins just aren’t scones.

The flowers are doing well, though they could do with more of them. Unfortunately money is so tight that there isn’t any for fripperies like flowers. They are saving for a new cover on the second polytunnel. I’ve just ordered 100 snowdrops. I’m going to plant some at home and give Julia the rest. She’s a lucky woman – blueberry muffins and snowdrops all in one day.

I just mentioned this to her. She raised an eyebrow and muttered something I didn’t quite catch.

Her tolerance and my deafness are two important factors in the longevity of our marriage.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 

Great Tit at Wilford

Great Tit at Wilford

The birds, as usual, were not very cooperative, but I did get one shot.

The Scone Chronicles – Number 7 – Done as a Haibun

As usual, there is a queue at the cafe in Sainsbury’s at Arnold. The woman behind the counter is working hard but the system is against her. So is the customer she is serving, who can’t make his mind up.

I have two scones – one cheese, one fruit. Julia sticks with a single cheese scone. We select them, then we wait in line. They are small, neat and hexagonal.

Eventually I go to find a table because my knee is playing up.

The first two tables are too dirty to clean by wiping with a paper napkin. The third is passable, but dirty underneath. They have at least four staff and I’m not impressed. I think of writing a stiffly worded letter of complaint but it won’t do any good and the insincere reply will annoy me even more.

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A dirty floor – Sainsbury’s, Arnold

The cheese scone feels hard as I slide the knife in. It is not a light and fluffy scone, though I had expected this from the small and regular shape.

There are specks of visible cheese, and it tastes good.

The fruit scone is moist inside, in a doughy way, rather than a good way. It still tastes good but looks strange in the camera viewfinder.

A slightly doughy fruit scone

A slightly doughy fruit scone

At one time we would have ordered the cream tea but we are getting too old for all the sugar and fat.

evening draws on

the rotund blogger

photographs his food