Saturday, 15 June 2013

Oxford Town Hall

Guest blog from the Cream Tea Doctor

Last weekend I went to The Oxford Vintage Fair in the Oxford Town Hall, which not only promised fabulous vintage fashion and homewares but vintage cream teas too! Now, normally the Cream Tea Queen would jump at the chance to combine some vintage treasure-finding with a delicious cream tea to top off the experience, but alas, the Cream Tea Queen was otherwise engaged and enlisted my help to do a guest review for her blog. I am a cream tea lover, though not a seasoned connoisseur like the Cream Tea Queen, and I LOVE to eat, so here goes.

Cream Tea Queen - Oxford Vintage Fair - Oxford Town Hall

After almost two hours of browsing the vast amount of beautiful vintage pieces everywhere I turned, three laps of all the stalls, one purchase (four glass dessert bowls) and a couple of stops at my friend’s stall, Madam Magpie Vintage, I was well and truly ready for my vintage cream tea. 

Madam Magpie Vintage - Cream Tea Queen - Oxford Vintage Fair - Oxford Town Hall

Madam Magpie Vintage - Cream Tea Queen - Oxford Vintage Fair - Oxford Town Hall

You need to understand how excited I was about this. My last cream tea was in November! I eagerly made my way down to the Town Hall Café and was immediately taken aback by the complete lack of any atmosphere at all, never mind a vintage one.

Cream Tea Queen - Oxford Town Hall

I didn’t let this deter me; after all I couldn’t let the Cream Tea Queen down. As I approached the till I was welcomed by some scones on lovely pink floral napkins (the only thing remotely vintage about this cream tea). They looked to be of average size, fruity and very cute with little flags on top saying “Take Your Pick”.  

I ordered my cream tea and picked my out my own scone and paid £2.75, yes £2.75! Wow, this was the cheapest cream tea I had ever heard off. I took a seat and eagerly awaited the arrival of my cream team whilst listening to the humming of the very large drinks fridge. As I said earlier, it wasn’t a very atmospheric café.

On its arrival I was immediately impressed by the size of the tea pot and the milk jug, there was enough tea (and milk) for two large cups, perfect. I was a bit disappointed that the scones were cold and by the fact that they definitely didn’t look homemade, but they were served nicely and with ample amounts of clotted cream and jam. Despite not being fresh out of the oven, the scones tasted rather good, not too dry or stodgy and had plenty of fruit. The clotted cream and jam were both fresh and delicious and the tea (English breakfast) was served at the perfect strength. I was impressed.

Based on the price/quality ratio alone, I would have rated this cream tea 9/10. However, for me the full cream tea experience is important, so taking into account the drab atmosphere of this café, my final rating is 7/10.

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of this cream tea at such a bargain price and it was a lovely way end to afternoon of vintage shopping, but I won’t be returning to the Oxford Town Hall café anytime soon.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Harriet's cafe, Woodstock

Ye Ancient House door - Cream Tea Queen
After visiting Harriet's cafe (AKA Ye Ancient House) today, I started this blog by looking up their website, but I got sidetracked by review sites. I've pasted a few of my 'favourite' comments below, all of which were made in 2011:

"The smallest scone in town, microwaved and overpriced. When I checked to see if it really had been microwaved I was asked if I wanted it grilled instead" 

"When eating later in the day it was obvious that these were not made freshly as you would certainly expect from the outrageous price. They were instead, small, stale and fit only for the bin."

"I could have probably eaten it in one go. It took me all of five minutes to eat it and I left. I was served by two scruffy youths, one of whom swore at a colleague as he passed by my table."

Golly. It seems like the scones at Harriet's are a hot (albeit microwaved) topic!

I've been to Harriet's numerous times and, while it's by no means a gastronomic experience, I've always been lucky enough to get a seat (which I will put down to their efficient service). As any visitor to Woodstock knows, this is an achievement and automatically gives the cafe brownie points. Now to the infamous scones.

On this particular occasion I was hungry, and with good reason. I had just cycled 42 miles around the Cotswolds, with only a few Haribos and a limp packaged sandwich as fuel. At this point in the day, anything would have tasted good! The first bite of the scone - which arrived within a few minutes of us ordering - was therefore particularly welcome.

Cream Tea Queen scone review

Once my hunger had subsided I was able to assess to the cream tea experience based on its merit, rather than my blood sugar levels. Firstly, the tea wasn't loose leaf (which loses the cafe points) but it did come with an additional pot of hot water. This wasn't requested by us, but will delight my Welsh readers.

There were two scones, both of which were a standard size (they have obviously bounced back from those notorious days of 2011). One scone was plain and one was fruit, with a good distribution of fruit I hasten to add. The egg glaze coating the scones caught the sunlight, making the scones give off a tempting golden hue. The scones themselves weren't anything to write home about, they were simply excellent jam and cream carriers; this was fortunate, given that they were served with a small pot of strawberry jam and a dish of clotted cream.

Cream Tea Queen - scone with jam and cream

Now to the "scruffy youths" serving us. The 'youth' serving us was very polite; I apologised for being last to leave, thereby making him stay past the 5pm closing time, but he was very accommodating and polite about it. (I feel very British for feeling the need to emphasise the fact that the waiter was well-mannered when he was well within his rights not to be!)

It's a shame we had our bicycles with us, otherwise we'd have taken advantage of the cafe's south-facing rear garden. But we enjoyed our seat outside on the pavement, which meant we could watch the world go by, and afforded us the best view in the house of the cafe's teapot collection. It isn't to be missed. My particular favourite is the teapot which looks like a bathroom cabinet.

Cream Tea Queen  Harriets Woodstock teapots

I rate the cream tea 6/10. At about £6 per person it wasn't overpriced, and although the scones themselves weren't delicious I would still go back (I just wouldn't go out of my way).

Thank you to Harriet's for this cream tea, which helped me on my way as I cycled the last six miles back to Oxford in the glorious sunshine.

Oxfordshire sunshine Cream Tea Queen