Friday, 21 March 2014

Tenterden: Peggotys Tea Shoppe

The affluent town of Tenterden with its wide, tree-lined High Street is one of our favourite spots in Kent for a relaxing afternoon out. The bustling town centre is home to many small boutiques and antique shops, as well as craft shops, charity shops, book shops and many cafes and tearooms most of which are independent. There are a handful of chain stores but all shop fronts are in keeping with the overall quaintness of this town. It was on another lovely sunny day that we came here for an afternoon of mooching around the vintage antique shops. After an enjoyable few hours we needed to stop for tea and narrowed our choice of tearooms down to Peggotys.

Even though the sun was shining, we decided to sit inside so we could have a good look around as we hadn't been here before. Now don't be put off by the seemingly dark tiny interior from first impressions, once you step through the door it's clear this tearooms knows what it's doing. The tables are positioned in a way that you don't have to squeeze past anyone and the walls lined with large bright paintings of 1920's styled ladies. Various hats adorn hooks on the walls and lovely old music plays in the background. 

After seating ourselves in the window, we made our choices from the menu and sat back to await our refreshments. There was a steady flow of customers of all ages and nationalities and we enjoyed people watching out of the window as afternoon shoppers wandered by. Our cream tea arrived after a short wait, the homemade scones still warm from the oven. Piling on the jam and cream we tucked in, washing them down with some Pluckley lemon and ginger loose leaf and some Pluckley Afternoon tea.

The scones were delicious, freshly homemade and freckled with fruit. A good hour or so could be spent sat chatting, eating and drinking. The staff were friendly and moved about clearing tables and taking orders seamlessly. Although no vintage crockery like at Miss Mollet's High Class Tearooms, Peggotty's is a lovely spot to come for a proper afternoon tea if in Tenterden. The tea was good but that can be expected from Pluckley tea, a local tea and coffee trading company in the village of Pluckley.

As well as fruit scones, the packed menu is full of other tasty looking options. An array of cakes on display such as coffee and walnut, lemon drizzle and chocolate need to be tested another time. The overall feel is very quaint old English tearooms. Everything is neat, tidy and clean with solid old fashioned tables and matching chairs making this tea shoppe full of character. There is a loo out in the garden and walking to it you can see into the busy kitchen at the back, always interesting to have a sneak peek behind the scenes.

The Verdict?
A very peaceful and homely tearooms which serves a good afternoon tea at a reasonable price. It doesn't feel like it's trying to be trendy by being old fashioned, it is just old fashioned in a delightful way. During our visit it got very busy but the staff all remained calm and went about clearing tables very discretely. The quality of the food was top notch, the teapots held more tea than we could drink and the interesting interior made for a very enjoyable hour or so. 

122 High Street
TN30 6HT

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Appledore: Miss Mollet's High Class Tea Rooms

On the first sunny Saturday of March I took my mum off to explore West Kent as Ollie wasn't about. We ended up in Appledore, an old fashioned village on the northern edge of the Romney Marsh in Kent. As well as having a really good vintage/old junk shop that we rummaged around in for about an hour it also has Miss Mollet's High Class Tearooms.

First impressions are very good, it's jam packed inside with tea drinkers and so we sit outside on the wooden cream chairs. All the tables are clean and comfy and have the menu clipped to them. The ladies running the tearooms are very friendly and professional and acknowledge us as soon as we sit down. Perusing the menu in the glorious sunshine drinks are ordered while taking a moment longer to decide on what to eat.

Our drinks arrive promptly and all the teapots, crockery and cutlery is fantastically vintage and mismatched, even down to the vintage tea strainers for the loose leaf teas. After ordering our lunch of Welsh Rarebit for mum and smoked salmon cream cheese sandwiches for moi, a table inside comes free so we move on in. All tables are draped in lovely vintage linens, there is an array of vintage china on the other tables and the overall atmosphere is relaxing and friendly as we chat.

I sipped on my favourite tea choice, Pluckley loose leaf lemon and ginger which had lovely full bodied citrus overtones to it as well as having a cloudy lemonade. Mum had a coffee which she reported to be excellent, and being a coffee connoisseur that's high praise indeed! Too busy admiring our surroundings we forgot to ask what coffee they use. Oh well, we'll just have to go back again sometime!

Lunch arrived on beautiful vintage bone china plates and our chatting ceased as we tucked in. The smoked salmon sandwiches were very good, fresh homemade bread and just the right balance of cream cheese to salmon made them better than at Time For Tea. I can also report the Welsh Rarebit was delicious, actually more than that it was superb so much so I had food envy!

Whilst eating our way through lunch, we had chance to take in our surroundings. Nearly every wall, nook and cranny had something in it or on it but didn't make it feel cluttered, just cosy and interesting. Vintage china was on sale, as well as local preserves, tea cosies, baskets, tea strainers and such like. The wall behind us was full of paintings for sale by local artists and a range of Pluckely tea could also be bought.

During our visit there was a constant flow of customers, some even waiting outside until a table came free. We didn't feel at anytime rushed to free up our table for the waiting punters. Although the room is fairly small the level of chatter amoungst both tea drinkers and staff made it very comfortable to hold a conversation at normal volume without feeling self-conscious, unlike in La Salamandre.

The Verdict?
It was clear that this tearooms has a great reputation with both tourists and locals alike. The vintage china makes it quirky and old fashioned, and there is no better way to drink tea than from a gorgeous bone chine teacup. The food selection is very good quality and good value, it is all made in the little kitchen which you can see into at the back. Overall this is a fantastic tearooms which is a must visit, in a lovely village which we will definitely be coming back to.

26 The Street
TN26 2BX

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Peugeot J7: The Day We Met Albert

Our adventure began at 2am on a wet and windy Saturday morning. Bleary eyed I drove the car transporter to collect Ollie and then made our way to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone to await our train to France. Too early for Ollie to even contemplate breakfast, I munched on some cold sausages whilst we studied the map of our planned 828 mile round trip to a tiny village in Brittany and back. Mrs Sat Nav said the whole thing should take 13 hours - we believed her and boarded the delayed train full of excited anticipation.

Now I should explain why we were driving to France at crazy o'clock in a borrowed truck with a full packed lunch, array of sweets, flask of tea and selection of cakes - we had fallen in love with a blue Peugeot J7 found on an french internet search the Monday before. Until then, our dream of buying an old vintage van to do up as a tearooms on wheels had been just that, a dream. Neither of us speak French so we got a French speaking friend to ring on our behalf and arrange our visit with the owners Madame and Monsieur Le Veillant. 

So here we were, driving off the Eurotunnel at Calais at 4am onto a pitch black motorway in pelting rain and buffeting winds on the wrong side of the road. Putting all our faith into Mrs Sat Nav, I drove for the first 5 hours until the fuel gauge told us to fill up. Swapping over, Ollie took command and we continued on our adventure passing through towns and villages, on schedule to getting ever nearer to the blue van. 

Driving into a town called Pontivy, the quiet and car free roads turned into full on grid lock as it became clear the large river flowing through the town had completely burst it banks closing all but one bridge and causing a traffic nightmare. Mrs Sat Nav went into melt down telling us to 'turn around when possible' as we went off-route trying to find a way across the river.

After some brilliantly aggressive driving by Ollie we muscled our way into the throng of heavy traffic heading towards the one and only tiny bridge across the flooded river. Now behind schedule we departed the town of Pontivy with everything crossed that we could find the address we had been given and that the old couple hadn't given up on us coming and gone out.

Driving like the Stig, Ollie shaved off half an hour of our ETA as we rolled into the tiny village of Kernascleden in deepest darkest Brittany and reversed down the drive. Expecting to be welcomed and shown the van, we jumped out and walked over to greet Madame Le Veillant who was looking at us like we were from outer space. It was then that we realised she spoke no English whatsoever. It was also then that we realised my idea of speaking French is to speak English but in a French accent. 

Through Ollie's broken French he managed to say we had come for the van. She replied in her lovely French that we were coming on Sunday and not today. Cue lots of raised eyebrows, smiling from us, frowning from her, flapping hands and French words before she herded us into a barn where the Peugeot J7 was housed. Joined by her husband who also spoke no English, he proudly took us around the van telling us things in French, opening and closing the doors and then starting it up and revving it profusely. Choking on the fumes, we nodded and said 'oui' and 'tres bon' a lot. 

Obviously not sure of our motives, the old couple made no more progress with the sale than to turn the engine off and walk back to their house. Ollie tried in vain to say in French that we would like to buy the van and load it on our truck but the language barrier was proving tricky. They had such a strong local accent that they couldn't really understand Ollie's GSCE French. In the end we resorted to waving the full asking price in Euros at them which did the trick. Giving his wife the nod, we were whisked inside the house and sat at the kitchen table while she proceeded to make us tea. Having no kettle, water was put into a saucepan and popped on the retro cooker to boil while Monsuier went off to get the papers we needed. After what seemed an age, the water had boiled, we had the van paperwork we needed and the money was exchanged.

Realising that it was now 2.30 pm and we were well behind schedule to get our train at 8 pm, we downed our tea whilst trying to say we would like to leave. More frowns from the couple made us think we had offended them, but our saving grace came when the old lady rang her daughter who speaks perfect English. Acting as our translator over the phone, we were soon back outside getting the van loaded by Monsieur Albert Le Veillant himself.

As we were strapping it down, the next door neighbours arrived. Speaking perfect English, the lady said she had come to buy the van! Not seeming too miffed that she had missed out she proceeded to quizz us in a friendly manner on our intentions for the van, where we had come from, how long it had taken us and such like. Relaying our answers to Madame and Monsieur Le Veillant, they were made up with the fact that the van was getting another life in England as a tearooms on wheels. Now all ready to hit the road, we had a photo with Madame and Monsieur La Veillant before making our hasty goodbyes and speeding off on route back to Calais and our train. 

In all the excitement, we forgot to drive on the right and had a hair raising moment when a car came hurtling towards us, managing to swerve back onto the right hand side just in time. We decided we needed food and opened our picnic. I ate and drove for the next 9 hours, taking very long diversions due to lots of road closures because of the bad flooding. Ollie was in charge of the music selection.

Mrs Sat Nav did a good job of getting us back to Calais but arriving at 10.30 pm we had missed our scheduled 8 pm train. In the torrential rain and severe winds we got re-booked onto the next available train, and ran into duty free for some Milka chocolate, had some chips from Burger King and waited in the van for our train to be called before loading onto the coach compartment. 

Dropping Ollie at his, I got home at 1 am, parked the truck and collapsed into bed. Next morning after a long lie in I reconvened at Ollie's with the van where all our friends had gathered to have a look. We had a thorough inspection, test drive and lots of whooping and exclamations of 'can't believe we did it!' and our newly named Albert (after the very lovely Monsieur Le Veillant) was parked in the barn. We then all headed to Ollie's for tea and cake where plans and ideas were discussed.

We will keep you updated on our progress as we turn Albert into a tearooms on wheels!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Brighton: Talk of Tea

Stumbling across this tiny tearooms and fine tea purveyors on a recent weekend in Brighton with friends, we had high expectations for a getting a good afternoon tea. Stepping through the door, we walked into what felt like someone's front room and took a seat at one of the wooden farmhouse tables. Specialising in loose leaf tea we took an age to decide from the 60 choices of black teas, black tea blends, green teas, specialist teas, flavoured teas, fruit blends, wellness teas, herbal blends, witch blends, iced teas and coffee.

Eventually opting for my favourite Organic Lemon and Ginger consisting of ginger pieces, lemon grass, lemon peel, liquorice and spearmint I awaited my brew with anticipation. Tea Tester Two went for a Witch Blend consisting of Hibiscus petals, orange peel, apple pieces, blackberry leaves, peppermint, sunflower petals while he went for an Indian Harmutty Assam. 

Next we turned our attention to deciding on our sandwich fillings, smoked salmon and cream cheese for moi,  roasted red peppers and cream cheese for Tea Tester Two and mature cheddar with piccalilli for him. Although we were the only seated customers during our visit there was a steady flow of loose leaf connoisseurs popping in for their weekly supply of tea. Our Afternoon Tea arrived promptly and was devoured in under twenty minutes, all agreeing the sandwiches were very scrummy. After a discussion as to whether jam goes on first or the cream, the scones were piled high with both and wolfed down.

On the cake front, I opted for the white chocolate and raspberry sponge whilst the other two went for the traditional coffee and walnut. All were very good - moist, flavoursome and good quality.

The Verdict?
Now although all tea and edibles were very good, the overall experience was slightly let down by the cluttered and untidy room and windows that could do with a good wash. They obviously have a good reputation as tea leaf purveyors but the lack of other eating customers during a very busy Saturday lunchtime does reflect our opinion.  There wasn't really any sort of atmosphere which is a shame but the lady serving us was friendly and very knowledgeable of teas.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Hythe: La Salamandre

On a rare sunny day in February we ventured into Hythe again for some more vintage shopping and wandered pasted this little patisserie before realising it was even here. Lured in by the delicious looking pastries we spied through the window, we perused the blackboard menu of drinks and nibbles.

Owned and run by a lovely French couple, the patisserie feels warm and welcoming. The friendly young lass on the till took our order. Being early afternoon it was packed with shoppers and we got the last table, settling ourselves on some comfy bright colored chairs in a corner. At the back of the shop a large glass window looks into the kitchen where all the delicate pastries, cakes and flans are made before your eyes.

Bamboozled by the selection of pastries, it was decided to have a chocolate ├ęclair which was a chocolately heaven of choux pastry and chocolate ganache filling. My tea choice was an Earl Grey while he went for a flat white. Having a sip of the coffee for tasting purposes, I can confirm it was well up there with Browns Coffee House in terms of full bodied flavour and silky texture. Top marks.

Although packed with shoppers, the atmosphere was a bit flat on our visit. The lack of background music caused people to speak in hushed whispers and everyone seemed a bit self-conscious of having a proper conversation, similar to our experience in Burgate Coffee House. If back in Hythe, we would rather go to The Dolls House for a cuppa and cake for its great atmosphere and more secluded seating, although would pop in here to try the breakfast and for a takeaway pastry or cake or two!

Noticeably every nook and cranny of this cute patisserie was clean, polished and tidy. Behind the counter was well organised and uncluttered with all the tables being cleared and cleaned immediately someone left. It was obvious that the owners and staff alike take great pride in this little shop and all goodies were very well displayed.

The Verdict?
A lovely spot which is much more than just a patisserie offering breakfast, light lunches, afternoon tea and a daily changing selection of pastries, pizzas and cakes. The friendly staff and dainty pastries are well worth coming in for, and we fancy trying out the lunch options sometime too!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Wye: Bay Laurel Brasserie

First impressions of this little brasserie are good. Situated on the corner of the main high street in the popular village of Wye, this has all the hallmarks of being a fine little spot for coffee - tasteful paint work, good name, inviting look. Previously run as very good Italian Bistro, this is now under new ownership and management and we have been keen to try it out.

Upon entering,  it was immediately apparent that this was no longer an Italian cafe but an Indian eating house but felt it would be too rude to leave straight away. Greeted by a friendly young chap, we were seated at a table by the window and left to browse the sticky plastic menu folders. Being late morning, we were not in the mood for anything spicy so our choice was narrowed to either breakfast or a poor selection of sandwich options.

The friendly chap was back with his note book to take our order and feeling ravenous we both went for a cooked breakfast of eggs on brown toast with beans and mushrooms. Whilst waiting an age for it to arrive, he sipped on coke whilst I had what tasted like an ashtray but was supposed to be a flat white. With only one other customer asides from us, the Brasserie seemed heavily overstaffed and made for a subdued and cheerless atmosphere.

Being in the village of Wye, home to The Wye Artisan Bakery, Wakelin's Butchers selling free range eggs, organic vegetables and locally grown meats, we had hoped that all ingredients would be local. But no, our breakfasts were evidence that all produce and ingredients used here are cheap and of poor quality. The cakes on display did not look appetising or homemade.

Having had to wait 20 minutes for our food to arrive, we were very disappointed when it finally showed up. Cheap brown bread which had gone a little soggy, a dollop of reheated baked beans, barely an eggs worth of rubbery scrambledness and some shriveled old mushrooms. We ate it because we were hungry. Had this been served in a greasy spoon cafe then we would have no issues, but we were paying £4.20 each for this and were really miffed that this business is not supporting the great food producers of this little village.

The Verdict?
Well you probably have a fair idea of our thoughts on this one! We came away feeling quite sad that a fantastic village such as Wye doesn't have a fantastic cafe to match it. If you fancy coming to Wye, we wouldn't recommend coming here but there are plenty of other spots around the village to eat.