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  1. Tea & Cakes
  2. Favourite
  3. Top 5
  4. Bottom 5

My bottom 5 tea shops

February 2007

Darnley's, Market Street, Brighton

£5.50 each cream tea

A fisherman's cottage and one of the oldest dwellings in The Lanes. Lovely little collection of rooms, old pictures, dark furniture and beams, floral tablecloths. We're offered cream tea with scones or Chocolate Cake. Looks promising as all pots come out harlequin stylee, and then... Alpro's Sara Lee choc cake arrives with squirty cream on the side AND she said it was still frozen on the bottom! "It's the worst tea and cakes EVER. Shocking! I don't know how they've got the cheek to serve it up. Might complain, I'm that annoyed", said Alpro Girl. She moaned and groaned for ages — a great reaction from the Prince of Underwhelm. Fruit scones are packet. BOOoooo! Warm medium size, don't taste bad though. Pot of jam and tiny pot of cream, only enough for one scone. Good tea but got strong quickly and no HW. Alpro still complaning... Looked so promising and that's why it's so disappointing. Same song "Let's Make Love All Night" is playing on a loop! Girl refused to pay £5.50 for frozen cake and tap water and got a reduction. I was embarrassed but she was right. GET US OUT, WE'RE NEVER COMING BACK.

8th July 2007

Laduree at Harrods, London

£26.75 (£3.34 service)

Oh dear. Cheryl and I took Enid to Harrods for a treat. Did we expect too much from the experience because it was Harrods? Were the stakes impossibly high because we wanted to impress Enid? I think I can honestly say no to both questions. It was just sub-standard!

We fought our way through the food hall to the Laduree salon de thé. Impressive smart cafe with cakes on display at the counter where you can do cake-away. Mezzanine level looks down on marble floors, and smart regency furniture, mirrors, and upper class toffs. We wait while they clear us a table and sit awkwardly around two round tables. There are lots of crumbs on the floor. They are busy though and we are buffeted from all sides by the comings and goings of customers and staff. It is not a relaxing experience. Enid and I go and poke the goods at the counter and make tentative choices. We wait a fair time to be served and drinks arrive without our cakes, thus getting cold. Cheryl is disappointed not to get her first choice of pistachio macaroon, and I think this is bad as it's prime cakes time and macaroons are meant to be their speciality. Service is stiff and unfriendly.

The Wife settles for Cherry and Almond macaroons. Enid enjoys her Carre Chocolate Slice. I am disappointed with my rather stale Ispahan, and the macaroon on it is not as good as the ones in Paris. I ask for a top up of hot water and Cheryl orders another latte. Everything seems like too much effort. I continue to get annoyed with the woman next to me who keeps whacking my chair. Cheryl's mini macaroons turn out to be the wrong flavour and are stale. She tells the waiter and he maintains they are the ones she ordered. He is rude. I think she might flatten him.

Cheryl and I are not impressed and tell Enid we are sorry, but she appears to be the winner and is enjoying her cake and cappucino very much.

It's a rather expensive mistake. It could be so good but they seem to be totally complacent. This is not what you expect from Harrods, and nothing like as good as the Paris Laduree experience. Did I mention that already?

17th April 2006

Oatlands Craft Centre, Guernsey

£3 each

A collection of little shops, hand crafted wares for sale, a gift shop, mini golf and children's play area. It's all changed! And you know how we feel about that in Guernsey. Leon and I first blunder into the tea room only to discover it's a fudge shop. "We don't wanna be in HERE!" and assume we want to be in the brasserie next door. The latter is a sit down, waiter service, slightly stuffier affair, with menus and tables in a conservatory, garden or indoors by the bar. The former was a queue-with-your-tray event, everything on disply and wrapped in sheets and sheets of cling film. Bit more relaxed. I used to work there in 1991 and it's all changed since my day. For the worse. Fudge shop? BAH!

Foreign waiter gives us no time to choose so we have to send him packing. Leon and me, cream tea — big plain scone, Guernsey butter in packets, packet jam and a pot of whipped Guern cream. Pot of tea to share and HW. Scone is v. dry. It's a Bank Holiday but no excuse, even though the place is practically deserted. Steve — Earl Grey and shortbread. I asked for his critique but he just "donked" the half discarded biscuit on the side of the plate. Not bad taste, but heavy and dry by all accounts. Tracey — coffee and a toasted teacake which came with jam?! and "not enough butter. I tried it with jam and it's not an experience I'll be repeating..." Ok...

£3 each, good price but highly disappointing. Shame. It's a funky little place, but they keep changing it about — tea rooms for fudge shops, woodcarvers for embroiderers. I hear it's meant to close...

4th September 2008

The Tea Cosy, Brighton

They don't call it Kamp Town (Kemp Town) for nothing. Well! Never seen anything like it in my life! This is a shrine to the Royal Family, in particular to the late Princess Diana. The ground floor tea room is like jam-packed with a mixture of parlour furniture from times past. The walls and ceilings are DRIPPING with fairy lights and Royal's ephemera — tea towels, plates, newspaper cuttings, tea trays, flags, pictures (some of famous customers). There's an upright piano next to me. The music system is pumping out wall to wall "hits" from the war era — "Hello Dolly", "Pack Up Your Troubles", "White Cliffs of Dover". It's quirky at first and then ENOUGH NOW!

So kitsch, the tables are all set out for tea with crocheted tablecloths, mis-matched cups and saucers and spoons, sugar bowls and tongs and very artificial flowers. Oh God, Max Bygreaves now — "Underneath the Aaaaaaaarches". My parents would love it here, even though they wouldn't get the irony. Actually, no! My mother wouldn't know which image of Diana to throw darts at first.

The menu consists of several set teas — configurations of cakes, scones, sarnies etc. I choose "Queen Mother 100th Anniversary Tea". This is 2 fruit scones with jam, whipped cream and your choice of a pot of tea. The lovely owner/waiter (dressed in frilly pink dress shirt) takes my order, "Do you want tea with that, love?" "There's ya tea darlin'". He's a bit scary, not very subtle and keeps going outside the front of the tearooms. I'm sitting on a sofa in the window, with a low coffee table. My teapot has a bright red knitted tea cosy, a la grandma. No HW. A plate, too small for it's contents has 2 scones, ready sandwiched with jam and whipped cream, and 2 wedges of orange, cut into 4, which look a bit random and shambolic on the side of the plate. I have a fork to eat it with, but I'm disappointed not to be able to spoon the sticky stuff on myself. Although I try to separate the halves and eat it with my hands, it's all a tad messy and I resort to the fork. The scones are ample and homemade, what a shame the jam is just cheap red sugar. Hmm... it's great fun if you're in the right mood and aren't expecting perfect edible treats. And if it's good enough for Lembit Opic and his Cheeky Girl, it's good enough for me.

April 2009

The Tea Cosy — 2nd visit

Brace yourselves... The scary waiter had given me a 10% discount card to use on future visits. Presumptuous. I thought it would be great to show the quirks to Alpro Girl. Big mistake.

Alpro doesn't drink hot drinks (I know. Weird) and got such a withering look from our frilly-shirted friend from he took our order. "Water...?" I thought she was gonna cry. The cake choices were rather depleted, they'd run out of Chocolate Cake, so it was Lemon or Victoria Sponge. We both chose VS. It came — it was HUGE and rectangular shaped, stuffed with jam and... lashings of fresh cream. I'm sure Alpro was crying. She is lactose intolerant, and set to work scraping it onto the side of her plate. The waiter was in and out of the tearoom like last time, making random conversation with us, and noticed the massacre on my friend's plate. "If you didn't want cream you only had to ask..." It was a withering and disappointed tone. So he thought we were mind readers too. Not all VS comes with cream, let alone fresh cream. Alpro was too put-in-her-place to comment so I explained about the lactose intolerance and he said something like "...not doing too well are you darlin'?" alluding to the lack of hot drink thing too. Despite the rapidly descending occasion, I really enjoyed my enormous cake. It was tasty and robust without being heavy. I only ate half and was given a piece of foil to wrap and take the rest. Nothing could salvage Alpro's enjoyment of the afternoon and she didn't like, or eat her cake.

The waiter had seriously trodden on the atmosphere in the tearoom, making us feel watched and judged. "Never bring me here again", said Alpro Girl. At least we had the 10% discount.

26th September 2007

Victorian Restaurant, Birmingham

£3.15

Brum's a big place and the kind of tea room experiences I like are thin on the ground, so whilst booking my National Express ticket at the tourist info I ask for a recommendation. The office "old fart" is sent for and immediately goes into reveries about the Victorian. It sounds perfect — an old fashioned Victorian tea room in a beautiful Victorian arcade. Well, yes...

The frontage is disappointing, a shop-cum-take-away cafe with a few tables and upstairs is a restaurant. They've had a go, and decorated it with light green walls, Victorian black and white pictures, and china plates. The carpets, furniture and crockery is all very "hotel" and wipe clean, and lacks interest. There's a sweet menu with photos of the cardboard-looking treats and on the main menu a small choice of Danish pastries, scones, teacakes. But there's no time to lament further, for in a ping of the microwave here comes my warmed up packet scone, dish of squatty cream (oh my life!), individual packets of butter and strawberry jam. Tea and milk in chrome pots, no HW. I'm not upset. I'm already over it. This is the worst it's EVER been. Yep. British catering at it's laziest. I sit and wonder if I'll ever digest my heavy, stodgy scone, and breathe in the scent of cheap disinfectant. Entertainment comes in the form of a bunch of middle-aged men having a business lunch behind me. They keep saying "crane-age" in a Brummie accent!

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