Cream tea with a twist: more than just strawberry jam

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There was a bit of a conversation going on on Twitter yesterday about alternative preserves to go with a cream tea. It all started with lemon curd, which definitely got a strong vote, particularly when paired with lemon scones, which sounds delicious.

Which got me thinking, as I optimisitically think about cream tea outside in dappled shade and balmy temperatures, just what different preserves might be suitable for the table this year?  Here’s a few I’m considering:

 

Pear & Cardamom

 

I’ve written before about Sugar & Twine, and last summer saw a few cream teas with their Strawberry & Fresh Mint. I think this year I’ll be opting for the Pear & Cardamom, possibly to be paired with some dark choc chip scones. (UPDATE, sadly Sugar & Twine are no longer trading)

 

Galore Jams

 

Galore! sounds like my kind of business, and these preserves and marmalades are really based on what is in season, then made in small batches. Maybe I’d be lucky, or maybe already gone, but the Plum and Star Anise sounds amazing and certainly unusual. This one won two stars at last year’s Great Taste Awards, so definitely worth seeeking out.

 

Fabulous jam from The Jammy Cow

 

Blueberry and Lime is not a flavour combination that I’ve come across before, but sounds lovely. From The Jammy Cow, this would definitely add some zing to tea time. I can imagine that a lime scone might be ok, not tipping over into gilding the lily! UPDATE – now trading as The Jam Tart.

 

Radnor Preserves

 

Radnor Preserves have some wonderful sounding flavours. Blackcurrant and Vanilla would be high on my list, but for sheer summing up of summer than it has to be Gooseberry and Elderflower. I feel a glass of elderflower presse, or perhaps St Germain elderflower liquer added to some fizz, might be just the thing to go with this.

So here’s to hopefully having a summer of lazy, hazy days, and enjoying some lovely afternoons of tea, scones and cream, maybe even fizz on occasion. Failing that, I’m going to just light a fire and have tea in front of that. Love to hear what makes a great cream tea for you.

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At sixes and sevens at Cotswold 88

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Cotswold 88

 

A night in the Cotswolds should be a lovely thing. And Cotswold 88 is certainly well placed for a night in the Cotswolds, being in the pretty, although slightly soulless, village of Painswick. Like many of these places, there are so many second homes that the guts of these villages are often missing.

Cotswold 88 bills itself as an intimate lifestyle boutique hotel.

Yes, I know, I was in trouble already. If I had to bill it, I would say it was the perfect example of style over substance. Of trying too hard. Of not getting to the basics right. Like the food.

You can see it’s a beautiful building, it’s a beautiful location, and there was an idyllic little balcony to sit on. Having had no lunch, I was happy to indulge in a cream tea. Always interesting when ordering stuff separately is cheaper, even if only slightly, than the total package, but it was true here. But I’d forgive that, given the billing of having to wait 15 minutes for the scones to be produced.

I should perhaps have taken a warning when the pots of tea arrived without an extra pot of hot water. Tight, I think is the word that came to mind.

 

Not quite my favourite cream tea

 

And then I laughed at the cream tea! The word that came to mind first was poncey. The second was a string of words, along the lines of what the heck is butter doing on the plate. There was disappointment around the pool of strawberry jam, I’m a raspberry girl myself.

But the scones!

Oh my word, even MGG could do better. We won’t mention the lack of fruit, as I know that’s my naff Northern tendencies, but measly, poorly risen and crumbling like a biscuit does not a good scone make.

And really, that summed up most of my eating experiences there. I even skipped out on dinner, having not been asked to book in advance and finding myself offered 6.15pm or 9.15pm. Whilst no culinary great shakes, I had the funniest, most entertaining night at The Royal Oak, with good, honest food and just an endless parade of character and events. There wasn’t a whole heap of laughing going on back at 88, just some painful self consciousness. Possibly followed by sharp intakes of breath at the bill.

If you still want to be at places to say you’ve been at places, then 88 might be for you. I would rather head for The White Hart Inn at Stow. Looked very friendly, has beds by And So To Bed, and the menu looked like the sort of thing I would want to eat. Chicken liver parfait, caramel peach and toasted sourdough sounds like a good place to start, or the smoked sirloin of beef from Upton Smokers. Next time!

Although I also have a sneaking desire to go back and stay and eat at Cardynham House. From what you could see, the rooms looked very nice, and the bistro was very busy in the evening. I’m just intrigued as to whether the Hawaiian Chicken was an ironic dish, or not! Wherever I go, I think I have come to the conclusion I am definitely more Alastair Sawday than Mr & Mrs Smith. Fabulous food and service will always top style for me. Though it doesn’t stop it being disappointing when those two things can’t be brought together.

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A fabulous foodie treat of an afternoon tea

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Laura Mercier Perfume Tea

 

Buying gifts for foodies doesn’t just have to be things. In many ways, experiences will last longer than many physical things you can buy. And if your foodie fancies a bit of a treat, then I love this new afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols.

The Laura Mercier Perfume Tea is a fabulous combination of tea, cakes and fragrance, so ticks lots of boxes. Inspired by Laura Mercier’s Vanilla Gourmande fragrance, Fifth Floor executive chef Jonas Karlsson has designed the most wonderful tea, that is just a bit different to your average afternoon tea. The store’s in-house tea blenders were commissioned to create a new infusion, creating a bespoke blend of jasmine, vanilla, rose and green tea to complement the vanilla orchid, liqueur, bourbon, musk, heliotrope, daylily, sandalwood and amber notes of Vanille Gourmande.

Once you’ve got a cup of tea poured, then you can choose from a whole range of themed delicacies including smoked salmon and horseradish, cheese and pickle and egg mayonnaise finger sandwiches; scones with kumquat and vanilla marmalade and clotted cream; a vanilla and lemon-infused cupcake; a chocolate praline mousse cake; a raspberry éclair with rose and raspberry cream and chocolate, pistachio and peach macaroons. I know, I could eat all of that right now.

Whilst not cheap compared to a cup of tea and a slice of cake at Starbucks, it’s hardly comparable and so the £19.95 per person could be money very well spent. You can upgrade in various ways with champagne and gift wrapped bottles of the perfume, it depends on your budget!

I have to admit to loving this idea, and it’s one I’ve used myself. I was thrilled to be involved in the relaunch of Girard fragrances last year, with a launch at The Dorchester. The team there created canapes and cocktails that matched with the key ingredients of the 5 fragrances. I can’t take credit for it being an original idea, I was inspired by the amazing sounding dinners that Chandler Burr, the fragrance critic for the New York Times, created. I wish I’d been at a few of those too!

If you fancy the food but not the bill, then I found a recipe for Kumquat Vanilla marmalade on Lick My Spoon, which would make a great treat and change to the usual raspberry or strawberry. And if you want the fragrance then you can order it from Harvey Nichols but their delivery charges are quite steep. Stop by your nearest Space NK, they’ll have it but they don’t stock it online.

I’m off to see if I can recreate those macaroons!

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