Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published August 20th 2015
State of the Art Tea & Coffee
Once a year, my mum and I visit family and friends up north, and we have an itinerary of 'must go to towns' while we are there. One of those towns is Kendal, so the day after arriving, our group of family and friends made the trip. Unfortunately, poor timing on Mum's part meant that she was feeling under the weather, so by the time we arrived, she was clawing for something to drink.
My aunt recommended Farrer's Tea and Coffee Merchants, which has as much character as it does sloping floors. The Grade II listed building dates back to 1640 and was a pack in called The Old Wagon and Horse Inn. Later, a man called Joseph Fallows started the business, selling tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate and refined sugar, but it was taken over in 1819 by Scouse merchant, John Farrer, and has been a family business ever since.
The age of the building gives it a very quirky layout, perhaps not one ideal for a tea house, but charming none the less. Farrer's is spread across six tiny floors, starting with the ground floor entrance, which houses a shop of locally produced goods. These include honey, Kendal mind cake, herbal tea, chocolate, and biscuits.
The shop extends to the first floor, where you can also buy freshly ground coffee with a vast variety of coffee beans to choose from. Here you can also find china cups, tea pots, percolators,and all other (un)necessary brewing accessories.
The old cellar is where the kitchen is held, along with a small seating area. The staircase down is overlooked by an original Victorian coffee grinder. All I can say is the coffee grinder I use at work is nowhere near as impressive (although admittedly less labour intensive).
The second to sixth floor is all dinning area, so the waiters must get a good workout constantly going up and down those stairs. They must also have the art of balance perfected to a tee (or should I say tea?), especially with all those wonky floorboards.
Despite the awkward layout, Farrer's is very accommodating as they allow dogs, and even provide doggy refreshments.
Our party sat on the second floor (well not the actual floor, chairs were provided), and beside our tables I saw a quaint sign with a bell saying 'Please ring the bell for service'. I don't think many would have the nerve to use it, but it did make me smile.
Also on the walls were photographs and portraits of (I presume), the Farrer family, but as there were no descriptive plaques underneath, it was difficult to know for sure exactly who they were.
It was too early to eat, so we just ordered pots of tea. Being a tea house, there were many types, but we just stuck with standard breakfast tea. Although we were not hungry at the time, we were all tempted by the food menu, which included meals such as ratatouille, chilli con carne, jacket potato with cream cheese, apple & walnut slices, and several 'of the day' specials.
So after mooching around town we returned for a late lunch. Mum ordered bacon on toast, which had extra crispy bacon, just the way she likes it.
My aunt ordered the Savoury of the Day, which was meant to be bacon and tomato quiche. It had been a very popular dish though so by the time we ordered, there was none left. However, instead of them saying they had run out, they simply changed the quiche filling to broccoli and stilton. When a lady came back for feedback, my aunt told her the pastry was beautiful. The lady then crouched down, touched her shoulder, and proudly said 'pat me there.' Turns out she's the one who made it. I think it was nice to be able to talk to one of the cooks, as they are usually hidden away in the kitchen and rarely get to receive the praise of their efforts from customers.
The rest of us asked for the Sandwich of the Day: a ciabatta with goat's cheese, damson chutney, and fresh pineapple. Not only did it sound delicious, but it was also very different from what's on offer anywhere else. When it arrived, all three of us were impressed by just how generous the meal was, as the ciabatta is accompanied by a large salad. We were a bit nervous about cutting into the ciabatta, in fear of it going flying across the table due to a tough crust.
However, to our pleasant surprise, the ciabatta was beautifully soft and sliced like butter. The filling was gorgeous - a mixture of salty cheese with sweet fruit and a tang of vinegary acidity. Farrer's may be a little cramped, but the whole atmosphere is a pleasure, as is the food they serve.