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 January 24th 2014
A Victorian Seaside Tearoom
Hazelmere Cafe & Bakery
The shop window of Hazelmere Cafe and Bakery will turn the head of any bread lover. A beautiful display of baskets filled with loaves of deep black rye, treacle and cracked what, multi-seeded, baguettes, and bloomers is enough to lure customers in. But once hooked, you discover there is a lot more than bread inside.
To the right of the baker there is a classy looking cafe. Built in 1897, it retains the feel of a Victorian tearoom, yet manages to be stylish and modern at the same time.
All Hazelmere's food is cooked on site with locally sourced ingredients, and changes seasonally.
Maybe it is the pop art or the sparkling purple-framed menu (which is the size of a broadsheet newspaper), the fact that they allow dogs, or maybe because the staff are so relaxed and friendly.
Hazelmere Cafe has won the prize for Top Tea Pace of the Year 2006, the Tea Guild's Award for Excellence, and is one of TV chef Rick Stein's television heroes. Long mirrors, chandeliers, posh tableware; surely this place is beyond the price range of the average passerby. Not so.
From the window you have a view of Grange Oriental Gardens.
Our part of three was taken to a window seat next to the radiator where we could dry the damp from our bones. Grange-Over-Sands is a beautiful Victorian seaside town, but the cold does get right under your skin.
Their loose leaf tea is available to buy in the bakery.
The drinks list went on for eternity, with a selection of speciality herbals, fruit fusions, coffee, hot chocolate, and soft drinks. I asked for an elderflower cordial, which was finished within sixty seconds of its arrival. Mum ordered Darjeeling Asam tea, and our friend, breakfast tea.
Darjeeling Asam tea is meant to pair well with beef.
Used to teabags, Mum was on auto-pilot and started pouring straight into the bone china cup; as a result, she had to fish out a number of loose leaves before being able to take a sip. She said the teas was light, bright, and refreshing.
They have more unusual tea options available as well. For example, Silver Tips Sri Lankan White Tea produces a light apple green liquor with a touch of sweetness. The tea is boiled with off the boil water and left to infuse for up to fifteen minutes. This creates the purist form of white tea.
Hazelmere suggest tea pairs such as Darjeeling with fish, Asam with beef, and green tea with vegetarian dishes. If you are really into your tea, you can order a tea tasting tray or create your own to experience all the different types of flavours.
We turned our attention to the main menu, which offers breakfast until 11.30am, main meals in small and standard portions, and four types of afternoon tea, costing between £5.25-£14.25. This includes a children's version, where the sandwiches are cut into the shape of Peter Rabbit.
Cream of Vegetable Soup
We all went for something on the 'light bite' section. Don't be fooled; this is the size of a full fledged meal. Our friend chose the soup of the day for £4.50, which happened to be cream of vegetable, served in a deep bowl and served with bread. Mum and I both has toasted sandwiches served with salad. Her's was beef & stilton and mine bacon & brie.
Toasted Bacon and Brie Sandwich
For £6.95 I was expecting a few leaves of lettuce on the side, but my plate was awash with colour: red tomatoes and strawberries, green cucumber and lettuce, purple beetroot, yellow wild rice, black poppy seeds, white sesame seeds, and a slice of orange. This is on top of my sandwich, which came with a pot of cranberry and orange relish.
The bacon was beautiful; it had just the right amount of saltiness to it. The only thing I think they needed to do was cut off the fatty bits around the edges. The brie was soft and warm, but not melted to the point where it seeps outs over your fingers.
Toasted Beef and Stilton Sandwich
Mum also had the same salad. The beef was excellent, although she would have licked it sliced more finely. Instead of being able to pick it up, she had to cut the sandwich up.
Apple Crumble With Custard
We all had in mind what we wanted for pudding. Our friend loves custard, so there was no other choice than apple crumble for £4.50. Her eyes leapt out their sockets when she saw the size of the monstrous pudding approaching in a ceramic dish with a jug of custard. Mum and I thought she'd never get through it all, but she finished before us with a look of triumph on her face.
Wholemeal Cherry Scone
When I mentioned the £2 wholemeal cherry scone on the cakes list, Mum knew exactly what she was having. Since our last cafe stopped serving them, this little treat of ours has been missed. Brought out pre-sliced and with a pot of cubed butter, she said it was tasty, but a little dry. I think it would have benefited from jam, which is served with plain scones, but not fruit ones.
Bakery Cakes and Pastries
I was intrigued by the mysteriously named 'beesting', which I assumed was honey cake. I could not have been more wrong. The waitress explained that it was a bun filled with almond cream, and said I could have a look at it in the bakery.
The bakery is full of wonderful local produce which they use as their ingredients for the cafe. For example, the sold loose leaf tea, my elderflower cordial, their own homemade jams and chutneys.
Food to take away.
There is also food to take away, like pies, sausage rolls, soup, stew, and ready meals, all of which is made on site. At the cake counter I saw all the different cakes and tarts on the menu, such as Cumbrian rum nicky, flapjacks, and Bakewell tart. The only one I couldn't see was beesting, which had sold out. No matter; my eyes were now on something else. A vanilla slice.
For £3.25 you get a mountain of rich creme patisserie between two strips of iced flaky pastry. Gorgeous as it was, I think there was too much creme patisserie for how rich it was. This probably would have worked better served as a mille feuille, where layers of pastry would break up the filling, and a few pieces of fruit inserted may have cut through the richness. As it was, Mum helped out by spreading some of the creme patisserie on her scone.
After eating, our friend went to the bakery to buy some cakes. She got a date and walnut fudge tart, a vanilla slice, carrot cake, and one other all for £5. I have to ask, when you can get food as good as this at that price, why bother going to an expensive restaurant that often has more bark than bite?