Recipe for crumbly, chewy almond rye shortbread with a robust but delicious flavour. Unusually, but as the name suggests, this shortbread is made from rye flour and ground almonds. It’s also flavoured with cardamom, although that bit is optional. Tart raspberry cream with whisky compliments it wonderfully well.
Mention the word Cranks to any of my old school mates and they will most likely heave a wistful sigh and start waxing lyrical about cheese baps, homity pie and date slices. It was the 70s and a new and trendy veggie cafe opened its doors in our very rural location and replaced the fusty dusty old fashioned teashop into which visiting parents would usher their offspring for a somewhat formal treat.
Afternoon tea is one of my absolute favourite things. For me, there are few activities that are as indulgent, sociable and relaxing as this very British institution. It might be a tea party in the house, or sitting in a friend’s garden. Visiting a café or tea rooms is always a treat. Or upping the anti at a luxury hotel such as The Alverton, the only 4 star hotel in Truro.
Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of indulging in Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum Hotel on Piccadilly. Afternoon tea at such an iconic London hotel would be a real treat at the best of times, but this was a special tea in honour of Paddington Bear. Paddington, the movie, was released yesterday and London has got Paddington Bear fever, it would seem. There is a Paddington trail around the city with 50 statues of one of the world’s most popular bears. I managed to spot two of them during my brief 24 hour stay including the one we are all familiar with at Paddington Station.
It may have been afternoon tea that Fiona of London Unattached and I sat down to, but it was a lunchtime sitting as my train back home to Cornwall left at 3pm. Afternoon tea at lunchtime was a new concept for me and I was surprised to find we were not alone. In fact all the tables in the Garden Room, where tea is served, were fully booked. Given that The Athenaeum won the Tea Guild’s award for Top London Afternoon Tea in 2012, this shouldn’t really have been a surprise.
Elegance and luxury at such a top class hotel, I was expecting, but there was also comfort and ease – no starchiness and disapproving looks here. The waiters were friendly and attentive and the service was good, if slightly disorganised. The soft light wasn’t great for taking photographs, but it created a relaxing ambiance, which is what it’s all about really. The tea more than lived up to expectations.
We were shown to our table by a window, complete with comfortable sofa and arm chairs. Whilst sipping on a glass of very nice Lanson Black Label champagne, we were offered the tea menu to peruse. Being a bit of a tea purist, I was delighted by this. There was a good variety of loose leaf teas on offer, but interestingly there were samples of the actual tea leaves on display too. No wonder the Tea Guild were impressed. Fiona chose Japanese Sencha green tea and I opted for a pot of Pai Mu Tan white tea. Both duly arrived in silver teapots with an accompanying silver pot of hot water, all of which were regularly inspected and topped up as necessary, without either of us having to ask.
The food soon arrived, elegantly laid out on a three tier cake stand. After doing a big of oohing and aahing over the contents, especially the top layer which included cute chocolate cups filled with mousse, we hungrily tucked into the finger sandwiches. No marmalade sandwiches for me, but there was clementine marmalade to accompany the ham for Fiona. I didn’t take too much notice of the meat fillings, but I was pleased to see cucumber and cream cheese on offer together with egg mayonnaise. I was also presented with a plate of five vegetarian finger sandwiches laid out in a star shape. I would have liked to have seen something a bit more creative than tomato and lettuce, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.
Marmalade, not surprisingly was a key theme of the tea and for the first time ever, I had marmalade with my scones and clotted cream, rather than jam. Both Fiona and I were a little dubious about this particular change to tradition, but when we tucked in, we were pleasantly surprised. We had a choice of plain or cranberry scones and I found the marmalade to be particularly delicious atop some of the latter; cranberries and orange have a natural affinity. Jam was served alongside the marmalade if required.
Starting to feel a little full, there was still some room left for that enticing top layer of treats. I’ve already alluded to the chocolate cups which were topped with a little marmalade and were quite delightful. There was also orange macaroons, an orange bakewell tart and an adorable little glass of orange and passionfruit jelly.
At regular intervals we were offered further sandwiches and scones. We politely declined as we already had more than an elegant sufficiency, but it gave a feeling of abundance which was a nice touch for such a rare treat. We were just finishing off the last few goodies when the cake trolley was wheeled over. Well, neither of us could fit in another morsel, but everything looked so pretty and enticing, we asked if we could take something away with us. My thoughts turned to CT who had missed out on all this indulgence, so I chose a little something with him in mind – a chocolate log filled with salted caramel cream. It was very thoughtfully placed in a gold cardboard box for easy transport. It made the long journey home in tact and was gratefully demolished fairly soon after I arrived. I did get a little taster and it was as good as it looked.
The Paddington Bear Afternoon Tea costs £39.50 without champagne and £47:50 with it. £5 of this is donated to the official Paddington Bear charity, Action Medical Research for Children. Everything looked fabulous and was beautifully presented and it all tasted pretty good too. For a top class afternoon tea with as much as you can eat and more, I would describe this as good value. I waved good buy to the suitcase of bears at reception with a full stomach and wasn’t entirely sure I was in a fit state to run for the train if it proved necessary.
Way way back, when we first moved to Liskeard, there was a move to create a community centre in a recently vacated primary school. Politics was very much in evidence, but eventually disputes were resolved, the community brought on board and money raised. We now have the Liskerrett Centre, a wonderful community asset which hosts a number of artists studios, a computer suite, a monthly cinema, all sorts of events, rooms for hire and The Hub Cafe.
The Hub Cafe has been quietly producing good vegetarian food at very reasonable prices for the last few years and those in the know are highly appreciative. Cathy Ross, the cook and owner of the business provides a varied lunchtime menu, all chalked up on a blackboard, as well as coffee, tea and of course homemade cake. Different diets are catered for with gluten and dairy free options. Whenever possible Cathy uses produce from the Liskerrett garden; you can’t get much more local than that. The ambience is welcoming and family friendly. It’s the sort of place you’d feel comfortable at whether eating alone, with a group, accompanied by young children or wanting a cosy tete a tete. Although the cafe stops serving at 14:00, because it is the community centre, you can finish off your food, drink and talk in a leisurely fashion and won’t be thrown out.
Cathy herself is also an artist and her work, along with a few others, is exhibited around the cafe; this adds to the general interest in the room. The space is bright with large windows and lots of well tended plants which adds to the convivial atmosphere. There are newspapers and magazines to read and plenty of toys to keep the young ones amused. If bored with the adult conversation, older children can slope off to the IT suite where use of the computers is free.
My blogging neighbour Jane from The Hedge Combers and I met up at The Hub Cafe for lunch one day recently, to have a chat and to review the cafe.
Being vegetarian, it is such a pleasure to be offered a choice; it always takes me a while to figure out what to have. There was of course soup, but I make soup all the time at home, so wanted something a bit different. So what to go for? Feta tart, homity pie, lentil fritters, a burger …? Most of the mains come with a selection of salads so I knew I would get a goodly proportion of my five a day.
After a little bit of head scratching, I opted for the bean burger and Jane went for a lentil fritter. The lentil fritter normally comes with yogurt sauce, but Jane doesn’t eat dairy. However, it was a simple matter for Cathy to swap this for the same tomato sauce that accompanied my burger. Our plates arrived, full to the brim. They looked colourful, vibrant and enticing. I really like having lots of different tastes and textures to try and this felt like getting an all in one tapas or mezze. There was coleslaw, mixed salad, two rice salads, couscous, a pasta salad and a bean salad. All of it was delicious. The bean burger was very soft and I don’t think would have survived being in a bun. However, this was not a problem as it came bunless and with plenty of spicy tomato sauce. All this for £5.95.
As an occasional customer, I knew what to expect, but it was all new to Jane. Thankfully, she seemed delighted, both with the venue and the food. Full after her meal, she watched me consume a large piece of chocolate cake. Now, I’m always a little wary of eating cake in cafes as I am often disappointed with the quality, but as part of the review process I just had to give it a go. I’m so glad I did. This wasn’t any old chocolate cake, although I’m sure Cathy doesn’t make that sort of cake anyway, no, this was a chocolate potato cake. Yes, a cake made with potatoes. Served warm with cream, it was truly delicious. The potato gave it a lovely smooth consistency, so it almost melted in the mouth and it tasted of chocolate. The cake was covered with a rich dark chocolate ganache and then topped with white and milk chocolate curls. This was one piece of chocolate cake I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed with. Cathy was kind enough to give me the recipe, so you may well see a chocolate and potato cake appearing on the blog in the not too distant future.
If ever you are passing Liskeard, I would strongly recommend popping into The Hub Cafe for a bite to eat. And if you’re local, I would hope you are already a regular.
Thanks to Cathy for the meal. I was not required to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
I’ve been following Shaheen’s blog, Allotment2Kitchen, for a few years now. I first knew her as MangoCheeks when she was living in Glasgow with her productive allotment and creative vegetarian cooking. Somehow, despite having a full time job, she managed to blog almost daily. She now has less time for blogging because she is running a vegetarian cafe in Newport and is having plenty of practice in putting her creative culinary skills to even better use. The cafe is Hunky Dorys – if ever you are in the vicinity of Newport, I strongly recommend you hunt it out.
Back in April when we were in that neck of the woods for my cousin’s wedding, I was hoping we would find a bit of time to slip away and pay Shaheen and Hunky Dorys a visit. Luckily we did and a had a quick tour of Newport into the bargain. We slipped off after breakfast on Satruday morning and arrived in Newport bright and early, too early for Hunky Dorys, which didn’t open until 10:00. This actually worked out really well as we had a chance to explore the city. The highlight for us was an impressive mural of the Chartists in an underground passage in the town centre. We were rather horrified to learn later from Shaheen that it was going to be knocked down to make way for a new shopping centre. Apparently feelings in the city were running high as a demonstration to protest against its demolition was going to be held later that day.
So to Hunky Dorys. I knew the food was going to be good, but had little idea what else to expect. I was delighted with what we found, we both were in fact. I now have serious cafe envy and wish we had something like it closer to home. The style was informal and friendly with wooden tables and chairs, cushions if you wanted them and various blackboards listing the scrumptious fare on offer – now that’s what I call a proper vegetarian cafe. Breakfast and lunch are served as well as coffee and cake of course. I was impressed by the wide selection of speciality teas which included some particularly unusual ones. The menu changes regularly, so customers don’t have a chance to get bored and vegans have plenty to choose from. Some of the fresh produce is home grown adding resonance to the name Allotment 2 Kitchen, or in this case Allotment 2 Cafe. I would have been very happy to stay for lunch as there were several things that sounded specially appetising and Shaheen’s pies in particular are legendary. She has recently written a post about the first one she made, garlic mushroom parsley pies. My photographs, sadly do not to it justice, but they are the best I have.
Having ordered our cake and cups of chilli and ginkgo tea respectively, we sat down to soak up the ambience. Cakes? Yes, even after a massive breakfast at the hotel, we could not resist the array of tempting treats laid out before us. CT went for a strawberry chocolate cake and I had an Oreo chocolate one – both vegan and both absolutely delicious. We were soon joined by Shaheen, who managed to spare us a few minutes from her busy cooking schedule for an impromptu chat. CT thought she was absolutely gorgeous (which she was), so I had to remind him she was already taken. Corroboration came in the form of her husband D, who I was really pleased to meet as he is often mentioned on the Allotment 2 Kitchen blog. After a longer chin wag than she’d intended, Shaheen had to get back to ensuring her customers had something to eat for lunch, D had to go into town and we had a wedding to attend. It was with some regret that we had to leave so soon. It was a joy to meet Shaheen and finally get to see her excellent cafe. We both wish her every success with it.
Shaheen is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa and has chosen a particularly appropriate ingredient – do take a look.
I have great pleasure in welcoming CT to my blog for his annual guest review. Crafter of language, food pioneer, gardener, botanist extraordinaire and eater of cakes, he can now be found at From our Owen Correspondent as well as at his well established blog Radix. From our Owen Correspondent is a new blog featuring various tracts from his writing career on such varied subjects as fermented foods, travels around Australasia and garden visits.