Sunday, 21 June 2009

The tea shop time forgot

There is a tea shop, ‘The Four and Twenty Blackbirds’, in our local market town that is quite simply fabulous. It is everything you could wish for in a rural tea shop. From the mis-matched wooden chairs and tables, the unusual china, and the crazy patterned carpet to the heaps of bright fresh flowers in jugs and vases along the window sills that make you feel as if you are having your Earl Grey in a hot house.

The staff I’m sure are from the local branch of the WI. They are warm, friendly and slightly bonkers, but most importantly of all, they seem to be fairly accommodating, or at least turn a blind eye to the chaos that follows the family when we descend for our post-market tea and cake. The buggy, bags, baskets of eggs and veggies from the market all mix with beakers, cracker, baby biscuits, toys and books which are essential accompaniments to the Darling boy being anyway. Drinks are spilt, crumbs embedded into the carpet and forkfuls of cake are passed around to share.

Darling boy normally goes for an adventure around the tea shop, with new found walking skills being put to the test looking out for a suitable silver haired old dears to charm. Failing that he will giggle and wave at the young waitresses, their blond tresses acting as some kind of baby magnet. Darling boy comes from a family entirely comprised of brunettes which I suspect has a lot to do with his hankering for the platinum ladies- or perhaps blondes really do have more fun?

The ‘Four and Twenty’ always has a fine selection of cakes adorning the round wooden table immediately opposite the door. If your intentions were good on the way down the stone steps to the tea shop, any hope of just having a cuppa are dashed when faced with the table of temptation. Platters of cheesecake, fruit cake, chocolate tarts, fruit tarts, nestle next to cut glass cake stands showing off apple pie, which comes with cream or clotted cream, tray bakes of millionaire shortbread, flapjacks and roulades and toasted teacakes. It is such a tempting selection, its often an agonising decision which to choose. Mother in law often goes for the toasted teacake- a classic and one that Darling boy is keen to share. Last week I enjoyed a simple cheesecake (which Darling boy also enjoyed after pinching the strawberry off the top in one nimble swoop) Handsome husband had a sweet and sharp lemon tart which we agreed was very good. Sister in law, who was down for the first weekend with her new boyfriend, the Entrepreneur, went for a rich orange cake, with thick icing and the Entrepreneur also opted for the toasted teacake, served with inches of cold butter. Guzzled down with pots of tea and filter coffees, we sat and chatted and shared cake.

We usually have to bid a tactical retreat when Darling boy starts to get hungry for something other than cake and we head for the hills. I always feel I have to thank the waitresses for having us, as if we were guests in their home, and apologise for the noise and mess that we have made and attempted to clear up. There seems to be a network of local ladies who have met in the Four and Twenty forever. It would be lovely to become long term regulars in this darling place too- if they will have us?

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