Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Scone me: the search for the perfect cream tea

I occasionally think that, at 30, I may be spiritually more suited to middle age. This happens especially when I am assessing the quality of a scone, or pointedly barking ‘thank you’ at a shop assistant who has failed to meet the minimum qualifying standards of politeness.

The first episode in what I’m sure will be an extremely pleasurable occasional series allowed me to do both. The teenagers behind the tea counter at Altrincham Garden Centre are unfailingly sullen, but the scones they push over the counter with a grunt and a scowl are home made and often still warm. So it was that, looking out over the sheds and planters of the nursery, we conducted Hale and Hearty’s first Cream Tea Appraisal.

It was my friend Bryony who first alerted me to the notion that we may have an award-winning scone on the doorstep (she lives in Sale). Since then, it has become our Sunday afternoon refuge of choice, and we have tackled many thorny issues – work, mainly, leavened by the occasional family trauma – in the garden centre's conservatory. We may be sporting decorating trousers and greasy hair (it’s the weekend, innit?) but by virtue of our relative youth, it’s the one place we still look pretty dashing. 

The cream tea, £2.69 for a scone the size of a man’s fist, a pot of Rodda’s, a jar of good jam and tea, has always been rather good. It’s the kind of sod’s law that afflicted my Metro column that as soon as I rock up with my review head on, everything turns to shit.

The fruit scone was overbaked, dark and far too crusty, and the plain one, though light enough inside, lacked the kind of scone magic conjured at The Wolseley (although I have heard bad things about it recently), the Ballymaloe House cafe, and – very occasionally – in my own kitchen via Delia and some rare good luck. As the Apprentice voiceover man would say, Emma’s search for a good scone continues. And if I get to the south west before the baby’s born, it’s going into overdrive. Who could deny a pregnant woman a cream tea or three?

1 comment:

Ben said...

We do actually have a South West Premier League table of cream teas when we go down there. A tea must be taken every day to keep track of new developments, but holder of the title for the past two years has been Trengwainton Garden near Penzance...