Brief Encounter, Still Life…. And the best cream tea we’ve had this year.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,

 

It’ll be all aboard and tickets only for Tintern Station fabulous cream teas during the month of June to coincide with National Cream Tea Day on Friday 30th. For a whole summer month the very special full cream teas will be served every afternoon upstairs in the old Great Western Railway signal box to a select number of travellers who have booked their first class tickets.

This doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that one should consider depriving oneself of a top quality cream tea – since they are already available in the fabulously restored Victorian station waiting room or outside on the lawns.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.
David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

Typically, many would say, Easter saved the very best of its weather until most people were back at work on the Tuesday. But, at the risk of stirring up jealousy, we can tell you that we spent a fabulous morning at Tintern Station with many other visitors at the beautiful Tintern Station trying the cream tea – Wow! Definitely one of the best we have sampled so far this year and the setting was just superb.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

The Old Station Tintern is situated one mile north of Tintern Abbey on the A466 Chepstow to Monmouth road. And so, bathed in the morning sunshine with the Wye Valley’s railway history all around us, we tucked in to a fabulous high tea. In the middle tier, the chocolate scones were lovely and very different, with a great texture with that reassuring weight you get with a well baked scone. The accompanying ripe fat strawberries looked just right and little pots of jam and clotted cream are on hand – but which one first? The sandwiches were petite and beautifully cut with tomatoes and cucumber filling on white and brown bread sitting sweetly on the bottom layer. For sweet treats, small portions of iced fruit cake, sponge and French style macarons topped the three tier server. The best china will be in evidence during the Signal Box specials as well. And, with a selection of teas including the jasmine flower which flowers with the application of hot water – straight out of the alien movies – there is a taste for all.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Best china. Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe.

The station is a lovely haven away from the rigours of the day. To build up an appetite we took the short walk along the old line past the wooden statues of some of Wales’ ultimate legends in the dappled shade of the glade to the river access. This is a short easy circular walk (but with some steps) which returns the now hungry reviewer back to the track bed and platform.  Tintern Station is also a great place to start longer Wye Valley walks, all with the promise of excellent refreshment for the walker able to time their perambulations to perfection.

We ate the lot!

Not everything went right for Alec and Laura but in the waiting room – railway food has never tasted this good!

Some rather useful facts about the tea rooms.

Tintern Station café was awarded a Gold Medal in the True Taste of Wales Awards for Best tearoom in Wales 2012/13 and the Best tearoom in Wales in the National Tourism awards 2013/14. In 2017 the tea room was awarded a Welsh Tourism Café Accolade for quality.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

The tearoom offers a wide selection of cakes all baked on the premises and includes at least one gluten & vegan free option. A carefully selected fair-trade coffee and a variety of leaf teas and fruit fusions are available.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Gojo Berry tea.

Breakfast is served between 9.30 -10.30 and sandwiches and light lunches until 3pm.

They are happy to cater for special occasions and group bookings but be sure to contact them in advance on  01291 689566. Opening hours: Daily (weekdays) 10 – 5pm from 1st April until 30th September, Weekends and Welsh school holidays 9.30 -5.30pm. Gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options available.

 June – Vintage Afternoon Teas in an original GWR Signal Box

Choose from a Traditional full afternoon tea, or a Chocolate afternoon tea. There is limited availability for this special event and booking is essential. Signal Box teas will be served daily from June 6th through to and including 2nd July between 3pm and 4pm. The cost is £14 per person, a deposit of £5 per person is required to confirm your booking.

David Broadbent Photography, Tintern Station, Wales, cream tea, Monmouthshire, award winning, Victorian,
Tintern Station and Tintern Station Cafe. High teas for Spring & Summer.

Our tea includes a selection of freshly made sandwiches, a selection of cakes and a choice of loose leaf tea (10 different teas available) or coffee.

Father’s Day afternoon teas are available on 18th June and full menu and details are available on request. These teas include a gift for Dad as well as a complimentary ‘Have a go’ at archery session (approximately 15 minutes).

To book Signal Box, Father’s Day or special events please in the first instance email: johnsterry@monmouthshire.gov.uk heading your  email Vintage teas.

Links

https://www.facebook.com/oldstationtintern/  @oldstationtintern

http://www.creamteasociety.co.uk/national-cream-tea-day

Longhope Bakes – classic, traditional and super tasty.

 

Preparing for a spring trip to Rome, I was chatting to an Italian friend within a larger group of friends. Someone asked Rosella how to ask for gluten free bread in Italian. Rosella cast a doubtful eye in his direction and, when pressed as to the availability of gluten free in Italy, she thought for a moment and then said “I think that you can get gluten free flour in some pharmacies in the cities and big towns”. Low and behold though, during our visit, some of the shops in Rome’s tourism areas were advertising “gluten free” varieties of well-known Italian staples. Why is it, it occurred to me, that as the demand for gluten free bread and other similar products seems to be inexorably on the rise here, it is a rare product you need a prescription for in Italy?

Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.
Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.

This certainly isn’t a mystery to Sue of The Forest Bakehouse team. This small co-operative bakery, based in modest premises tucked away in the pretty Longhope village centre, produces outstandingly good “proper” bread. During a lovely morning interviewing Sue and Chris, another member of the team, Sue discussed the co-ops passion for producing a real quality bakery range. Turns out that many of the problems digesting wheat and flour some people seem to suffer from may just be a consequence of how it’s made!

Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.
Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.

Modern bread, especially the arch criminal sliced white, takes a fraction of the time a traditional and experienced baker takes to produce a loaf. The bread that makes up the volume of that on offer in our supermarkets is made in vast bread production lines where it goes from cheap raw ingredients to sliced and bagged in just a matter of hours. No doubt this is a profitable business based on volumes alone. But in part consumer demand for ever cheaper stuff is also to blame. Take a supermarket sliced white value loaf at the royal price of 40 pence (link below – worth looking at the ingredients list too to see how many you recognise). Just what is it that we think we are getting for our hard earned 40 pence when a traditionally made loaf costs around £2?

Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.
Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.

Modern large scale bread is made in super quick time with bulk bought ingredients, which need flavour and texture additives to make them palatable. And there is the problem – that speed of production and super-charged fermentation misses a very necessary opportunity. That opportunity is time to allow the process to change and soften the effects of the gluten. Time in fermentation breaks down those things we may have trouble digesting and gives our system a fighting chance. Luckily for us that time spent resting and proving also adds bags more flavour and character to the bread. There’s more of the science on the subject on their website, but the taste and quality is something that the crew at The Forest Bakehouse are really proud of.

 

The bakery is a community supported and part funded project, but don’t think that this is anything other than a successful business. It’s just one operated on a different model. Sue and Chris, we have already mentioned, but Ciaran and Peter complete the co-operative, although not there on the day we visited. The workload is shared between the members and they have now taken on an apprentice too! Sue, was candid when asked about working as a co-operative, “we have learnt a lot, in the beginning we thought that it meant we all had to agree on everything! As we developed, we split the tasks into responsibilities and we each get on with our fair share of running and working in the business. It really works”. The community aspect of the project also means a great deal to the team who see the business as giving something back to the community investors who helped them get going in the first place.

Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.
Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.

That’s the business stuff over with – let’s talk about the taste! I tried their sourdough at the “See, Taste, Buy” event in the spring and was already hooked. The prospect of it straight from the Longhope ovens was just too tempting, and so that was the first target for tasting! The Bakehouse product range is really rather good for a smallish bakery. Alongside their sourdoughs, there are rustic looking farmhouse breads, savoury breads, their Latchen (soft white yeasted bread approximately 250 light years from supermarket sliced white), baguettes and ciabattas.

Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.
Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.

The small café in one corner of the Bakehouse next to the entrance serves croissants and cookies, pizza slices and the most fantastic sausage rolls all made right there on the premises (also available from the Dean Forest Food Hub pick up points). If you don’t believe us, call in for a cup of tea or coffee and watch it coming out of the oven!

Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.
Traditionally made bread from the Forest Bakehouse at Longhope.

My money is on proper bread every time.

Whats in a 40p sliced white http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=258742688

The Forest Bakehouse     www.forestbakehouse.co.uk     Longhope village 01452 830435

Not just for Tourists

mining, Clearwell Caves, iron, coal, Forest of Dean, cafe

Sometimes we tend to overlook great things just because we perceive them to be intended for something, or someone, else and not for us. Here in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley (#deanwye if you tweet by the way) we are blessed with a number of very good cafes indeed; award winning Aunt Martha’s at Steam Mills for a Victorian high tea experience, or Dean Forest Cycles at Parkend for a good honest tea and great cake hit or The Good News Centre at Newent for spiritual reinvigoration through the medium of great café food, Taurus Crafts cafe in Lydney, The George Cafe at Newnham………

How many of though, would include in our list of top ten cafes those outlets based in some of our best known tourist attractions. Would those of us who are lucky enough to live locally think that they were intended for us to use as well or just for visitors? It doesn’t work like this if you are a visitor of course. You may be taking the kids for a fun day out at an attraction and choose to have lunch there, or you may pick a likely spot along your walking route or your town or village visit it doesn’t really matter to you. But if you do live locally there is a tendency to forget about the attractions cafes. Some of them are open to the public (without having to pay for entrance), have great parking, and offer a really full daytime menu. Outside of peak times and school holidays they can also be nice and peaceful and who knows you may even get a thing some people in the Forest call, wi-fi!

Visiting Clearwell Caves  – we had just such a lightbulb moment. The Caves are one of our top tourist attractions (visited lots by local people too) and a magnificent natural film set for countless TV programmes and feature films.  Our top snapper happened to be there again shooting pictures for their new brochure – and there it was, right under our noses all along!

Clearwell Caves café space is light and airy with a homely and old world feel to it. The café tables and church pew seating are solid and reliable and on cold days the log fire might be glowing and creaking in the background (the Forest of Dean has had fantastic weather this Spring, ideal for taking tea on the patio). The ceiling is a hanging museum of miner’s lamps through the ages, and the walls form the basis of a gallery of Freeminer portraits whilst other assorted mining memorabilia is displayed throughout the café.

scone, eat, cream tea,
20 minutes in the oven and….

But, less history and more food! There are lovely homemade cakes to suit everyone’s cake peccadillos, sandwiches made on the premises by the girls behind the counter and light lunches galore. And of course, that archetypal and very British institution – the cream tea. Chantal was busy making the fruit scones in the tiny kitchen by the deli counter faithfully following the Clearwell recipe and then 20 minutes later the golden brown scones were cooling on the cooker top. With the judicious application of clotted cream and jam, and yes we are aware that some of you just can’t agree on the right order – but we don’t care, we able to tuck into a lovely cream tea. Jonathan, the boss and mining magnate, loves a nice cuppa himself and so he and café manageress Kim keep the lid on their selection of fine leaf teas. So if you prefer an Oolong to a Darjeeling, we think that you’ll find something there for you. We were very tempted to try the “Gunpowder” but were a bit worried about the possible results underground!

Clearwell Caves cafe

 

Next up we were treated to the Courgette and Brie homemade soup with a dark nutty granary roll to go with it. The soup, a lovely summer light green, was exceptionally tasty and roll had a really deep and satisfying flavour and together – really filling. Just the thing you might need to keep you going if you get lost for a few days in the fantastic underground caverns right beneath you (joking – there are only a couple of people who’ve never been seen again!).

Clearwell Caves cafe

We think we know when somewhere is going to be good before we ever set eyes on the food. The secret? It’s nothing to do with an innate Derren Brown style super-powers. It’s just enthusiasm and pride. The enthusiasm of the owners and staff of café, restaurant or hotel and the sheer pride in what they do that, actually, is impossible to hide, even if they wanted to project a modest public image. You know that things are going to be good when you sense this pride in the staff that “hey – we did that”. It doesn’t have to be Michelin starred to be good. It just has to have been made by someone who cared and who wanted you to like it and have a great time.

Clearwell Caves cafe

You can of course read the fascinating history of Clearwell Caves on the world wide interweb if you want, and it’s true you’ll be able to see great pictures and learn lots, but it won’t be the same as being there and you won’t get to enjoy tea and cake or soup of the day unless you actually Go!

*Freeminers is the term given to men born within the “St Briavels hundred” who hold the historic rights to mine coal and iron ore within the Forest of Dean http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeminer.