‘Clarence Brasserie & Tea Room’
Queen Elizabeth apparently spends most weekends at Windsor Castle, with a longer stint around Easter, and uses the castle to host events to impress out-of-towners, dignitaries that is, although she does a good job on us commoners as well. For almost 1,000 years, the castle has been home to British Monarchs and is considered to be the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Plan to arrive mid morning in time for the crowd-pleasing ‘Changing of the Guards’ performance in the castle grounds at 11am (but remember everyone is planning to do the same thing). Afterwards, let the audio guide bring the St George’s Chapel and the lavish State Apartments to life, but be sure to linger and absorb the history and the extensive art collection along the way. Besides all the royal pomp and imposing castle, Windsor offers a pleasant village vibe, and because of its daily dose of curious visitors, is not short on eateries and tourist tat. After considering the choice, I settle on Clarence Brasserie & Tea Room, which happens to be in coo-ee of the castle. There’s plenty of seating inside, but considering that it’s a warm autumnal day, everyone is outside and making the most of the sunshine. Warm scones – this is a first for me in the UK! Unfortunately these fruit scones are microwaved so taste and feel water-logged. The fruity raspberry jam is above average and the cream tastes like double thick rather than clotted cream. Overall, sitting out in the cobbled laneway in fine weather with Windsor Castle as a not-so-distant backdrop, is pretty cool.
Tea: A small choice of Novus pyramid tea bags served in a cute teapot.
Overall: A prime location, and only a two-minute walk to Windsor Castle.
In Stratford-Upon-Avon, as far as cafes go, Quickly’s is as close to the house where William Shakespeare was born and lived as you can get. It’s literally across the paved ‘pedestrian only’ road in the heart of the pretty 16th-century medieval market town. Only a couple of hours drive north-west of London, the town sees lots of visitors keen to follow in the footsteps of one of the most famous writers in the English language. The Royal Shakespeare Company also holds performances of William’s celebrated plays both in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and adjacent Swan Theatre that sit on the banks of the River Avon. With so many visitors in town, expect a plethora of eateries to choose from, especially those serving scones. Though the question is whether you can get a table? Quickly’s has a sign out front enticing passersby in for a cream tea. It’s large and spacious but not big on atmosphere. The fruit scones are homemade, not mass-produced and delivered to multiple establishments (like I’ve seen in London), and are quite heavy and filling. The cream tea spreads only likeness to many other establishments is the stock standard jar of Tiptree strawberry jam and the container of Rodda’s clotted cream. If it’s warm, pull up a pew outside and contemplate Shakepeare’s life.
Tea: A small choice of Twining tea bags served in an elegant looking teapot.
Overall: The ideal viewpoint to admire Shakespeare’s former home.
It’s hard to know where to have a Cream Tea in Stratford-upon-Avon, because there are so many places to choose from. I can’t go past The Fourteas, a 1940s themed tea room. It’s quirky and celebrates a decade that to me is best remembered for World War II. There are all sorts of war memorabilia, Union Jack flags abound, and there’s even an air raid shelter in the large private garden out the back. It’s too chilly for sitting outside today, so we cosy up with fellow diners at street level (there are rooms upstairs) inside. Wait staff help set the mood by getting about in 1940s garb, while tunes to the likes of the Andrew Sisters play discreetly in the background. Menus are ‘Ration Books’, but there is nothing ration-like about it with plenty to choose from. There’s a selection of fruit and plain scones served warm or cold, and for those with a particular food intolerance, wheat free cheese scones, and wheat and dairy free fruit scones are available. I choose a warm plain scone that’s neither light and fluffy nor heavy, but instead, is fresh, wholesome and homemade. The clotted cream is superb, and the fruity strawberry jam is well above average. The tea room is quality, fun, and with just the right amount of kitsch.
Tea: A great selection of Green Monkey Tea Company loose-leaf teas served in a good-sized pot. An egg timer arrives along with the tea, so you know when your pot is ready to go.
Overall: A cool vintage-themed tea room with a 40s spin.