Around the World in 80 Cakes #13: Warwick


The eagle-eyed reader may be wondering what happened to the #12 edition of the 80 cakes edition.

I haven’t written it yet, even though it happened last weekend.

Today, we are focusing mostly on the Thomas Oken Tearooms in Warwick.

Was Chris taking the day off from his epic cross country hike? No. Chris was continuing his trek, today from Warwick to the outskirts of Birmingham.

I, however, was going to spend the day wandering around Warwick, soaking up some medieval history courtesy of the Lord Leycester Hospital – not actually a hospital – and heading further forward in time to the restored Victorian Hill Close Gardens.

The ‘Hospital’ was actually a home for veteran soldiers and their wives, a dictat made by Robert Dudley. Yes, that Robert Dudley, the one who Elizabeth I was keen on.

I wondered whether she would have been pleased to know that the wardrobe she had gifted to him was then passed on to the Hospital after Dudley decided to have a clear out.

“Oh, that wardrobe I had built for you… you’ve decided to give it to give it away…Nice.”

The buildings started as a Chapel in 1123 and the Guildhall was added in 1450 by Richard Neill, the ‘Kingmaker’ Earl of Warwick.

Dudley acquired the buildings in 1751 and set them into use as refuge or retirement home for wounded soldiers. He also determined the purposes of the gardens – one for leisure and contemplation while the other produced food.

On the opposite side of the town centre are the Hill Close Gardens just off the wonderfully named Bread and Meat Close.

Detached gardens were a Victorian development – for people who lived above their businesses in the town centre and had nowhere to grow fruit, vegetables or flowers.

Warwick’s are the last remaining example in the country. Sixteen of the original 32 plots remain, largely thanks to the efforts of volunteers who have restored them to their former glory and researched the histories of the previous owners.

It’s a fascinating spot.

Having worked up a sufficient appetite with a meagre 21,000 steps after the previous days’ 47,000 and 36,000 respectively, I headed for the Tearooms.

Thomas Oken was the first mayor of Warwick following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Oaken negotiated for the church wealth to remain in Warwick and became a burgh master… or mayor.

A cloth merchant, he was deeply religious and committed to improving life for the citizens of Warwick. He and his wife had no children and so he left his fortune to the townspeople with a wish that it would be used to support the poor.

His executors challenged the will, hoping to retain the money for themselves but were unsuccessful.

Today, his house is the setting for the tearooms named after him. Close to the castle walls, it is a cosy setting.

Obviously, social distancing measures are in place but for some customers, they could clearly use some strengthening.

“Look at the size of that! You’re never going to eat all of that!” boomed the man from the next table two metres away.

It took me a moment to realise he was speaking to me as the two tiered tray with four sandwiches and a (very large) scone arrived.

I’m always absolutely thrilled when a stranger decides to pass comment on the amount of food that I am being served.

“You’ll never eat all of that,” he repeated, oblivious to his wife and daughter trying to hush him. “I’m going to watch you eat all of that.”

“Feel free,” I smiled. “It’s likely to be a very boring afternoon for you.”

He should have the afternoon tea served up in Moscow. Now that would have made his eyes pop out. It did mine.

Back to the food rather than the clientele.

For the solo diner, at this establishment, the afternoon tea offer is a mere two tier serving which means: no cakes. Is this even an afternoon tea if there are no cakes?

You’re also asked to choose one sandwich filling. There will be no range of fillings and no variety of breads.

Are these two aspects disappointing?

No. In my opinion they are not.

For a small establishment when confronted with one diner and afternoon tea not being the main draw, asking the customer to select one sandwich choice reduces food waste.

There were five options to choose, all sounding very tasty, but it was the coronation chicken that made my mouth water.

The sandwiches, served on soft granary bread, were generously filled and delicious. The side salad was a nice touch but I didn’t need or want the crisps.

The fruit scone was served warm and, as you can see, was huge. Light and no doubt crumbly I wondered how I was going to cut it without making a mess…

Hallelujah! It was already sliced.

The pots of strawberry jam and clotted cream to accompany meant there was no skimping on coating the scone.

One of the nicest scones I’ve ever tasted.

And there is no way that I would have managed to eat cake as well.

For £13 in a cosy setting, if you ignored the suit of armour sleeping in the corner, it was a very pleasant way to eat sandwiches and a scone.

Now, off to the railway station to catch the train to Birmingham.  I wasn’t planning to walk there, unlike Chris. If you have enjoyed these Warwickshire adventures, you might like to consider supporting Chris’s cause.

Categories: Afternoon Tea, Cake, Warwick - Thomas Oken TearoomsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 comments

  1. I see you put jam before cream on your scones…haha, I hear it’s a controversial point for the English as to the order of how you top up your scone for afternoon tea; I’m not English, but I tend to do the opposite of what you did! Love me some good tearoom experience, and I especially enjoy your play-on of a title. Glad you ate to your heart’s content!

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  2. How lovely. I mix it up when it comes to jam and cream order. Depends how I feel. One does taste better than the other but I keep forgetting which.

    Like

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