The Cake ‘Ole, Skipton, September 2017

Cake please!

After a gentle trundle around Skipton, we needed to stop off for tea and cake. There are plenty of options dotted around the town. We found ourselves in the Craven Court shopping centre and The Cake ‘Ole caught our eye (not least because it reminded us of Kerrie).

The wacky decor (sadly not pictured because we were too busy staring around the room and spotting things) certainly caught our eye so we grabbed a brightly covered table and ordered some tea, coffee and cake.

cakeole

Actually I was the only one who ordered the cake. Because chocolate orange cake.

Look at that dense deliciousness. It was lovely. A good cup of northern tea to go with it – proper loose leaves, none of this soft southern tea bag nonsense. Delightful mismatched crockery (this caused some uproar on Facebook) and all the mad decor. Lampshades without the shade (just the wire frame) with various birds perching on them, an upright cow, a crow watching suspiciously on. A selection of cuckoo clocks (and cuckoo clocks that made other noises). Pages of the Beano as wallpaper. A zebra.

Friendly and happy staff round things off nicely – a great place to pop in for tea and cake.

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Hassop Station Cafe, Bakewell, Derbyshire, August 2017

How do you make a mess of the simple process of allowing a customer to order 2 cups of tea and 2 slices of cake? Alarmingly, it’s quite easy. Unlike most cafes, you decide to have two queues. One queue to order your food and drink. The other queue to pay for your order.

That shouldn’t really be enough to make a mess of things, it’s quite simple. However, if you really want to mess things up, don’t label these queues, and don’t make it obvious in any way whatsoever which queue is which. So when your unsuspecting customers arrive, they join a queue, get to the front (eventually, because it’s a busy Saturday afternoon), only to be told by the disinterested youth that they are in the wrong queue. So time to start it all over again.

A shame that this is how things started off (I swear they were utterly disorganised the last time that we were here too). The tea and cake were good, and they are so handily placed on the Monsal trail (and are always busy). They also hire bikes too, so they have a ready made captive audience. There are some decent things for sale in the shop, as well as the usual gift shop tat.

They just need to get a bit more organised.

Whistlers Cafe Bar, Chipping Norton, July 2017

The ladies were next door but one in the wool shop, squishing things and buying things (although not as much as expected). The men retired to the drawing room, or this cafe next door, for a quick coffee. As it turned out, the ladies didn’t spend too long in the wool shop, so they also joined us, although not in time to witness Steve crack his head on the stone fireplace behind where we sat. Ouch, that hurt. And I was only watching.

We did seem to get funny looks when we just ordered coffees and teas, but the staff were perfectly pleasant. Some cafes do forget that they are cafes at times. The coffee was a decent cup, and the food certainly looked nice. We chilled out for a short while and then went on our merry way.

The Pear Tree, Hook Norton, July 2017

Where do you go when you’ve just been shopping at the Hook Norton brewery? To the 18th century pub just down the road. It’s not quite the brewery tap (there’s a bar inside the brewery shop which serves as that), but as it’s so close, it’s as good as one. Presumably named after the pear tree which grows up the front of it, this is a pub that we’ve been to before, for lunch and a walk a few years ago now.

It was nice to be back, and we had a leisurely chat over some hot drinks and beers, whilst waiting for Paul (and eager young pup Snitch) who we had last seen in the field just up the road from this very spot this time last year, whilst at the Hooky beer festival. We ordered some lunch too. This was accompanied by a pint of Hook Norton Katy Lou which was released as we were sitting here, a special for the beer festival.

I had a bacon and brie panino, which was very nice, with a decent bit of salad on the side. Everyone in our party had a lovely lunch.

A great little village pub, good food and drinks and a friendly atmosphere.

We close this review with something unusual.

A toilet.

A urinal to be precise. With something rather different about it. If you don’t visit many urinals, then rest assured that they don’t usually look like this.

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this. It’s obviously designed to help you focus your aim in the right place. Odd.

The Tea Junction, Hulme End, May 2017

The Tea Junction at Hulme End opened in 2009 after much controversy over the costs of refurbishing the former railway shed, even though the railway that it served closed in 1934!

We first came across it in 2013 when we were camping just a few hundred yards away. It’s the perfect place for some food and drink at the start or end of your journey up or down the Manifold Way, which runs along the old railway bed from Hulme End to Waterhouses (near Leek). If you start at Waterhouses, then it’s perfectly placed in the middle of your “there and back” route.

There’s the usual selection of hot drinks including several teas, various soft drinks and plenty of home made cakes to accompany them. Savoury options too, including soup, Staffordshire oatcakes and sandwiches.

Today we dropped in at the end of our walk to Wetton Mill and back (via Ecton Hill and the Manifold Way). A well earned cup of tea and some cake was our reward for a lovely walk. An added bonus is the delightful mish mash of crockery that you are presented with:-

There’s always the opportunity for a chat with the lovely owner Rebecca, who is genuinely interested in everyone who comes in, what they’ve been up to, what they’ve encountered whilst out and about and anything else you want to talk about.

This quirky little cafe is a delight, and a great place to stop for refreshments on the Manifold Way.

The Hydro, Buxton, April 2017

A short and sweet post. We were meeting up with friends for a wander round Buxton, but first we needed some quick refreshment. We had arranged to meet here and were soon settled in and ordering teas and coffees.

I had a reasonable latte, although the service was rather slow. And that’s about all there is to say.

Afternoon tea, Aqua Shard, London, March 2017

We do enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. Normally it’s in slightly more low key surroundings, but today is Mrs MOFAD’s birthday, and we wanted something special to celebrate. I booked this a few months in advance, and even though it was just an “ordinary” Tuesday, it was just as well that I did because it soon got very busy very quickly.

After a relaxed morning of present opening, breakfast and then an easy train journey (despite East Midlands Trains doing their best to spoil it by screwing up their reservations again), we were soon at London Bridge station, and outside the Shard. We stood and gawped for a little while and then entered the gift shop. Let’s get the Shard facts out of the way and then move on to lunch.

The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper in Southwark, London. It is 309.7 metres (1,016 ft) high, currently the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the fourth tallest building in Europe and the 107th tallest building in the world. That will change soon I’m sure.

The glass-clad pyramidal tower has 72 habitable floors, with a viewing gallery and open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor, at a height of 244.3 metres (802 ft). It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and replaced Southwark Towers, a 24-storey office block built on the site in 1975.

So, there are the facts, let’s move on to our visit. You arrive at the ground floor, after a short stroll from London Bridge station. You can have a look around the gift shop if you’ve got some time to spare. When you’re ready, you are greeted in the lobby, and then your bags go through an airport-style x-ray scanner. Once they pass, you enter the lift and zoom up 31 floors to Aqua Shard.

We ordered the full afternoon tea experience for our lunch, and spent two hours leisurely grazing our way through it, accompanied by a glass of champagne and infinite tea.

Here is the tower of cake (more on those later).

There’s a huge selection of teas to choose from but we kept it trad with some English breakfast style teas, and they just kept on topping them up with as much tea as you want. You can also spot chocolate/meringue lollipops, more on those later too.

A slightly blurry sandwich shot next, some very traditional ones in this line up. Smoked salmon and cream cheese, cheese and pickle, egg, bacon and tomato, and cucumber on rye bread. This was the first plate, another was to follow.

Some cakes next, a light sponge with chocolate and caramel, and a shard of chocolate on the outside. If you have a restaurant in the Shard, you have to have a shard somewhere in your food. You can also see a fruity/moussey/crumbley thing.

No afternoon tea would be complete without freshly baked scones, both plain and with golden raisins. You will note that these are pictured being served correctly, jam first.

More cake? Ok then. A light and fluffy victoria sponge with cream and jam. I’m not sure that the WI would quite approve, but I certainly did.

There has to be a chocolate cake somewhere, and this chocolate brownie with an orange cream was a delicious cocoa-ey bite.

And last but not least, that chocolate meringue lollipop, blurred here to show you the view from the Shard.

The service was relaxed, friendly, unhurried. A comedy French maître d’hôtel kept us entertained, jokingly chastising a junior colleague on a small error, photo-bombing some old ladies’ selfies and just generally keeping things light. No need for lots of starched stuffiness. When you opt for a dining experience like this one, there’s always a worry that you will be made to feel uncomfortable if these surroundings are not places you spend a lot of time in. That was not the case.

Nor were we surrounded by hordes of hooray Henries, which is another potential worry. There were a few corporate lunches going on around us, but the overwhelming majority of tables were filled with couples enjoying a pleasant lunch and relaxing, high above the hustle and bustle of central London.

When the bill arrives (as it inevitably must), it also appears with understated elegance.

And even the view from the toilet is rather splendid.

Just time for one last look down before hopping into the lift and zooming back down to the ground. floor

A fantastic lunch. If you are looking for a special experience for a special occasion, this won’t disappoint. Aqua Shard has put together the right mix of everything to make things feel just right.