Monday 13 July 2009

My Cornish Sweetheart

Cornish cream tea Newquay I think my love affair with afternoon tea began when I was eleven or twelve during a family holiday to Cornwall. We spent an entire month in St Ives lazing on the beach, jumping in the surf and, most importantly, indulging in traditional Cornish Cream Teas. So when a family wedding took me back down to Cornwall last weekend it seemed like the perfect opportunity to rekindle my first love. I was a bit pushed for time over the weekend but just before heading home I found myself with an hour to spare and grabbed my chance. The wonderful thing about Cornwall is that while in, for instance, London, one may need to seek out the afternoon tea, reading reviews, booking tables, travelling across town, etc. in Cornwall signs advertising cream teas are everywhere. I was staying in Newquay and decided to pop into Nile's Bakery on the main street; it was apparently established in 1955 and looked homely and fairly traditional.

Just as I remembered from visiting numerous such establishments in my childhood it was utterly unpretentious. I ordered at the counter and grabbed a table in the upstairs room that looked like it hadn't changed for 30 years. I could have had a “speciality tea” but that isn't part of the £4.95 Cornish Cream Tea deal so I went for a good old pot of standard English Breakfast style tea which was served in the kind of metal teapot I hadn't seen for a while. But I have to admit, much as I love a good brew – and this was a good solid cuppa - a cream tea is all about the accompanying food. As in the norm, up came two scones, a dish of strawberry jam and, the piece de resistance, a tub of clotted cream. For any foreign readers who may not be familiar with the concept of clotted cream, here is a description. Far from healthy I'm sure you'll agree, but trust me, an experience not to be missed.

So how was it? Well I have to admit the scones were a bit of a let-down. Having picked a bakery rather than the countless other establishments offering the same kind of deal I had hoped that they would be top notch. Sadly they were rather bready and lacking any crunchiness or fruit (as I've mentioned before I prefer a fruited scone). The jam was fine but certainly nothing special: it had that slightly disturbing bright red quality that I've never seen in the home-made variety. Thankfully the clotted cream was the reliable Rodda's brand and there was enough of it to mean that any shortcomings on the part of the scones and jam was almost made up for. I suppose part of my fussiness comes from the fact that, unlike last time I had a cream tea in Cornwall, I now regularly make scones at home and if I decide to turn their baking into an event I buy clotted cream and top quality jam to go with them. I suppose it's not surprising that an ordinary bakery in the heart of a tourist town didn't meet up to my exacting standards. I just had such high hopes!

I guess the moral of this story might have something to do with not sullying childhood memories by trying to relive them or maybe it's just to be a little more discerning when picking your spot for a cream tea in Cornwall. Either way, something boring and sensible. Nonetheless I really enjoyed my trip and I'd like to go back in the not too distant future so if anyone can recommend a spot where I can recreate my youthful cream tea bliss I'd be perfectly happy to base my future holiday plans around a fantastic bakery or cafe. And if that sounds extreme I don't care. One's first love should never be forgotten.


  1. Hi there Natalie,

    If you return to Newquay then I would recommend Trenance Cottage Tea Room for Cream Teas, especially if the weather is good as they have an attractive outside seating area.

    If you are in the south of Cornwall, visiting either the Eden Project or Fowey,then you would be very welcome at Muffins in Lostwithiel. They also offer pretty good cream teas. (However I am slightly biased!)



  2. There are some wonderful places that do scrummy afternoon or High Teas.

    Try Charlotte's in Truro,or Eden Cafe in the shopping centre of St Austell, they do fabulous oversized scones!

    A further list is,Cornwall%20&%20Isles%20of%20Scilly,

  3. Wow, thanks for the tips Katherine & Keith. I can see I need another trip down to Cornwall ASAP!