Review: The Tea Room @ St. Martin’s

As I am writing this, I am sort of house bound as the 7th Wonder and the Small Shouty One have chicken pox. Last night was brutal as 7th Wonder was feverish, uncomfortable, teething and breastfeeding all night. The weather is hot and balmy and all of a sudden, most drivers somehow have lost the ability to heed the 30mph limit.

We are fortunate enough to live in town itself, which means we hardly have to drive anyway and it’s never a tragedy if we run out of toilet rolls. We tend to avoid the town centre during the weekend, and when we are out, we sort of weave in and out of shortcuts and back alleyways in order to avoid the hustle and bustle of weekend shoppers.

It’s only just been recently that Slaveboy and I have resumed our mini escapades into town for a sneaky snack, without the children. Let’s just face it, taking out 7 children to a restaurant or cafe is a feat that requires a mini mortgage from Mr. Barclay’s and I’m grateful that I have children who actually do not begrudge me of my cup of bought hot chocolate as long as I don’t forget to bring home some Yum Yums from Marks & Spencer’s.

We went to St. Martin’s Tea Room, just off the pedestrian precinct at East Street. The last time I visited this establishment, 7th Wonder had not even been conceived.

It’s a lovely, quaint, oldy worldy type of place. The floor creaked. There were nooks and crannies everywhere. I suppose you could even call the thin layer of dust settled on the window sills charming. It all added to the feel of the place. It’s the sort of place you could go to if you fancied a little rendezvous with an old school sweetheart with little chance of your workmates (or even worse, your spouse) catching you out. You can sit there and feign disproportionate interest in your cup of Darjeeling in some hope of veiling your true intentions whilst looking all demure and Mills & Boons-like.

There is even Secret Garden-esque outdoor seating, which looked beautiful but not suitable for the likes of me who is often chaperoned by a lily-white skinned companion such is Slaveboy.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I actually fantasise about being uber healthy, downing wheatgrass juice, eating micro sprouts and making cakes out of spelt. I really do. I am a failure for not attaining this accolade. You know how you know people who hide their jars of marshmallow fluff, pot noodles and jumbo frankfurters? Well, I am the reverse. My fridge bears the shame of half eaten vacuum packed bag of flaxseed, I have a sticky bottle of Cranberry tincture which the Small Shouty one refers to as fanny juice (please, please, I will have to explain this later) and in the cupboard under the hob behind our industrial sized rice cooker hides the big sack of stone milled spelt flour.

It is because of this, SniffSnorters, when confronted with not a selection of decadently oozing with milky White whipped cream Victoria sponges slathered with home made English strawberry & redcurrant jam BUT a choice of between wholemeal flour scones, earthy hued flapjacks and something else moonlighting as carrot cake slices, my pride simply got in the way.

I just couldn’t be that person who engaged her belly and thought, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore before swiftly exiting the premises. I couldn’t let the shop help write me off as one of those enslaved to the lard-arse revolution and addicted to sugar comas.

I settled for a fruit scone and Slaveboy ordered the tomato soup (sans the slice of bread as Slaveboy suspected that it might have resembled a dwarf throwing bread). We both had iced mocha because ordering any tea would have required knowledge of a different language.

The iced mocha was actually nice. Slaveboy had to put lots of sugar in his but you guys know what a sugar junkie he is.

I was close to asking the proprietor what the soft, whipped cream-like dollop was, which came with the fruits scone. It was pure White, not buttery and almost the consistency of clotted cream but tasting like healthy margarine. It wasn’t nasty, but I couldn’t place it. The scone was nicely made, but crumbly. You wouldn’t even attempt to just break it in half for fear that it would all just turn into floury morsels.

Slaveboy wasn’t too keen on his tomato soup. I thought it might have been roasted tomato soup, but regardless, it was highly seasoned with what tasted like vegetable salt. We did lower the tone of the place by failing to stop ourselves from falling over laughing at the fact that we weren’t sure if the tiny, little dried vine-like bits we found in the soup were supposed to be in it and if they were organic.

“At St. Martin’s everything is freshly made on the premises using wholefoods and unrefined high quality ingredients. No microwave ovens, aluminium pots, tin openers, flavours or preservatives are used. At St. Martins you can have a treat without spoiling yourself! We genuinely look after your health.” (italics are my emphasis)

There is nothing wrong with their food. It’s made with good quality ingredients. The food is prepared well. It’s the type of food you come away feeling like you haven’t ruined your diet. You know it was good for you.

And there lies the problem, SniffSnorters. I expect my treats to spoil me. I enjoy the roller coaster ride I get from eating decadent food. I look forward to having my mood altered by what I choose to consume.

I don’t go out to a tea room or a restaurant so I can come away feeling worthy. I like my food naughty, and I like my food memorable. The Tea Room’s food left a lot to be desired for. It’s akin to having spent a whole term living at uni eating Pot Noodles and Dime bars and then switching for a week to a detox diet purely because your digestive system needs a flush. There is no great romance there. Nothing to write home about. No Miss World lost their crown due to it. Devoid of the Lewinsky-Clinton cigar scenario.

It was safe. I’m a wholefood heathen. I think there needs to be more to food than just riding on being wholefood, organic, yada yada yada. And this is why they would never employ me to sort out the school dinners fiasco.

Or actually, maybe they would.

So what would I score them at? I dunno. I don’t think I can. It’ll be like expecting Dolly Parton to pick out Suzanne Vega from a line-up of Big Issue sellers.

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