WHATEVER happened to the high tea? As a meal, particularly in the north of England and Scotland, it is remembered with affection and not a little relish, while in London some knew it as the club-man’s tea and it went down well after a hard day in the city. Unfortunately it has all but vanished from the culinary scene.
As a child I remember touring through Scotland with my parents during the late Fifties and Sixties and encountering the full glory of a Scottish high tea.
Hotels, cafés and farmhouses offered them between the hours of 5pm and 7pm, a time you can feel extraordinarily peckish! Not to be confused with the delicacies of afternoon tea, high tea is a robust affair. It might consist of the following: soup, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, Scotch eggs, a raised pork pie, sandwiches, a dish of smoked haddock, potted shrimps, Welsh rarebit, good cheese, toasted tea cakes dripping with butter and doused in home-made jam, crumpets and English muffins, a rich fruit cake, a boozy trifle and a blackberry and apple tart – all washed down with pots of steaming Assam tea.
Chilled ginger beer or lemonade can be served too and these days a glass of wine, beer or even champagne. And the joy of eating this meal is that there is no starter or main course progression to worry about.
It can be brought to the table and spread before you, or presented in little waves, leaving most of the sweet food until last.
So, is there a case for kick-starting the high tea back into fashion?
The ‘Sunday Times’ thinks so; it recently offered a few high tea recipes to serve at Royal Ascot such as potted trout and Scotch woodcock.
And, for the last few months, we’ve been doing our bit to bring back the high tea by exploring with our customers the idea of putting it on the menu. It seems there’s a demand, not only from visitors to the area but from people living in the region who are keen to try something different.
And, by adding the extra ingredient of some early evening shopping, we are hoping to give the high tea an added dimension as well as a new lease of life.
Therefore, at weekends only, from 4.30pm until 8pm, we are open for high tea.
On a pleasant evening you can sit at the bar on our terrace, or in our summer-house, sipping a glass of wine while admiring the glorious views of Flodden Hill and the Cheviots.
You may then order our More-cambe Bay potted shrimps on buttered toast, Restoration rare- bit, slices of boiled ham and home-made peas pudding, soup of the day and, as the game season comes into play, a wood pigeon or pheasant pie. For afters you could try our boozy trifle, blackcurrant and apple pie served with thick cream or raspberry and lemon bread and butter pudding.
Finish off with a liqueur coffee and you may care to raise your glasses to offer a toast.
Hail to the high tea!
•Keith and Lynne Allan run the Restoration Coffee Shop at the Old Dairy in Ford. If you would like to book a high tea on either a Friday or Saturday please phone for details.
Open on Wednesday to Sunday from 11am-5pm; high tea from 4.30pm until 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Tel: 01890 820325/01289 302658.