My latest food-related article for Manchester Confidential.
Lavender Barn Tea Room
Jam on top and cream underneath? Or smeared straight on the scone with a slathering of cream on top?
For me, it has to be the latter with a bottomless pot of freshly-brewed tea. You can keep yer cupcakes and your mocha-choca lattes with frothy bits on: I want afternoon tea and I want it in a traditional tearoom.
What’s long bugged me about Manchester is the dearth of dedicated tearooms. Lord knows the number of times I’ve bewailed the lack of them in the city. We’ve chains of coffee shops on every other corner. And then there’s the ever-increasing onslaught of cupcake shops springing up throughout suburbia… which is why my move to the outermost fringes of civilisation (aka Flixton) has actually done me a favour.
After mourning the loss of easy, 24/7 access to the city centre and refusing to pay inordinately high taxi fares home after nights out, I turned my attention the other way towards the Cheshire countryside. It’s turned out to be quite the revelation. Walks along the Trans-Pennine trail and Bridgewater Canal have unearthed numerous cosy pubs; there’s Red House Farm with its perennially-chirpy chef and adjoining farm shop packed to the rafters with local delicacies; there’s Dunham Massey ice-cream parlour where hairy bikers stop for a cone of the buttery stuff whatever the weather; and then there’s the tearooms — Tatton Park, Dunham Massey, and my favourite, Lavender Barn Tea Room.
Tucked out of the way in Dunham Town, this place frequently provided me a cake haven while writing my book. Not least for the fact they don’t mind at all if you only buy one pot of tea and sit there the rest of the day without buying ‘owt else. Not least for the fact their speciality lavender-laced scones taste heavenly with aforementioned jam and lashings of cream. Not least for the groups of muscle-thighed, spandex-attired cyclists who stop off en route for tea and wedges of delicious homemade carrot cake.
Ah yes, cake. Not the cup-bound ones, mind you. Apparently, they can’t sell the things. They tried, but no-one was interested. Country tearoom for country kin, this. None of that fancy-schmancy gubbins townsfolk indulge in. We’re talking traditional homemade cakes as deep as the Grand Canyon and as wide as, well, my bottom if I continue indulging in them.
And don’t even get me started on their home-grown, home-made lavender and honey marmalade which a neighbour switched me onto as a hay-fever remedy. I’ve no idea whether it works but it’s as good excuse as any for stocking up on it. In fact, all their lavender-based products are lush, particularly their hand-cream. You can also buy organically-grown lavender plants to take home.
I love this place for its ramshackled charm, its shabby chic, its laid-back farmhouse vibe. It sells pretty little things that bring out the girly-girl in me and has me cooing over things I’d never otherwise look at including bespoke, vintage painted furniture and twee ornaments. It serves its generously-portioned sandwiches and cakes on crockery that never fails to make me go “Aww…” In the summer, you can sit outside, spread your wares out on a picnic blanket, and revel in the scenery while the smell of lavender from the adjacent field washes over you. This, dear reader, is how all tearooms should be.
If you have children you may like to know they have ‘pony parties’ where wee ones get the opportunity to pet, brush, feed, and ride the ponies. Resplendent in lavender pink coats and accessories Katie Price would be proud of, together with the tearoom, it must rate up there as one of the most delightful venues in which to hold a kid’s party. Sure beats being led along Morecambe promenade on a tired-looking donkey in a sheet of rain, such were the joys of birthday parties past.
Actually, never mind the kids — I’m wondering if they’d let me have my birthday party there this year, seeing as it’s in the middle of June. Hire one of them there fancy yurts, glamp out in the field overnight, argue whether the correct pronunciation’s ‘scon’ or ‘scone’. Now there’s an idea…
Cost of Cream Tea (pot of tea/coffee and a scone with jam and cream) – £2.50
Address: Lavender Barn Tea Room, Dog Farm, School Lane, Dunham Massey, WA14 4TR. Tel: 0161 928 5377 Open: Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm. Saturday and Sundays, 10am – 5pm. Also open Bank Holidays. For further details on Pony Parties call Amy on 07876 597 672.