Sunday, 22 July 2012

Ending up at the Russian Tea Rooms...

The sun was shining. We'd almost forgotten about the bright shiny thing in the sky - weeks of seemingly unremitting rain, grey cloud and general global warming had washed away the best part of the summer.

So we struck out for the hills, heading in the general direction of the Lake District - we'd been there at Christmas and the drive was only a couple of hours which made a day trip feasible. Unless of course every other car owner in West Yorkshire decides exactly the same as us and the roadworks on the A65 aren't tucked away for the weekend.

On the Settle by-pass with the stationery traffic snaking out of sight before us, we opted to take to the tiny little roads on the North East edge of the Forest of Bowland - which means you get to see countryside rather than the back bumper of the car in front. Countryside like this:

Wonderful stuff - little roads where you have to get out of the car to open gates. Slight moments of panic at the apparent absence of passing spaces on the road badged as "one track with passing places". And moments of irritation (sorry Bradley) at road hogging Lycra-bedecked bunches of cyclists.

At the end of this winding - and taking the usually reliable guidance of the Good Pub Guide - we arrived cheery but thirsty at Tunstall in the Northernmost bit of today's Lancashire where we lunched at the Lunesdale Arms. This experience I can recommend - lovely light dining room, decent beer and excellent food. I had a pork and herb sausage roll (a really big one) with piccalilli - home made not mass produced from a jar, some chutney, red cabbage and salad. Kathryn enjoyed a light cheese souffle - equally tasty and served with another interesting, fresh and pleasantly dressed salad.

Fed and beered we pondered on whether to plod on to the Lake District and opted not to but rather to swing over the highest part of the forest, drop down to Slaidburn and from there cross country home. Good choice (cyclists aside) - plenty to explore and a pleasant drive in lovely sunshine. The last part of this drive - having failed to find somewhere to park for tea at Bolton-by-Bowland - was something of a tea shop search that brought us into Skipton for the last scrapings of the market.

If you've never been to Skipton market, you should remedy this soon. It is one of the very best. Not so much a foodie heaven - although there's plenty of great food - but a good old-fashioned, street market selling everything from fine cheese, olives and vegetables to hammers, washing-up powder and fancy shorts. Everything a market should be. And busy:

We bought some cheese (it is a scientific fact that it is impossible to walk past a cheese stall without buying cheese) and, still hankering for a cuppa, considered the little row of tea and coffee shops that the top on of the main street. And there it was - a new shop to us - The Russian Tea Room. With women in traditional Russian dress, samovars, Russian dolls, a glass Kalashnikov design for pouring vodka shots (complete with bullet-shaped shot glasses and a grenade filled with balsam liquer) - we had to go in and try it out!

Upstairs is the tea shop - complete with a six page tea menu and a choice of cake. Tea was ordered - Russian Caravan for me and First Flush Organic Darjeeling for Kathryn. Plus cake - a seed cake (essentially madeira cake with caraway seeds) and a Russian honey cake. The tea arrived in a nice see-through pot (see picture above) accompanied with a little timer to make sure we didn't over or under brew the tea. Lovely touch.

When you visit Skipton Market - and you will I know - give the Russians a call. They make you welcome and serve good teas and fine cake. Could you ask for more?


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