Review Number Nine

9) Fields – Sidmouth

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Fields of Sidmouth is a department store.

One of the few select, family owned and managed independent department stores remaining in the Uk.’

It’s a charming, old fashioned place with a luncheon room and a bustling clientele of 60+; an advantage I assure you, they make the place cosy and clean.

You won’t find any riff raff or youths here.

Except me of course… ahem but, ‘I’m with them!’

I often go there with my grandparents for a spot of breakfast and a chat, a great and refreshing way to start your day; you get a generous helping of sea air as its right by the coast.

It’s unique.

It’s like stepping back in time a few decades. I have recently become addicted to a show called Mr Selfridge, a programme about how the department store opened in Oxford Street back in 1909, and I was astounded at the similarities. Fields of Sidmouth have been around since the 1800’s and, I swear, their uniforms look as if they haven’t changed since they opened. Their staff are so well mannered and they treat all their customers exactly the same.

Everyone is a regular.

You feel as if they have always known you, it’s so personal, you can joke and laugh with them as if you have always been there. They make an effort to remember your ‘usual’ and seem to know exactly what you are going to order before you’ve even sat down.

They know exactly how you like your coffee, which is important, of course.

‘Muddy?’

‘Why, yes, thank you!’

I know why my grandparents love the place so much. It’s like a little trip into their past, a tipple down nostalgia lane. And I love it because it offers a sort of calm you can’t really find nowadays, it imbues more than just the look of the bygone days, it has the mentality too.

So the location and the staff?

Tick, tick, win win.

Now, the food.

I have more than one usual at this particular establishment. It all depends on my mood, appetite and, of course, the time of day.

If it’s really early and I’m not too peckish I have two slices of cinnamon toast with a pot of tea.

If it’s early and I feel like treating myself I’ll gobble up a caramel slice and yes, with a pot of tea.

If it’s nearing lunch and I’m starving, include a Panini or a bowl of soup with that caramel slice and you’ve got a party starting! Oh and don’t forget that pot of tea!

Nom nom nom.  

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So on the 1st of March I decided it was time I abandoned my usual’s and gave their scones a go.

I hoped the staff would gasp in unison, but they didn’t… they just took my order, with a smile, and got on with it. I guess that reaction is as good as any.

So the scone…

Needless to say, like all of their goods, it was damn tasty and served with style.

With little bowls for the jam and cream, a proper cake fork for the scone and an abundance of napkins for the potential mess… I tucked in feeling somewhat first class.

The scone was BIG, warm, obviously fresh out of the oven and they made sure everyone’s food arrived at the same time. The only negative comment I would make is that I wish they kept the scone in the oven just a little bit longer.

It was rather doughy.

Its consistency was so pliable and moist I’m sure I could’ve reshaped it into a ball and played around with it. It still tasted gorgeous but I fear the service came before the food.

The jam was very good though. Even I, the cream enthusiast, was overly generous. It was many different ‘s’s; strawberry, slippery and sweet.

I got it everywhere!

It kept sliding off my knife and landing on everything but my scone. I believe I managed to dirty every utensil on the table… it was infuriating but worth it. I’m just not sure where the jam was sourced from, may have to ask next time I visit.

The cream was proper clotted too! You could tell it was the genuine stuff because it had that crusty layer you find on the top to prove it. Again, I’m not sure if it was locally sourced but you could tell it was of decent quality. You also got the perfect amount, even had plenty to spare!

What has happened to me?!

They gave me plenty of hot water to top up my pot of tea; it endured and fuelled the whole conversation while retaining its strong colour.

They also gave me a GIANT strawberry to accompany my already indulgent breakfast treat. A lovely garnish I must say, it was sweet and juicy! No other cafe or restaurant I have been to has done this.

Pity…

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It’s the service though that really sells this place; you can guarantee there’ll be fresh flowers on every the table each morning and a vibrant smile for every customer as soon as you walk through the door.

It’s a place that really cares.

A place I can’t get enough of.

I’m going to give their cream tea a second try next time I go and see if the malleable scone problem was just a hiccup on that particular day.  I certainly recommend their cinnamon toasts and their caramel slices, I’ll be sorry to forego them next time…

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The best Cream Tea’s I’ve tasted so far…

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There is nothing I love more than to go for a walk around a beautiful National Trust property and afterwards share a Cream Tea with my lovely boyfriend… the best part being is that he usually pays! ;D nah I joke, the best part is definitely when I have my first bite of a delicious scone smothered in cream and jam! Haha!

I have a very high opinion of how I believe a scone should taste and how it should be served. I have had some dreadful scones in my time – some that have tasted of soap or have been so crumbly that before it’s even reached my lips it has fallen back down to my plate in a million pieces splattering cream and jam everywhere. The worst thing is when you drive all the way to a property and find that the restaurant is only selling scones with sultanas in them. No plain ones… my heart sinks to my stomach and comforts it because it knows the poor thing will remain unsatisfied.

There are many factors I consider when eating a proper cream tea and I believe I judge fairly when I do so.

So here they are! These are the questions I usually consider whilst I scoff away like a beast in front of my beloved –

How big is the scone? Big Bodacious Buns please!

How does the Scone taste? Score from 1-10 (One being – WHY THE HELL DID I PUT THAT IN MY MOUTH?! DDDDD: and 10 being – ORGASMIC!!! : DDDDD)

How much Jam and Cream do you get? Better be enough to spread on all my halves… (yeah I cut them in half and eat it that way.. my mouth isn’t big enough to consume it whole!!)

Are they even proportions? My boyfriend prefers more jam than cream and I am the opposite so if there is an even amount of both we like to share… nawww… if you saw us pillaging away at the sauces you really wouldn’t think it’s that sweet… more like a feeding frenzy.

How many cups of tea do you get out of the tea pot? Less isn’t more.

And if you do not get a teapot how big is the cup? Again, less isn’t more.

Is the Jam and Cream cool? preferably cool.

Do you get a choice in Jam? I love raspberry, not traditional I know but I would rather have that to strawberry.

Is the Cream proper clotted or whipped? FYI whipped is gross but some may disagree.

Is the Scone warm? Love it when the cream melts a bit. Drool!

Do they have Plain and Fruit scones? If they only have fruit ones they are void. Gross. Immoral. EVIL. I leave the place immediately. Yeah, I only like plain Scones… Was that not obvious before?!

Do you get one or two scones? LESS ISN’T MORE!!

Free tea refills? DEFINITELY A BONUS!

Think I have covered all the crucial areas… So far the best places I’ve been to for a decent scone is Killerton House in Exeter and the Royal Pavillion in Brighton – huge pots of cream and jam, perfect fluffy fat scones and a generous pot of tea. So if you have ever been to those places and have tasted their scones please let me know if you agree or (hopefully not) disagree!