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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Review Number Two

2) Dukes of Sidmouth – Devon

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Now this is one place I can’t get enough of. Not because I think their cream teas are the best but because every time I have gone it’s consistently been an interesting experience. I usually frequent this establishment with a good friend of mine to catch up and chat about random crap.

Like how we both really should’ve gone swimming instead of gorging on fattening treats… or discussing how we both hate places which serve food in dim lighting… yeah we know it looks romantic but damn it! We like to see our food!

So we go here because its close but we always arrive with apprehensive expectations now….

Once we arrived and they had no plain scones… NO PLAIN SCONES. Can you actually believe it? Needless to say we took our custom elsewhere but we were still hurt by their betrayal. It didn’t matter how well Costa made its coffee or how sweet they made their muffins it was of little comfort to us when the holes in our stomachs were prepared for scones. So that was one strike against them.

The next time we journeyed to Sidmouth we decided to see if, this time, Dukes had made amends. And when we found out that they did have plain scones… well I only thought it just to give them another chance.

But alas, nothing ever runs smoothly. The lady who served us was obviously… in plain terms; stupid. If she had had it her way we would’ve ended up with three pots of tea, four scones and a latte. I admit some of the fault may have been mine, but, when one changes an order you would think that someone would recognise that two girls would not and should not manage three pots of tea to themselves… incredulous. Anyway, thankfully, we were saved by a most handsome man with one of those strange haircuts that have the side bits shaved off… and he fixed our order and in compensation gave us, not only the choice of raspberry jam but also the most gigantic pot of cream I have ever seen in all of my cream tea eating years.

I think I fell in love a little bit… just a smidge… or possibly had a mini orgasm… who knows….

So yes interesting and in technical terms the scones were, in my mind, damn fine. Plump buns, raspberry jam (and other varieties if you are in the mood to experiment) and lots and lots of cream… well only if you make sure you get the tasty morsel of a man with the military hairstyle…

I do have another anecdote from this place but it is only loosely related… my friend is incapable of carrying liquids. Not sure why but for some reason no matter how short the distance she will spill whatever it is she is carrying. One time she was misfortunate enough to discover that the lady at the till had not given her milk for her tea… so she had to go get it… well I wasn’t going to! I had a scone in front of me that couldn’t be ignored. So off she went. All she had to do was walk from the bar back to the table. She had nothing else to distract her, nothing else to hold, all she had to do was carry the smallest amount of milk back to the table without spilling it… did she do it? No. (lol) Inevitably most of it ended up on the floor… Did I laugh? Yes, easy answer, sometimes I can be cruel. But fear not karma paid me back in kind; I spent the rest of that particular outing with the evidence of a jam spillage stained on my leg for all to see. Pleasant I don’t think.