Don’t know about the rest of you but when Matt and Cat think about cream teas, Godshill springs to mind.
This quaint village with its gift shoppes, picture-postcard thatches and tea gardens is a mandatory port of call for grockles and cream tea aficionados alike. One sunny October day when mad dogs and Englishmen made a bee-line for the Wight’s unseasonably scorching shores, Cat and a like-minded chum made their way inland to have a cream tea lunch in the scone capital of the Island.
Some of the village’s tea shops have been serving up afternoon delight since the Model Village was all fields. However, Cat and her friend, strolling in the middle of the road as is customary, bimbled to the newest pretender for the tea garden crown, Rainbow Art Café. The last time Cat visited this little corner of Godshill she bought a very nice embroidered coat from the venue’s previous incarnation, Christmas Cottage. Some may remember this side street crystal-mongery which purveyed wind chimes, ambient music and incense. Since then the venue has undergone a makeover; the majority of the produce has been swept away, replaced with chi-chi tables, a vast glass counter exhibiting a variety of tasty-looking cakes, and some incongruous life-size clowns.
Despite its new purpose, the building’s pan-pipe medleys and Nicola Gibbs’ dreamy artworks remain. The Rainbow is described as an art café, and it’s possible to release your inner Tretchikoff with a a session of tutored daubing in the studio area. However, Cat and her friend had food in mind; bagging a garden table in the cooling shade by draping their light-weight summer cardigans over the chairs, they returned indoors to make their lunch choices.
Spinach and Stilton quiche £4
Cream tea £3.95
Cat was lured to Rainbow Art Café with the promise of lavender scones. A big fan of this aromatic herb, Cat had first tried lavender in biscuits at Osborne House as part of a guided tour around the palace’s walled kitchen garden. The shortbreads had the subtlest hint of the flower’s scent; clearly it would be easy for it to over-dominate. The Rainbow Art Café’s lavender scones were on the counter and Cat was keen to dive right in. However, she and her friend decided to make a meal of their visit and started out with a garnished quiche each.
Cat had asparagus and Stilton. Clearly home-made, this generous tart was very tasty; perky asparagus tips peeped out through its cheesy topping, with sweet tomatoes underneath in a nice short pastry case. An unusual mixed dressed salad came alongside; diced peppers, radish and foliage was mixed with vegetable crisps. It was an excellent combination of flavours and textures.
After they had finished their first course, Cat hopped back into the painted parlour and ordered two cream teas with lavender scones, one with Earl Grey tea. The handsome-looking teas were delivered to their table; the aroma of lavender heralding their arrival. A hotchpotch of crockery gave the course a charming cottagey feel and there was an extremely generous allowance of jam and cream in the little glass ramekins. The milk came in a dainty china jug and the teacups had matching saucers; it was your textbook cream tea.
Cat fiddled about with the tea cups and, having bisected her scone, took time to butter it and lard it up with jam and cream, savouring the moment. A sip of tea later and she was ready to taste the much-awaited lavender scone. Her friend – who had not undergone such a ritual – had bitten into her scone pretty much straight-away and was discretely watching as Cat fussed about.
Cat finally bit into the scone. Suddenly the birds stopped tweeting, a cloud covered the sun, and Cat made The Face – usually reserved for when she sucks on a lemon. The scone contained enough flowers to stuff a small lavender bag and, as she stoically chomped her way through the tiny mouthful, it became more and more like eating a bar of old lady’s soap. The pressure of her teeth had a pestle and mortar effect, squeezing out the flowers’ pungent aromatic oil. As she gamely swallowed this first bite, she knew she would not be able to eat the rest. It was truly terrible.
Cat’s friend – who had come to the same conclusion – leapt to her feet, keen to return the offending cakes and make representations to the café’s staff. Cat nodded her agreement to this course of action, stunned by the overwhelming sense of disappointment as she tried to expunge the disagreeable taint from her mouth with tea.
The lady at the Rainbow Café was extremely gracious in her apology and, having admitted that she hadn’t actually tried the scones herself, was more than happy to substitute the nibbled floral cakes for the more regular fruited kind. More jam and cream came alongside and Cat and her friend continued their lunch with this substitution of more traditional fare.
Despite the – frankly foul – aberration of the lavender scone, The Rainbow Café was a good example of its type. With its on-trend vintage crockery, pastel interior and twinkly music it’s certainly a restful place to be. The quiche was the standout dish; fresh, interesting and tasty. The substitute fruit scones were good although not exceptional; perhaps Cat would have been better off trying one of the luscious looking cakes from the glass counter. The lady who served Cat was very professional and processed the cake complaint perfectly. The garden, which had both shaded and full-sun seating looked newly tended but could have benefited from some wildflower borders and cottage-style planting. Perhaps a more appropriate location for the lavender?