Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Let Me Eat Cake!

Well, the grand opening of Dorothy's Tea Room went tremendously well; we were busy pretty much all day long (an odd lull from about 1.30-2.30pm, but things soon picked up again), and today has seen a steady stream of customers once more. I'm so very pleased with how it has all gone, and I think I'm running on adrenaline at the moment having barely had time to stop for the past few days (but all in a good cause.) I'm amazed that I've been working in the tea room for two whole days and have yet to sample any of the cakes on the premises! Still, it will do my profits and my waistline the world of good if I can stay away from the sweet temptations.

Anyway, I'm a busy bee even when I'm home after a day at the tea room - last night I had to come home and make two batches of scones as we nearly sold out yesterday and this evening I have to make a batch of butternut squash soup. It's all go in the food industry, don't you know!

Here are a few snaps from yesterday's grand opening. Since it was so busy, I didn't get the chance to take any photos once customers had started arriving (there were even some trying to get in before we opened); I wish I had managed it as at one point every table and chair was taken and there was a fabulous, buzzy atmosphere. But never mind, these snaps will have to suffice.

The fabulous Easter nest cake that a friend in the village made as a gift for opening day

There are cakes and Easter biscuits on the dresser now; must take a new snap.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Eyes and Teas

So sorry for the blogging hiatus, but I do have two very good excuses:
1) Last Wednesday I had LASEK laser eye surgery
2) I've been spending lots of time decorating the tea room

This is just a short post to let you know that I am still here, but my eyes are still blurry and using the computer isn't a joyful experience at the moment. Plus, it's tea room opening day on Monday and I'm spending lots of time up there getting things ready, not to mention having to do lots of shopping to get it all stocked (it's a good job I like to shop!)

Anyway here are a few photos instead of words

My eyes, about 6 hours after surgery - don't they look sad?!

The glamour of it all - sunglasses indoors at 9.30pm.
 The tea room from the outside on the day I took it over.
 And inside. Cluttered, much?!?

 A couple of days later, with the dresser that hubby and I bought using money given to us for our wedding.
Blackboard paint.
 And one of the tables sporting its lovely new oilcloth, all set for you to join us for afternoon tea (low-fat version, no food...)
By the way, I've now set up a FaceBook page for the tea room, if you search for Dorothy's Tea Room (Hinton St George) you should be able to find it; would be lovely to get a few more 'likes', pretty please?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

It's hard, but someone has to do it...

Becoming the proprietor of a tea room is a hard task, but one I'm willing to take on. I'm a trooper, it has to be said. Especially when one of the onerous tasks is baking and taste-testing a variety of oh-so-horrid foodstuffs. Take pity on me; please?

Millionaire's Shortbread. Attempt No.1
Rice Krispie cakes. For the children, you understand...
Homemade sausage rolls (upside down for some reason)
Mozzarella, tomato and basil pesto panini
Millionaire's Shortbread. Attempt No.2. I see more attempts in my future. It's a real trial having to taste-test these bad boys.
Fruit scones, as made by hubby
Cheese scones, also made by hubby
Chocolate Dotty Cake

Add to this the quiches that hubby made, and you get some sort of idea of the ordeal we are currently living through. It's hard, but someone has to do it.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Book Review No. 4: French Pressed by Cleo Coyle (cozy crime)

This is the sixth in the Coffeehouse Mystery series; I've read each of them from number one (in chronological order, of course, but each book could be read as a standalone.) For me this is the ultimate in cozy: a combination of crime and coffee, set in New York - what's not to love?! Coffee info and tips are dotted throughout the book and there are recipes at the end, so if you love your coffee as much as I do you may find these books interesting just for that.

A short summary: Clare Cosi and her estranged husband Matteo (because an uncomplicated relationship would be too easy, right?) run a coffee shop in New York's West Village. Their daughter Joy starts an internship at a top NY restaurant and also starts dating the much older, married head chef. In an attempt to keep a closer eye on her daughter, Clare makes a deal to supply the restaurant with coffee, but before she even has time to start replacing the current terrible offerings with something much better, murder is afoot. First it's one of Joy's intern friends and then it's Joy's beau, the head chef. Joy is, of course, the main suspect and it's down to Clare to prove her daughter's innocence and find who really 'dunnit'. 

I enjoy this series (for the most part); as I said before, it's set in a coffee shop in New York and its a cozy, so for me it's the trifecta of brilliantness. The characters are being developed nicely as the series continues and I'm interested to see what will happen to them (particularly Clare and her policeman beau Mike) in the next book. Obviously it won't be to everyone's taste but if you're interested in reading a cozy crime series that isn't too cozy, perhaps this one's for you.

Monday, 24 March 2014

A Little Trip to Old London Town

A couple of weeks ago I spent a very pleasant couple of days in London in the company of two of my cousins, and a friend. We stayed in a lovely apartment in the former Midland Grand Hotel which is in front of St Pancras railway station. The lower levels of the building are now the Renaissance St Pancras Hotel, while the uppers levels contain 67 apartments.
Isn't it just the most beautiful building? Especially when the sun shines!
 This is the corridor outside the apartment we stayed in; it reminded me of The Shining...
And, because I'm a fantastic blogger, I completely failed to take any photos of the inside of the apartment. Suffice to say, it was VERY nice, over three levels and with all mod cons. This is the link, in case you're interested in seeing more (with much more professional photos than I could ever manage!)

We spent our two days in London doing touristy things such as visiting Liberty
where I was forced to sample the carrot cake (for research purposes, you see...); lovely plate, don't you think?
We had dinner at J Sheekey, the well-known fish and seafood restaurant near Covent Garden. I had scallops for my main course and forgot to take a photo, but I did take a snap of THE MOST delicious Spotted Dick and vanilla custard that I had for my pudding.
Clearly this trip was based solely around food and drink as the next morning we found ourselves in the Food Hall at Fortnum and Mason.
Again for research purposes, I tested out one of their many eateries, although I did only have a coffee this time.
 Because, just minutes later we were sitting down to Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court at The Ritz.
What, no scones? That's because they like to serve them warm, so they wait until you've eaten your fill of sandwiches (and they keep refilling the plates as many time as you like.)
Champagne selfie. I know, I know.
Ooo look, the scones have arrived. And a piece of lemon drizzle cake from the sweet trolley.

 Here we are; and my cousin Jo appears to be asleep.
When we finally managed to drag ourselves away from the loveliness of The Ritz (not long after spotting Sir Jeffrey Archer), we took a stroll along to the Burlington Arcade and onwards to Regent Street. After that we had to head back to the apartment for a little lie down.
When we had fully recovered we ventured out once again, through King's Cross Station (which is now really rather snazzy - the roof being a case in point, with lights that change colour constantly, not to mention umpteen shops and eateries all around.)
 It was time to put on our cultured heads and set out for the theatre to see Jeeves and Wooster, starring Stephen Mangan and Matthew Macfadyen. If you like a good farce (be careful how you say that), you would love this. It is fantastic. I was enthralled from beginning to end and cannot rate it highly enough. If you get the chance, go and see it. Immediately.
The next day it was time for us to say our goodbyes, but not before Joanne and I tracked down the elusive Platform 9 3/4 for a photo op. Unfortunately my next stop wasn't Hogwarts, rather Waterloo and the train home to the West Country.
What a lovely couple of days being a tourist!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Everything Stops for Tea (and Coffee, and Cake)

Do you remember back in the mists of time when I was made redundant? Actually, it was only last August, but it feels like forever ago. Anyhoo, when I got bored of sitting around doing nothing (actually, I got fed up of not having any money, I'm not sure I would ever get bored of sitting around) I managed to get myself two (very) part-time jobs, one in the village tea room working one day a week, the other in the village shop working one day a month (see, I said they were 'very' part-time.) 

Fast forward to mid-February this year and the lady who runs the tea room decided she wanted to move on to pastures new. Word on the street was that the tea room would be closing, cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth from various quarters; however, word inside the tea room itself was that the couple who own the building (it happens to be part of their house and was converted from what was formerly a Granny annexe) didn't want it to shut because they couldn't bear the thought of the space being empty and unused. As soon as I heard this (from the horse's mouth, as I happened to start chatting to the owner about the future plans for the space when I was in there working one Thursday), I texted hubby. We had already discussed 'what ifs?' and 'maybes' in relation to the tea room and it looked like this could be the very opportunity to put those 'what ifs?' and 'maybes' into practice. I also expressed an interest with the owner and left her to mull things over. By Saturday she had made her decision - if I was interested, then the tea room business was mine!
I won't own the building, but I shall own and run the business. Oh my goodness me! I've never done anything like this; I've never run my own business and when I started working there just a few months ago, it was the first time I had ever worked in the food/hospitality industry (or whatever you call it.) But here I am, about to become (as of 31st March) sole proprietor of Dorothy's Tea Room!

As I'm sure you can imagine, my brain is fit to bursting with all of the things that have to be done, as well as all the plans I have for redecorating, changing the menu, selling gift items and cards alongside the food and drink.

My plan is to close for two weeks so that I can redecorate, move things around, have a good old tidy up and general titivate the entire space, and then re-open with a flourish (or perhaps a pathetic whimper) on Monday 14th April.

Currently the space looks like this, so there's definitely plenty of potential.

I'm also being given the opportunity to develop the room at the back, and the idea is to introduce comfy seating and possibly a children's corner. It might also be the ideal place for the secondhand books that are currently sold from the front of the tea room, so that space can be used instead for a range of gifts and cards.

I have so much to do and think about and paint and order and make and arrange and panic about before then; but I have at least decided what colour to paint the walls, what colour tablecloths to have, and which font to use on the menus (Maiandra, I think; or perhaps I'll change my mind...) A neighbour of mine has already made new aprons for me, so at least I'll look vaguely smart on the first day of trading, even if I don't get round to making any food...
And I've got a lot of baking practice to put in!