Going to the cafe and the gift shop has become as much a part of a museum visit as enjoying the collections themselves but the National Railway Museum has gone one better – a tearoom you might want to visit with the added bonus of trip to see its remarkable collection.
The Countess of York is a charming tearoom inside a beautifully restored railway carriage with decor that evokes a bygone era.
It’s only offering is afternoon tea – but it’s a tea worth travelling for.
The traditional tiered serving of finger sandwiches, scones and fancies proves plenty to while away the time.
Unusually there’s also a mini soup course – currently a warming and spicy butternut squash for the autumn which, together with the warm scone, is a welcome rise in temperature.
The sweet collection includes a light creme brûlée as well as a tantalising macaroon.
And the selection of teas on offer is second to none. I sampled a robust South African estate tea and a light and perfumed China rose tea.
Both served in solid silver pots and at just the right temperature. In a world where the coffee drinker is king, this place elevates the tea drinker to be queen.
With the uniformed waitress rushing through the carriage to serve everything or offer advice, it’s easy to forget that this is a train that’s going nowhere – sometimes you’ll need to take a quick check out of the window just to be sure that you’re not travelling down the tracks.
The afternoon tea is served each day between 12pm and 4pm. and costs £19.95 (children £14.50) or £27.50 with champagne. A visit to the tearoom includes free parking, and of course, the museum with its outstanding collection of locomotives is available for a gentle stroll after tea.
Countess of York is situated between Great Hall and Station Hall in the Museum’s South Gardens.
A proper afternoon tea. Is there anything quite so daftly English as an afternoon tea? With its tiny sandwiches and cake overload all laid out in a tower of tiers which doesn’t start at the top, or the bottom, but right there in the middle – it is deliciously ridiculous
There’s good reason why Lewis Carroll set the surreal adventures of Alice in Wonderland with a tea right at its heart – yes, there’s always time for tea and, done properly, tea can stop time.
We tucked into this example in the cosy lounge of Ox Pasture Hall. It’s a comfortable country inn where the food is plentiful and unpretentious, the service friendly and welcoming.
As the tradition dictates, sandwiches are very definitely NOT butties. These are finger sandwiches designed to be held aloft as one quaffs the beverage and considers the prospects of cakes to follow. Being a good Yorkshire inn, the choice was deliciously thick cuts of beef and mustard, generously spread cream cheese and cucumber (of course) and a strongly cured smoked salmon.
Of course there’s fruit scone with strawberry jam and cream and that top layer housed the first of the lemon related sweet things a sharp lemon drizzle cake with lemon icing
Then the dainties, and plenty of lemon infusion from a bite-size lemon meringue pie and a super light lemon cheesecake before the deeply rich chocolate and nut block and creamy fudge.
After all that tea, it was back to reality and stop suspending time to explore. Being a typically English weekend, the weather wasn’t entirely kind but pleasant enough for a stroll along the beach. Despite being hidden away deep in woodland, Ox Pasture Hall is only about a 5 minute drive away from Scarborough’s north bay with its dramatic cliffs and quintessential seaside scene of beach huts.
It’s easy to pass an hour, or two, right there on the front, to be beside the seaside.
But ultimately, it’s time for dinner.
The dining room is a light and comfortable space and settled in for a view over one of the gardens – the Hall has some lovely landscaped grounds and also a courtyard with fountains surrounded by the traditional buildings.
A former country farmhouse surrounded by barns and out-buildings, it has been extended and restored in a very sympathetic way to make a comfortable stay.
The first arrival at the table was something of a surprise – as an Amuse-bouche should be I guess – but we genuinely weren’t expecting an oversized fish finger in a cup. OK, it was announced as a ‘goujon of cod’ but you get the idea – someone had obviously had a sip from the ‘drink me’ bottle at Alice’s party earlier as it was a giant thing!
I started with the beetroot with orange. I’m always a fan of beetroot anyway and this pretty salad was an absolute triumph with the earthiness of a beetroot sorbet holding together the plate which includes an almost overly salty salted beetroot and carpaccio slices of sweeter beets.
For my main course I went for the lamb and enjoyed two cuts off a rack of lamb which were cooked good and rare. The potato layered with shredded lamb was an interesting accompaniment as an intense contrast and the cubes of seasonal swede was a welcome vegetable too.
Himself took advantage of the pork options with a crumbly ham hock to start with the substantial belly pork, cabbage and mash going down a teat as well.
Unsurprisingly after all those cakes, a sweet seemed out of the question and so we shared the smaller of the chessboards on offer with three cheeses and chutneys – a smoked cheddar, a remarkable goats cheese and a smoked Wensleydale with apple sliced into the finest of circles.
It was a satisfying and interesting meal in a friendly and comfortable environment. If we’re ever that side of North Yorkshire again, it’ll definitely be on the itinerary.
* Our overnight stay at the hall with dinner, tea and breakfast was provided free of charge for review purposes. Please note that I only ever accept such invitations on the understanding that I can write a true reflection of my opinion of the place for the review which is never provided to the venue for copy approval. The Sunday night offer we were treated to costs from £200.