Countess of York: On track for afternoon tea

Inside the Countess of York

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.
FullSizeRender (6)
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.

Autumn Afternoon tea menu by Sarah Hartley

Taking a break at Ox Pasture Hall

Time for tea? Always!

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.

oxpasturehallWe 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.

Scarborough beach

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.

beachhutsBut 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.

It is apparently the only restaurant in Scarborough to have been awarded 2-rosettes, so we were ready to be impressed.

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!

Beetroot and orange salad

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.

Rack of lamb cuts

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.

cheeseUnsurprisingly 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.

Ox Pasture Hall Country House Hotel is at Lady Edith’s Drive, Scarborough, North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire. YO12 5TD.



* 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. 

Observer Food Monthly photo competition open to all

teaonthetrainThe newly-launched Guardian Witness website is running a food photography contest. The assignment says:

This year the OFM Awards have a category for best food photography – which you could win. So if you’re into snapping street food or beautiful produce, home-cooked meals or fantastic creations in local restaurants – we’d like to see your images. The best will be published on the Guardian site and the winning picture will be printed in the magazine

So far there’s a wide mixture of pictures – everything from a plate of chips to a fruit market in Spain – like most food bloggers I’ve, not unsurprisingly, got heaps of food snaps which might fit the bill but in the end I decided to restrict myself and submitted my favourite picture from last week’s TeaonTheTrain event.

Bakelady goes radio gaga

If you’re up and about early this morning, tune into BBC Radio Leeds Breakfast Live when the Bakelady will be telling all about her secret tearooms.

For the uninitiated the get togethers of tea and fabulous looking cakes take place in secret venues organised via a blog and at around 7am today she promises a radio interview to hear, “the clinking of cups and slurping of tea and lots of chatter from my guests.”

and that’s not the only appearance this week revealed on the blog;

“As a result of another exciting email I received only a few days ago, from the very nice people at Radio 4, you can hear Kerstin and I talking to the lovely Jenny Murray on Woman’s Hour on Friday 13th May – no I’m not superstitious, at around 10am live from Manchester.

“That, for now, is all I can tell you about. The rest is being kept close to my chest, after all this is the SECRET Tea Room.”

Few random things from my foodie inbox

I often get sent snippets and morsels which, while they might not make a whole meal of a post by themselves, are worthy of a little grazing. Here’s my pick from the inbox.

From Russia with tea
A tea room which serves more than 50 varieties has opened up in Lancashire. The Russian Tea Room opened in the rather unlikely location of Bacup and is the fulfilment of a dream which started 3,000 miles and 30 years ago apparently.

Olga Penney, who grew up in the Siberian town of Kurgan, says she was captivated by the age old traditions that went into preparing proper Russian tea and opening her own tea room has given her the opportunity to safeguard those traditions:

“My grandmother taught me the intricacies of selecting the correct tea and using a samovar and I loved the mystery and artistry that went into preparing not just the tea, but also selecting the accompanying food and entertainment, all of which are essential to create true Russian hospitality. But most of all I loved the ritual that went into ensuring friends and family, and even visiting strangers were warmly accepted and made welcome.”

Try a cuppa at 4 Pioneer Buildings, Rochdale Road, Bacup. 01706 874800.

Spring soon to be on the menu
I hear Leeds’ swanky City Inn is soon to launch a new spring menu designed by executive chef, Scott Macdonald who started his career working with Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay. Menus have yet to be released, but are likely to be memorable.

Left Bank CafeIf you like a pie, try a fidget or a Woolton
The refurbished People’s History Museum in Manchester has also revamped its Left Bank cafe bar. In keeping with its remit to document the history of the
the labour movement, the cafe is offering some traditional and often forgotten northern recipes such as Pan Haggerty, Bacon Fidget Pie, Manchester Tart and
Woolton Pie. The Woolton was devised by
the Ministry of Food during the war to encourage wholesome meals that made
the most of rationing.

You’re such friendly neighbours Manchester….or maybe not!
Finallly, yet another of those interminable surveys……this one claims to asses the neighbourliness of different cities in readiness for a communal lunch event being held in the summer.

First the good news, Manchester is in the top ten of the cities in the UK with the highest percentage of residents claiming to be best friends with their neighbours. It’s actually at number 9. Hurrah!

Or maybe not.

In the very next ‘finding’, the city is in the top ten of cities gaining the highest percentage of residents who claim not to know any of their neighbours – at number 7.

So there you have it, yet another meaningful survey from the spin gurus. Should you wish to see where your city ranks, or doesn’t, or find some other such spurious quotable piece of research – see the full version on Big Lunch blog here.

If you want to send anything about the food scene (outside London), my inbox is at

A new Yorkshire tea brand gets poured for mad hatters

Where's the party?
Where's the party?

Tea, truly is the best drink of the day as far as I’m concerned, so to discover a new brand being made on the doorstep is an exciting find indeed.

Mad Hatter Tea has just arrived in the Richmond town centre Cross View Tea Rooms where I was able to sample a “taste of wonderland” for myself this week.

The website for this small North Yorkshire company says it “simply revives the spirit, enriches the mood
and adds peppiness and cheerfulness to the substance of life.”

Quite a promise although I believe all the references to Alice’s famous tea party has more to do with Lewis Carroll’s links with the town rather than any claims for the brew to induce dream-like experiences!

Being a confirmed Yorkshire Tea consumer I prefer a strong cuppa and the Mad Hatter is certainly not wimpy. A rich, strong colour and taste but with a brighter notes, something of a lighter edge to it.

It was refreshing stuff – perfect for raising a cup in celebration of today’s Yorkshire Day!