A cream tea, for me, is a wondrous thing of complete and sincere beauty – when done properly that is. So, when holidaying recently in Cornwall, the home of gloopy and luxurious clotted cream, it was an undeniable fact that I would be on the hunt for the perfect location to enjoy a classic Cornish cream tea. When spending the day with my fiancé and his dad in Penzance, I happened to stumble across the almost secretive Barbican Tea and Coffee Room, and I instantly knew that this was the spot to slurp my tea and get my cake on.
Tucked away down a cobbled side street near Penzance harbour, this hidden gem of a tearoom was housed in what distinctly looked like an old fisherman’s cottage, with trademark low white ceilings striped with dark wooden beams and eroded stone slab walls inside and out, that were typical of the area. The wooden flooring was glossy and gleaming, as were the wooden booths set along the front window side of the almost pokey but oddly comfortable room. The other side of the room housed a matching long picnic style table complete with richly dark benches, all wooden features polished to a high shine, and finished with fake electric candles flickering next to potpourri flowers in old fashioned coloured tin jugs.
I absolutely loved the décor and style of the tearooms, as it simply screamed character with such a distinct stamp of personality, being retro and quirky without being overly ‘try too hard’. Fantastically fun floral bunting in pale pinks and greens hung strung across the ceiling, accompanied by dangling copper jugs and ceramic tea pots in an eclectic collection of odds and ends. The lamp shades were low above the tables, with a stained glass effects helping to create an even more intimate feel, although you already felt like you had stumbled across a secret resting spot for weary travellers. Large rounds of cake were displayed dangerously near the front reception desk where you placed your order and paid, with the likes of Victoria sponge slices, carrot cake quarters and chocolate wonder wedges.
The food selection not only included an array of sandwiches, cakes and other typical lunch like classics, but it even had it’s very own cream tea menu, so you could really cater for exactly how many scones and how much tea you wanted, which was ideal. We went for five scones – the father-in-law and me both indulging in two each while the other half stuck with a paltry one – paired with three individual pots of tea, which came to £13 all together, which I thought was very reasonable price wise.
The scones were to die for – they were massive and tongue tinglingly warm as they emerged fresh from the oven. They crumbled delicately as you bit into them, surprisingly soft and light considering their gargantuan size, with a luxurious buttery undertone – absolutely perfect. The jam was a classic strawberry that was mainly smooth with the odd chunk as well as being delightfully sticky. The clotted cream was of course Cornish, being thick and almost unmoving yet also silky with an attractive sheen and pointed peaks. The yellowy crumbly crust of the cream gave a chewy bite amidst all the gorgeous goo of the opulent lashings of cream. Just for the record, I am a scone divider – I split my scones in half and smother each segment first with a layer of fruity jam, followed by a delicate blobbing of cream which I swirl elegantly on top.
Each component of the cream tea separately was tasty, but combined it was divine and such a traditional treat. The scones were truly delicious, being the ideal texture and really melt in the mouth. They were a perfect base for the tangy summer fruit and decadent cream, although I would have liked to have seen some sultanas or raisins peppered in the mix, as the scones were plain ones. The tea was pretty standard breakfast tea, arriving at the table in individual silver teapots with matching milk jug, sugar sachets already on the table. The teacup and plate set were an old fashioned sage green, with the teacup sitting pretty on a lacy paper doily.
The venue is incredibly small and cosy but has an irresistible and attractive buzz, as the food is all about the quality, and the tearoom is simply snuggled away giving it a retreat like feel. The staff were really friendly and talkative, well versed in the art of small talk whilst providing a quick service. Such an appealing venue that really feels like a secret, but shouldn’t be – I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone passing through that area. One of the best cream teas I have ever eaten.