Sunday, 10 June 2012

Cream Teas I have known

 Cream Teas are Great British Tradition, the sign of an English Summer (rain and cold notwithstanding). These scones look particularly nice, and the jam has fruits in it.  You can imagine that they're fresh baked, and still warm. Prerhaps this jam smelled like strawberries. It must have been a memorable treat. Many thanks to Ibán Yarza for this wonderful photo, much appreciated.

When cream teas are good, they're very, very good, but when they're bad they are horrible. So the eternal quest for a perfect cream tea. Perhaps closest to ideal are the cream teas at Glyndebourne (Leiths). They're firm on the outside, but the texture inside is moist and not too crumbly. Almost as creamy as the cream!  In theory, you should be able to taste the flour and butter used in the mix. Good scones should not be sweet, so they don't mask the flavour of the cream or jam. Needless to say, the cream should be clotted, and  the jam more fruit than sugar, ideally made in small batches by someone who cares.The one in the photo looks like it's made with less solidifiers than commercial products would be. That's the sign of a good jam, where you can taste natural freshness instead of assitives (and sugar).

Today I found another good cream tea at the Cragg Sisters' Tea Room, 110 High Street Aldeburgh. (opposite Salters Family Butchers, of whom more here). It's a few metres from Crag House,where Benjamin Britten lived from 1947. In fact, you can exit the shop through the garden straight onto Crabbe Street. This tiny nook of Aldeburgh is true Britten territory. Peter Grimes was written in the upstairs seafront room in Crag House, which faces the open seas. The first Aldeburgh Music Festivals centred around Jubilee Hall, where some events still happen (like last summer's retro Albert Herring). Cragg Sisters Tea Shop was founded in 1949, though the current management is new, so chances are Britten knew the original shop.

Cragg Sisters bake their own scones and cakes, which is why they're so nice. The shop is very pretty, floral tablecloths, crochet doileys, antiques and crockery that doesn't match, which is much more stylish than fake retro. Parts of Aldeburgh are becoming Sloane Square-by-Sea, or Essex North, but this area is still original and unique. Make this part of any Britten pilgrimage. See The Cragg Sisters' website, which is as pretty and individual as the shop. They're doing good savouries too, and special events like a local produce feast on 30 June. Dining out in Aldeburgh can be disappointing unless you eat only seafood and like to spend ostentatiously, so I.m going back to Cragg Sisters for lunches, too.
TOMORROW : Oliver Knussen's operas Where the Wild Things Are and Higgelty Pigglety Pop.. and his excellent concert with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

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