Welcome to The High Tea Club, Cambridge

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Before I get started, can I ask you a favour? Would you be so kind as to vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards? Somehow I’ve managed to squeeze my way into the top 5 food bloggers… I know, it’s a bit weird, but it’s also good, so I am going to roll with it! If you like reading what I write (if you don’t, why are you here?!) and you’d like to help me out, I would really appreciate your support. It only takes a minute, and is super easy – just click here, (before 29/10/15) select ‘Food’ in the drop down box, and vote I Don’t Like Peas! Woo! Fist pump! Yeah! And, thanks very much!

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I was really happy to be asked to do the photography for The High Tea Club in Cambridge. You know, I like looking at food almost as much as I like eating it. I had no idea what to expect, apart from tea, of course.

When I arrived the tea room was busy, very busy, too busy for me to be able to do my job properly without disturbing everyone.

“Don’t worry,” said Danielle, the owner, “I will get you some tea and cake!” She found a corner to seat me in and soon I was tucking into a superb chocolate brownie and sipping the most delicious jasmine tea I have ever tasted.

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The customers kept coming, and so did the food. While I waited for the rush to clear I was treated to a three tier traditional Dim Sum afternoon tea! This really was a treat –  not just because I wasn’t expecting it, not just because it was thoroughly enjoyable and super tasty, but because I felt so welcomed and cared for. This kindness and hospitality was such a pleasant surprise.

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A beautiful set of boxes sat stacked in front of me. Under the lid I found pork dumplings, spring rolls, and sesame prawn toast. Beneath them, prawn dumplings and pork Siu Mai.

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And, on the bottom tier I discovered two chubby sweet dumplings snuggled together with sugar dusted fruits, and filled with sweet custardy egg cream. I used my chopsticks to stab at my food whilst nobody was looking, and I think I got away with it!

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Danielle’s family have been in the tea business for years, in China they produce fine teas, and what’s so special is that Danielle has brought those exquisite teas with her, to Cambridge, and is fusing the knowledge and heritage of generations with a relaxed modern twist, and a bit of booze! (Tea cocktails, served in beautiful teapots? I can’t imagine anyone saying no. Apart from Henry Rollins, I don’t reckon it’s his style.)

The bustling busy-ness of the shop was an especially positive sign as they were still ‘pre-launch’, having a soft-opening and getting to know their neighbours first, which seemed to make perfect sense and allow everyone to calmly ease into their roles and routines.

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From the street you might not know it immediately, but inside is an attractive and welcoming tea room, with shelves full of large jars of tea, delightful teapots and delicate tea cups. There’s a conservatory corridor at the back which leads to an outdoor seating area.

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The tea is excellent. I couldn’t help but try a cup of Masala Chai. Grated ginger and ground black pepper, wood smoke and cinnamon. It was a spectacle and a delight.

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Customers came and went, happy and enthusiastic. Apart from one woman who wanted to let them know she’d felt a bit cold. I apologised – this was totally down to me, it was me wafting the chill in her direction, it was I who opened the door to the garden and created the cool pull of air from the front door (which will be useful in the summer!) I did it, and I was sorry!

A woman filmed her flowering tea unravelling beautifully in it’s glass teapot, ready for instagram. Each little ball of tea is handmade in China and stitched to create the perfect opening formation. It’s the little things like this that are so perfectly charming.

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The man on the table next to me drank his Chai tea with additional ginger and black pepper as we chatted about how much he was enjoying it. He said he’d be returning soon.

A woman and her daughter came in, as they lived only streets away, and the young girl exclaimed that it was the best tea she had ever tasted.

We talked about the traditions associated with tea, and how in the south of China there is a tradition to bury tea in the family garden when a daughter is born, and when she is married to give the tea as a gift.

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Customers chatted to each other, they shared their thoughts and enthusiasm as I worked quietly round them with my camera, full on Dim Sum and happiness. Other business owners from Mill Road popped their heads in the door to say hello, and good luck, with genuine sincerity.

I got the sense that The High Tea Club is not just going to be a place for great tea, but also a place for community. Is there nothing a good cup of tea can’t do?!

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The High Tea Club, 160 Mill Road, Cambridge, CB1 3LP

Tapas Lunch at El Borracho de Oro, Edgbaston

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I love lunch. I love dinner too. I’m not so bothered about breakfast. I always look forward to a hotel breakfast because I like to see what they serve, and how they display it. But mostly I don’t want it and I am disappointed, unless there’s some kind of fancy carved fruit or fresh pastry mountain, then I am appeased.

Any way, on to one of the most delicious and enjoyable lunches I’ve had in quite a while!

You might not even notice El Borracho if you weren’t going there with intention. An unassuming building with subtle signage, and a neat grass lawn in front. We were there with all the intention in the world and hungry tummies to boot, so there was no chance we’d pass it by!

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Inside I was momentarily distracted by the beautiful Spanish tiles on the bar, but we were quickly seated and attended to so I didn’t have a chance to pull out a small crowbar from my bag and start prising them off the wall for my own repurposing.

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We ordered http://oceanadesigns.net/envira/alaska-white/ Pan Gallego con Aceite Virgen Extra – Galician bread with best quality Extra Virgin Olive oil, and a bowl of Visit This Link Fried Broadbeans and then quickly moved on to choosing our Tapas.

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Watching the dishes come out of the kitchen and onto other people’s tables, we knew we were in for a treat! El Borracho do a lunchtime special where you can have two Tapas for £6.95, so we chose four and got ready to tuck in!

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why not try this out Ensalada de Tomate – the most beautifully seasoned, salted, fresh, light, simple, tomato salad.

Patatas con Alioli – perfect little chipped cubes of potato with excellent alioli – really garlicy but sweet, and lovely.

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Chorizo al Vino – wonderful spicy, salty sausage with the sweet tang and richness of red wine.

And, Croquetas del dia – crunchy bechamel filled croquettes with chorizo. My favourite thing! The croquette was softer than I thought it would be, and creamy, and crunchy and so delightful that I had to hold it up in honour so that the whole room could worship it. Nobody said anything, so I assume they were all with me. All hail the Croqueta!

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There were so many good things to choose from on the menu, all made with locally sourced British ingredients, but served with Spanish excellence, and as I type this, I wish I was there now… just one more Croqueta, please! 

Everything looked so appealing, too. The chorizo looked good against the teal coloured dish, the tomatoes bold and bright against the stark white. The Croquetas just looked funny, like little animals that might unfold their legs and run off giggling. (I have only just realised what an awesome googly eye opportunity I missed there, damn it.)

The food was tasty, authentic and amazingly good value, the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed, and the staff were kind and helpful (Hola Alberto, Hola Eva Maria!) – I seriously couldn’t fault a thing!

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You can find El Borracho at Harborne Court, Edgbaston, Birmingham, and you can join their mailing list here for updates, offers and news. (There’s a nice picture of a donkey on that page!)

We were guests at El Borracho, very happy Croqueta wielding guests!