Just as you can’t go to Brussels and not eat mussels and you probably shouldn’t go to Berlin without stalking the best schnitzel, if you’re heading to Cornwall you owe it to yourself to find a stellar cream tea.
The politics of a cream tea in the UK are sticky and rife. Whether you add jam, then cream to your scone, or cream then daub with jam is just the start of it. Hot scones or cold scones, split with your hands, or do you revert to a knife…
Cornwall; the south west crags of England is a place of sweet port towns, fishing boats, rolling hills and beaches where the waves can pound and thunder. Before you go looking, there are no visible pirates in Penzance these days. Down here it also rains a bit (it is England). So finding port inside where you can shelter with a pot of tea, white carbohydrates, locally clotted cream and home made jam is a very civilised way to pass a spell until the weather shifts.
It’s also a perfect way to tame the hunger that descends between lunch and dinner.
It’s a lame tea room or cafe in this part of the world that won’t put on a version of scones. Yet so often they’re a touristic disappointment; chalky, cold and dry, like chewing on homework. The cream more curdled than clotted, the jam hassled with seeds that will get stuck in your teeth until you return home to a ready supply of strong floss.
That’s unless you find your way down to St Ives. About an hour’s drive south from Newquay airport, St Ives is Cornish charm personified. It ticks all the boxes; beautiful beaches, harbour port as well as cobbled streets selling all sorts of tat. The bonus being it’s also home to the Barbara Hepworth sculpture garden and an arm of the Tate Museum.
Down by the harbour, 100 metres along from the Sloop Inn and it’s sign proclaiming it originated back in 1312, is The Tea Room. There are tables outside for basking in the sunshine and watching the birds swoop down to the sandy banks in low tide. There are shingles and white windows. Inside it’s ‘coastal chic’; white board walls, light wood floors and jauntily striped chairs.
The scones are made on the premises daily. They make gluten free versions too. A cream tea will set you back less than £5 and comes with two warm proud castles of carbohydrate, Cornish Boddington strawberry conserve and a pot of tea, made from Tregothnan leaves- the only tea made in England. The crowning glory is the Cornish clotted cream; Rodda’s is the famed local product. It’s as thick as marscapone, a texture half way between cream and butter, made by gently baking fat rich local cream until it gloops off a spoon like a tired sailor folding into a chair.
Rather than being just a circular white vehicle for transporting jam and cream into your gob, here the scones shine. They’re flaky and light. The tea is as comforting as a hug from your Mum. Don’t worry about being parsimonious with your toppings, here if you run out of cream or jam, just ask- there’s plenty more.
Since we’re in Cornwall it’s jam first, then cream (you’ll want to do it the other way around in Devon). It might be wise to share the scones with a friend- these scones are the size of a tennis ball.
With the sun slanting through the window and the cheeping of birds outside, it’s English bliss.
There’s every chance this is the best cream tea in Cornwall.
It’s a good thing that we parked our car in the day-long parking up above the Tate. After you’ve indulged like this, a walk is not a bad idea.
The Tea Room St Ives
1 Wharf House, The Wharf
St Ives Cornwall
Open every day from 10 am.
Ph: 01736 794325