Staffordshire Oatcakes

Staffordshire Oatcakes

Sometimes I labour under the impression that because I’m living in the UK, I shouldn’t be living my exclusively urban lifestyle – jamming myself into tubes, attending free festivals in parks, exploring art-house theatres and perusing most major gallery exhibitions in the city. No no, I should instead be ruggedly walking through highland fields in wellingtons, with a troupe of dogs following me as I look stunningly rugged in a mackintosh. Actually, I imagine myself not so different from the Queen – in, well, The Queen – when she saw the buck and urged it to run away.

I was recently sent to Cheshire (county of the cat) to make a presentation for work, at a small rural retreat centre. Wanting some peace and quiet after a ridiculously busy week, I headed down a day early to decompress and play tourist for a day. I was staying in an old manor house next to Whistason Green, a park with streams, hand-made fences, paths through farmers’ fields, and cows. While I was dressed in sneakers and a leather jacket, and if I listened really hard I could hear the cars on the motorway a few paces away, in my mind I was Gwyneth Paltrow in Possession - full of Maud Bailey-like sophistication and breeding, with killer riding boots to top it off.

Sadly, it was just me, walking next to a ravine, with some cows in the distance, but it was a nice enough short-lived fantasy.

I have a theory about myself – I work well in either the extremely urban or the extremely rural (and by that I mean a tent in a forest next to a lake), but I struggle anywhere in between. I don’t do suburbia. I don’t do medium sized small towns, and if I’m going to be isolated, it should be in a cabin in the woods, not in a village of 2,000 people one hour away from a city.

Anyways, before giving my presentation on Monday, I wandered into the Tudor village of Nantwich, complete with crooked houses and cobbled lanes, to have a look around. I was in search of Cheshire cheese to bring home to my family in Canada, and I stumbled upon this little teashop – and since it seemed in line with my desire to experience rural English Culture, I stopped in.

Inglenook Tea Shoppe

I mean really, how much more English can you get? First of all, it says ‘shoppe’ with an ‘e,’ and in a non-marketing strategy/theme restaurant kind of way at that. And it has many teapots in the windows and a board describing fresh cakes outside. I had to go in.

When I sat down, I was given a real teacup, with a real saucer, and biscuits and two whole pages of tea on the menu. I was pretty pleased, and was ogled strangely by all the locals as I obsessively photographed my teacup from this angle and that.

Beautiful Teacup

So several items on the menu caught my eye: Wiltshire blue cheese with hot banana chutney buttie? Corned beef toastie? In the end, I opted for the unknown: Staffordshire oatcakes with cheese, bacon and mushrooms. Let’s just review what they looked like:

Staffordshire Oatcakes

Oh the hugeness. They were pretty much like buckwheat pancakes stuffed with fried greasy goodness, and I devoured them a little too quickly with little space left for my tea afterwards. The only problem was that this lovely English lunch was a little TOO English in some ways – the only dressing available for the salad was English Salad cream. And I’m sorry, but it’s really a disgusting condiment and can ruin a perfectly good salad with just the slightest application. So it’s also important to remember when traveling outside of London that the UK food revolution hasn’t reached all corners of the country just yet, and that you may be served a delicious farmhouse cheese on terrible bread with salad and salad cream on the side. On the other hand, I have now found a corner of the English-speaking world where balsamic vinegar isn’t used ad nauseum.

On the other hand, the tea was fantastic, easily as good at the tea at the Four Seasons when I had high tea there last April.

I had no room for dessert.

The total? Only £4.95 for oatcakes, a pot of Earl Grey tea and biscuits. Nice to know that outside of London, England is a decently priced country.

And Nantwich has crazy crooked buildings!

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This entry was posted in Obeisance at the Altar of Gastroporn, Restaurants, Safaris, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Staffordshire Oatcakes

  1. Debbi says:

    I hope you will do an entry soon on High Tea, another important english tradition!

  2. B says:

    Hey debbi if you’re willing to pay for high tea again, i’ll write about it!

  3. Al says:

    Cant beat a good Oatcake!

  4. Sarah Grand says:

    Hi

    I was perusing the web in search of inspiration for the perfect cheese board when I happened upon your wonderful pictures of our very own Staffordshire Oatcakes. I say this with much pride as I am from North Staffordshire, where the oatcake is adored and consumed by the masses.

    I felt compelled to write, due to my astonishment that you were offered salad cream to accompany said oatcakes, and the also stepped back in amazement that the oatcakes themselves had been presented with a salad!!! If you had been eating at my establishment (which would have been in my kitchen at home with the two children and two dogs) you would have been served the traditionally delicacy with a good dollop of ketchup on the top and a side of baked beans……far more apt for the dish at hand, and much more satisfying to the full tummy……….my mouth waters as I type.

    So, if ever you are passing by North Staffordshire or South Cheshire again, pop over to Penkhull for a good brew and a pile of oatcakes, courtesy of the Grand family.

    Take Care

    Sarah

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