Back in May, my work colleagues bought me a high afternoon tea at Jane’s enchanted tea garden as a birthday present. Last Sunday we finally headed to Kirtlington, Oxfordshire to enjoy a lazy morning by the canal side.
This tea garden in Kirtlington could almost be called a pop-up, it only opens its doors to tea lovers every third Sunday of the month between May and September. Through word of mouth it’s absolutely packed and booking in advance is essential – in fact, I booked three months ahead for this July date.
But booking is not necessarily a straightforward exercise – Jane’s website is functionary even if there is no telephone number; bookings are only made by email. Once you’ve jumped that small hurdle, there’s then finding the place. The instructions on the website are pretty clear and read like a treasure map – “park on the tarmac, follow the path through the quarry – an area of special scientific interest, keep the canal on your right, then you’ll find us.”
Walking down Mill Lane, the tarmacked road ends and the bridleway begins, sometime later a hand painted teapot hangs on a fence post saying ‘open’ – ‘X’ marks the spot! Winding down the covered path you expect to see a cottage a la Rosie and Jim at the end. Soon you hear voices, chatting and giggling and then a small brightly painted hut adorned with kitsch teapots hanging from the rafters appears as if from nowhere.
The bright staff checked our reservation, loaded us up with a tray filled with tea paraphernalia and we made our way to our table underneath a large canopy. Decorated with faux botanicals and wisteria, it was a quaint haven – a secret tea garden wedged between the country lane and Oxfordshire canal. In fact, it had several boats moored alongside. The eccentric decor wouldn’t have been out of place from a scene in Alice in Wonderland.
Tom and I had the high tea (£17.50 per person) which included our tea (obvs!), a selection of sandwiches (British favs – classic egg mayo, cheese and tomato, smoked salmon and ham and chutney), with a lettuce garnish (our was a tad brown – I put that down to the heat!). Next layer up, two homemade scones – one plain, one fruit – plenty of cheese and biscuits and on our top tier meringue nests, lemon cupcakes and chocolate sponge slices. It was all delicious and made by Jane, head chef, and her team.
It is was a very family friendly occasion. The only draw back – this is July, and everyone was eating A LOT of jam. It was a wasp’s complete heaven. I wouldn’t say that I was their number one fan, but I can cope with the odd un-wanted visitor, however, the number of botherers was unbelievable. Nothing though that couldn’t be solved by a good ol’ fashion jam trap.
After we finished, we left our jam pot uncovered on a nearby spare chair and were left to eat the rest of our lunch in peace. Obviously, there’s nothing you can do about these critters, but jam pots with lids and staff swiftly clearing tables all help.
With the live pianist playing a few classic ragtime tunes, it felt that we really had escaped back in time into an enchanted part of Oxfordshire. If you’re interested in visiting Jane and her team, the do check out her website and remember – booking is essential! http://www.janes-cream-teas.moonfruit.com/