Tell me, who can resist a tearoom overflowing with blue-and-white china, especially when it’s the Willow pattern? I certainly can’t.
There are conflicting stories behind the history of the ‘Blue Willow’ pattern. The most commonly held belief has the original engraving being done by Thomas Minton in 1790, inspired by the blue and white porcelain that the English were importing from China at that time.
There’s a pleasure eternally new, ‘Tis to gloat on the glaze and the mark, Of china that’s ancient and blue. -Andrew Lang, Ballades in Blue China, 1880
The marketing behind Minton’s Willow pattern was clever: tell everyone that the pictures in the design are based on an ancient Chinese legend about two lovers who are transformed into lovebirds. It’s a nice thought, but no such legend exists. The story is English in origin, and has no links to China. It doesn’t seem to make any difference, however – ‘Blue Willow’ has been in production for over 200 years now and remains as popular as ever.
Speaking of china (the other kind of china), the picture above is what I call The Great Wall of China and it was taken at The Mock Turtle in Brighton, England on my last visit there. The Mock Turtle has been a tearoom for decades. According to the authors of Fancy A Cuppa, 80-year old customers of The Mock Turtle tell the new owner that little has changed since they came for tea there more than 50 years ago.
It’s impossible to pass by The Mock Turtle and not be lured inside by its cosy front window display. It’s a very popular place and unless you get lucky, you will more than likely have to queue for a table. I happen to think it’s worth the wait.
Food is homemade and has an excellent reputation for being delicious. They carry a full breakfast and lunch menu (I have had their Welsh Rarebit before, and loved it), and serve Cream Tea, Afternoon Tea, and of course, a wide selection of cakes.
On this visit to The Mock Turtle, it was the perfect time of day for a Cream Tea . The tea was loose-leaf (their own Mock Turtle blend) and although the leaves were left in the teapot to
stew brew (not an unusual practice in England), a small top-up jug of hot water was included. The tea was very good.
The scones looked similar to a bread roll and despite being a departure in texture from the more traditional ‘short’ scone, they were quite tasty. Jam, butter, and clotted cream was served alongside. I have seen some online reviews of the Cream Teas at The Mock Turtle that say whipped cream is used, but it has been my experience there (several times now) to have always been served clotted cream.
Cost of the Cream Tea was £5.75 and included 2 large scones (a choice of whole wheat or white), and a pot of tea.
The Mock Turtle is a 2-minute walk from Brighton Pier.
The Mock Turtle
4 Pool Valley
East Sussex BN1 1NJ
See the Tea in England Facebook page for related content, and more pictures of my visit to The Mock Turtle.
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