Category Archives: Cafes

Helmsley Walled Garden

A walled garden must be every gardener’s dream – sheltered from the elements that often take their toll on our own patches – especially after a heavy downfall – whose delphiniums aren’t looking a little sorry for themselves after the recent soaking?

A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine, who happens to be a professional gardener, suggested a trip to Helmsley Walled Garden. We often meet up and do a walk together but it was looking like quite a hot day so a lovely garden with some shade – and nice café beckoned.

This idyllic five-acre site sits beneath the ruins of Helmsley Castle and is just a stone’s throw away from the pretty market town of Helmsley.

IMG_3530

The garden originally provided fruit and vegetables for the Feversham household at Duncombe Park until just after World War One when it got leased out as a market garden. Sadly, it fell derelict over the years and it wasn’t until 1994 that its restoration started thanks to the vision and sheer hard work of a local lady, Alison Ticehurst. Alison wanted the garden not only to be a beautiful site once again but also to be a place for horticultural therapy. Today supported volunteers learn horticultural skills here whilst at the same time benefiting from new skills and gaining confidence.

IMG_3559

The garden now contains a spectacular long double herbaceous border planted with vibrant reds, yellow and oranges; a white garden; a clematis garden and orchards. Wherever you are the castle is always a looming presence – whether behind formal layouts….

IMG_3545

…or as a backdrop to pretty wildflower meadows. Doesn’t this look quintessentially English with its daisies and bright red poppies peering out from the long grass?

IMG_3551

Even the cow parsley looks gorgeous rather than unruly especially when it’s set off with a mowed path down the centre with an orchard either side.

IMG_3534

The bright yellow laburnum arch and purple alliums dancing at either side look stunning at this time of year…it was an irresistible photograph to take.

IMG_3541

Did you ever read The Secret Garden as a child? Well, this door really reminded me of this book. Wouldn’t you have loved to find a hidden garden like Mary Lennox did in the story? I wonder what is behind this lovely old door.

IMG_3548

As well as the gardens, the glasshouses have all been restored and house a fantastic array of plants including succulents and this impressive display of gourds.

IMG_3554

IMG_3553

Alongside the floral attractions and not forgetting some rather cute looking resident hens, there is also a wonderful cafe here. The Vine House Café is in a restored Victorian vinery where you can eat beneath the vines or in the courtyard.

IMG_3556

The café serves mouth-watering cakes and gorgeous lunches including delicious salads. Mine contained strawberries and blueberries which I wouldn’t have thought of adding. I did try this at home afterwards, serving up a mixed salad with grapes and blueberries – it took a bit of convincing my brood that the fruit hadn’t got in there by accident – I have now moved over to the ‘anything goes’ mindset when putting together a salad thanks to my fruity salad encounter.

IMG_3558

If you get a chance to visit, the garden is looking stunning at the moment with a blaze of colour in the borders; lovely wildflower meadows sprawling out beneath orchards of apple and pear trees as well as a plant centre offering plenty of inspiration to take home with you.

 

 

 

 

 

Colours of Portugal

Whitewashed houses, pantile roofs and wooden shutters. Is this the image that springs to mind when you think of Portuguese towns and villages? This was the picture I had in my head before our recent holiday there.

Sure, the coastal resorts are pretty much a collection of whitewashed buildings, hotels and apartments but head inland and you’ll come across pops of colour and decorative details.

IMG_3282 2

I have to say that grey and yellow is one of my favourite colour combinations. There is something about the contrast of such a sunny vibrant shade against a muted one.

At first glance the lovely hill village of Alte in the Serra do Caldeirão area of the Algarve appears to be all whitewashed houses – and it’s true, many of the buildings are. But if you venture into its narrow streets you’ll come across a dash of colour, beautiful tilework and intricate decorative details.

IMG_3259 2

IMG_3278 2

And even buildings with crumbling paintwork and in need of a bit of tlc seem to get away with being charming in a rustic type of way….For Sale too!

IMG_3273 2

I liked the geometric decoration on the café below. Agua Mel in the heart of Alte is reputed to be one of the Algarve’s best cafés. It didn’t disappoint – we tucked into the best Portuguese tarts, chocolate cake, coffees and freshly squeezed orange juice we’ve tasted. It’s a really friendly, welcoming place (the boys were all given a whopping orange each to take home and squeeze) and has lovely views across the valley.

IMG_3253 2

As well as shades of ochre, this terracotta colour features on many buildings. I loved this flick of colour and design on one of the houses in Alte. There’s a definite Moorish influence in the patterns you see – not surprisingly as the Moors once controlled what is now Portugal, Spain and the Pyrenees.

IMG_3269

Portugal is famous for its tilework, particularly the blue and white ceramic tiles called azulejos which are found on the interior and exterior of many buildings from churches to palaces. The word azulejos comes from the Arabic – the tiles often contain traditional Moorish patterns.

IMG_3277 2We visited the Church of São Lourenço de Matos near Loulé which has the most wonderful tiled interior of wall-to-wall azulejos depicting the life of St Lourenço. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the interior so I will have to leave it up to your imagination to picture this masterpiece of tilework. Amazingly, in the devastating Portuguese earthquake of 1755 the church lost just five tiles, so it’s still as in tact as it was when it was created.

IMG_3158

I know Scandi-style minimalism is very much in vogue at the moment but I can’t help returning from holiday wanting to embrace the colours and patterns of the architecture and design of this beautiful part of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

An Alpine Experience

Doesn’t this time of year make you think of snowy destinations; log cabins with pine-clad walls; a glass of something cheering in your hand and heartwarming food to bring a little comfort on these long, cold winter evenings?

img_8529

If so, you’re in luck and you will need neither an airplane, train nor skis to get there. Le Chalet in Malton opened a few months ago at the back of what was Dickens of a Deli – it’s now called The Deli of Malton. The Delicatessen set-up is still pretty much as it used to be, overlooking the Market Place – and you can still get great salads and sandwiches. We get a bumper order of salad or soup as a treat at work on Fridays so I can vouch for their quality.

img_2294

img_8532

Meanwhile the back of the Deli is now Le Chalet with the pine-clad walls, booth-style tables and eye-catching red Gingham tablecloths you might expect if you were dining in The Alps.

img_8528

I’d heard good things about Le Chalet from friends and colleagues who have eaten here in the evening. But on this occasion, Mr B and myself had some time to ourselves for brunch together. And whenever these child-free occasions arise, we do try to make the most of them, as pleasing two people is always easier than pleasing three extra, discerning (my kids? Fussy? Mais non!) appetites.

So, to Le Chalet on a Sunday morning in December.

img_2297

The breakfast menu includes something to suit most people – I have to confess that neither of us went for anything typically Alpine, although I’ve heard that the Rosti is fabulous. So while Mr B tucked into a Full English, I had scrambled eggs with bacon on American pancakes with Maple syrup – a great combination of sweet, salty and savoury.

Check out the board for the type of hot and cold sandwiches they do if you are eating later in the day…

img_2295

And if you do decide to book yourself in for an evening Alpine experience, there is Raclette, Fondue and Tartiflette on the menu as well as favourites such as Boeuf Bourguignon and Ragout of wild mushrooms, which is served on a savoury millefeuille.

img_2299

This is hearty Swiss food from the mountains and one thing’s for sure, you won’t go home hungry. And when it’s dark outside and the fairy lights are twinkling in Le Chalet, you could easily mistake your surroundings for that real Alpine log cabin.

A café in the woods at Falling Foss

A few years back whilst on a walk with Mr B and our eldest son, who must have been about three at the time, we came across a tiny cottage in the woods. I clocked the FOR SALE sign and once back home, couldn’t resist checking out the estate agents’ details. I was soon swept away into a fantasy future of us running a café there.

IMG_8142

Fast forward almost ten years and as you’ve guessed, we didn’t sell up and re-locate to the cottage at Falling Foss. However, husband and wife team, Jack and Steph Newman, did take on the challenge and in that time they have transformed it into the idyllic and popular Falling Foss Tea Garden.

IMG_8144

IMG_8145

The tea garden’s setting in the grounds of Midge Hall (once an 18th century gamekeeper’s cottage and also a tearoom in the 1900s) is magical. It’s situated deep in the woods, right at the top of the 30-foot Falling Foss waterfall…

IMG_8140

alongside plenty of other spots where there’s fun to be had paddling and splashing about in the water…

IMG_8146

To get to the Falling Foss Tea Garden, park in the car park at the top and follow the woodland path down until you see the café. There’s also a pleasant circular woodland walk if you want to build up an appetite. If you’ve got kids with you, you might like to let them lead the way with the help of these illustrated Making Tracks In the North York Moors walking packs for kids.

IMG_8173

The walk, which is a couple of miles long, takes you past and behind the tea garden (don’t worry you’ll be back this way for that promised tea and cake)

IMG_8147

You then re-enter the woods and past the Hermitage, a cave carved out of a huge stone – always a favourite for a bit of climbing…

IMG_8150

(Psst, did you spot Mr B peering out from the cave?)

The walk eventually brings you back to the footpath you started out on and to the tea garden where a rustic wooden hut displays an array of tempting treats.

IMG_8160

There’s plenty of seating to choose from…

IMG_8175

When we visited there were lots of vases of flowers decorating the garden – maybe left over from a wedding?

IMG_8179

IMG_8167

There are plenty of places for kids to play and entertain themselves from clambering across logs  over the river to having fun in little havens like this…

IMG_8161

Well, you can’t really leave without a game of Pooh sticks on the wooden bridge can you? Oh, and by the way, Pooh sticks are provided. Have fun!

Quarmby’s café and a walk round the castle

I am a real café aficionado – of all the places to go and socialise, a gorgeous café where you can sip tea and eat cake over a good chat is the one I’ll always opt for.

IMG_8116

And for me, Quarmby’s Delicatessen & Café in Sheriff Hutton ticks all the boxes. I had driven past it a few times always intending to stop by – and once I did I’ve become a devotee.

IMG_8130

It’s not only the fantastic selection of cakes they serve…

IMG_8096

…the chocolate chia muffins are a particular favourite of mine…

IMG_8107

It’s also the genuinely warm welcome you receive as soon as you walk through the doors thanks to husband and wife team, Emma and Will Quarmby, who opened Quarmby’s a couple of years ago. Emma, who is an interior designer, has worked her magic on the decor which is stylish and tasteful yet with a laid back feel.

IMG_8093

There are lots of lovely details to gaze at over your latté or matcha tea (Yes, you’re going to be introduced to a whole range of wonderful, new ingredients and flavours here).

IMG_8110

IMG_8106

Emma and Will are clearly passionate about food and if you are too, I would really recommend that you take time to chat to Emma. She is extremely knowledgable about food, diet and health. She can recommend cookery books and recipes as well as an eclectic range of ingredients.

The deli part of the café is brimming with interesting foodstuffs and there’s an emphasis on local specialist producers whether it’s bread, vegetables, pies or preserves. Not surprisingly Quarmby’s are collaborating on a new Yorkshire cookbook so watch this space.

IMG_8104

While you’re in Sheriff Hutton you can’t fail to miss the castle ruins looming in the distance.

IMG_8127

There’s an easy perimeter walk around them which is as close as you’ll get.

IMG_8125

IMG_8123

The 14th century castle, built by the powerful Neville family, has got an impressive history. It was once owned by Richard III as a core powerbase in the north of England and home to the council of the north. If you fancy reading a bit about it check out this site.

So, if you do need an excuse for a visit to Quarmby’s you can always say it’s part of a historical fact-finding trip. Enjoy!

Cocktails at Stanley & Ramona’s

Looking for a chilled out way to kick off the weekend? Then I might just have the answer…
IMG_6974

If you haven’t come across Stanley & Ramona then you’re in for a treat. Not only does this gorgeous bijou café bar on York’s Bishy Road serve great coffee and cakes, it also turns into a lively little cocktail bar at the weekend – Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm until 11pm.

Cocktails are coffee-themed – Espresso Martini madam? (You can opt for fruity cocktails, beer, cider, wine and prosecco if the coffee flavour isn’t to your taste).

IMG_6972

Its stylish decor of eye-catching yellows and cool greys remind me of a 1960s coffee bar where you can pull up a stool and sip your cocktails. Take note, this place is teeny weeny so you’ll soon get to know your neighbours – it’s not somewhere for non-sociable types.

IMG_6962

Alternatively, grab the window seat to watch the world of Bishy Road (best high street in the UK 2015, don’t forget) go by…

IMG_6965

If it’s coffee you’re after, you’ll be spoilt for choice with everything from a latte to a piccolo on offer – and if you’re in any doubt as to which is which the quirky diagrams will help…

IMG_6971

Whatever caffeine-fuelled beverage you choose it should most definitely be enjoyed with a slice of something nice…

IMG_6960

S & R also serve delicious breakfasts and lunches. The food is all locally sourced with an excellent gluten-free selection.

However, if you’re hoping to find Stanley & Ramona, I am afraid you won’t. Stanley and Ramona don’t exist, at least not here. Instead you’ll be greeted by the charming Lucy and Lee, the duo behind this fantastic coffee shop. The name Stanley & Ramona comes from a conversation where the couple misheard each other’s ideas regarding what to call the café – Standing Room Only became Stanley & Ramona.

Enjoy your weekend…chink chink!

More about bikes or Bicis y Mas

The banner as you turn into Fossgate says it all: ‘York’s hidden gem. Welcome to Fossgate for a unique shopping and dining experience’.

And it’s true. Fossgate, which runs into Walmgate, after crossing the River Foss is one of York’s hidden streets, lined with small independent shops and cafés.

There are some great places to discover and it’s where I came across Bicis Y Mas, or ‘Bikes and more’, a vegetarian café and bike workshop halfway along Walmgate. This lovely coffee shop/restaurant completes my mini series of cycling cafés in honour of the Tour de Yorkshire 2016.

bicis y mas facade

Bicis Y Mas is a bustling little café, stylishly decorated using vibrant pops of colour that perfectly match the racks of bold cycling tops for sale.

Bicis y mas cups

Check out the table legs here – a great way to recycle old bicycle wheels….

bicys y mas table 2

I loved the vintage Tour de France photos that have been used to decorate the walls too.

BIcis y mas wallpaper

The food is very good. You can enjoy anything from a cup of tea or coffee or choose something more substantial from their vegetarian and vegan menu including breakfasts, lunches, hotpots and soups.

bicys y mas more cakes

Lunch is served up to 3.30pm. I enjoyed a delicious meat-free burger on a bagel (the bagel idea really worked adding just enough sweetness) with salad. And as for pudding, there is no shortage of tempting treats to tuck into.

So, it’s a great place to pop in for coffee and cake which you can have until 5pm – with the chance to catch up on the latest cycling news on the TV here – and no doubt some cycling banter.

bicys y mas cakes

Then by night, the place changes again with a different menu, featuring tapas-style sharing dishes and nibbles to enjoy with a glass or wine or continental beer which I think sounds fun.

Bicis y mas table

I hope you’ve enjoyed this snapshot of York’s quirky cycling cafés – maybe after all that café hopping, you might just feel like getting on your bike after all…..