Fine dining on a summer's day...
Edibles, 125 High Street, Banstead Village
F inally the sun was shining and although it was not quite "flaming June" it was certainly a welcome, fine summer's day.
Everyone seemed more cheerful after suffering seemingly endless days of rain and drizzle.
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I had agreed to meet an "old" pal for afternoon tea in Banstead. The traffic on the A217 was rather heavy and roadworks near Burgh Heath had slowed me down. Happily, just as I was approaching the teashop, a 4x4 pulled out of a parking space in the High Street, enabling me to swiftly pull in and park for an hour without charge. Within moments we had met up and were laughing and joking all the way to Edibles, where tables and chairs had been put out on the small lawn in front of the shops so customers could dine in the sunshine.
At one of the tables outside, four ladies were "doing lunch" and pouring tea from a stainless steel teapot. One of the party lifted up a plastic carrier bag and pulled out a purchase she had made from a nearby shop to show her dining friends. It was a cushion made in the shape of an owl.
Waitresses in black tops and bottoms and wearing black aprons attentively served a variety of customers.
Inside the shop, which sells a large selection of deli items and fancy food gifts, an elderly couple were meeting for coffee.
As I approached the counter, I caught the man's eye.
"Nice to see the sun for a change," I commented.
"Yes it is," he replied. "I looked out the window this morning and thought: 'What's that large yellow thing in the sky?'"
I took a seat with my pal near the window. A notice had been placed in the window.
"Today's cakes: treacle tart, coffee and walnut, baked raspberry cheesecake, banana and peach cake, Bakewell tart, farmhouse fruitcake, Victoria sponge, carrot cake, millionaire's shortbread, chocolate fudge cake, toasted teacake, scones, waffles, tea-cakes, pancakes, ice cream sundaes, and Devon teas." The last option was written in large capital letters.
I gazed out the window, sipping a latte and it dawned on me that I was staring at a brand new Waitrose supermarket that gave the impression it had been there for a good number of years.
I mused that at this very spot, on December 12, 2008, one of the biggest dramas Banstead had ever seen occurred when the original Waitrose store went up in flames.
On that memorable night, 60 people were evacuated and given emergency accommodation at Banstead Baptist Church and then Banstead Community Centre as 100 firefighters tackled the inferno.
Some shops in the High Street opposite the blazing store suffered scorch marks and shattered windows from the intensity of the heat and from an explosion that occurred at the height of the blaze.
We got chatting about the fire and recalled how the village's Woolworth store, which closed in early January 2009, was used as a temporary Waitrose shop while a new supermarket was built and re-opened at the end of November 2009. Apparently, it was the fastest time in the company's history that a store had been completed from the time the original planning application had been submitted – in this case, little over 11 months.
Today, the supermarket was abuzz with customers and it seemed hard to imagine the headline-making event that had taken place two and half years ago.
We perused the menu and decided to splash out on a high tea for two.
It consisted of quiche, salmon, and egg mayonnaise and cucumber finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and jam, cakes and luxury Belgian chocolates – plus a pot of tea.
It was brought to the table on a two-tiered glass cake stand.
Outside, a man arrived in a white van. He humped the vehicle up on to the pavement, climbed out and took out three large boxes from the back of the van and took them one at a time into the shop and put them down near the counter.
He was then advised by a waitress that he should have made the delivery to the rear of the shop.
"Go right, turn right again and then right again," she told the young delivery man. He appeared bewildered.
"You're not expecting me to put the boxes back in the van and do that, are you?" he asked.
It seems that was the wish of the staff.
"Well I'm not," he said, exasperated, leaving the boxes in situ, climbing back into the van and driving off in a huff.
I poured out the tea and my eyes wandered to the shelves full of reproduction nostalgic period boxes and jars full of goodies.
There were, also, some interesting offerings: jars of passion fruit curd, and lime curd.
I smiled at one jar labelled "Congestion Charge Chutney".
Outside, a mum with children in tow, rushed by – her youngsters sipping from red cans of Coca-Cola.
More ladies had arrived and were sitting and exchanging their news and views over a cup of tea while their husbands, presumably, were hard at work in London and elsewhere. They wore sleeveless tops and their sunshades were pushed up above their foreheads.
Having polished off the finger sandwiches and scones, it was now time to tackle the cakes and those delicious-looking Belgian chocolates. This was the life!