Time for Tea: Mark Davison visits The Grey Dove Tearoom
Time for Tea: Mark Davison visits The Grey Dove Tearoom, Walton-on-the-Hill
WORD had reached me that new owners had taken over the tearoom opposite the village pond at Walton-on-the-Hill and its name had been changed to the Grey Dove.
My informant said it looked very stylish inside and that I should pay a visit when I was in the area.
One afternoon last week, while motoring around Tadworth and Kingswood, I heeded their advice and turned off for Walton.
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After parking near the Blue Ball public house, I wandered along Walton Street and crossed over to visit the pond. It was here, many years ago, that my grandparents used to take me to feed the ducks.
I stared across the water. Between the grey clouds above, a shaft of sunshine burst through, sparkling the water.
On the muddy edges of the pond, mallards dozed, seemingly unfazed by my approach. A solitary moorhen paddled off to another part of the pond.
Rain seemed imminent but there was really nothing more than a few spots in the breeze.
I had heard on the news that April blizzards were sweeping the Midlands and that eight inches of snow was lying in Buxton. It seemed incredible that this was happening just days after we had enjoyed a prolonged March heatwave.
I sat on the bench for a few moments next to a cheerful clump of daffodils before heading for the tearoom.
Stepping inside, I was impressed by the new look. It was indeed elegant and stylish. Dove-grey walls, chandeliers, period tea chairs and a counter full of delicious cakes greeted me.
The cakes – lemon drizzle, gluton-free orange sponge, simnel and others – were displayed under glass domes.
Neat little spotlights emitted a soft light onto the counter as two or three waitresses prepared coffees for customers.
The 1940s-style tea chairs were placed around 10 or so marble-effect round tables which stood on the wood floor.
"I'm glad you are still open," I said to the polite waitress who enquired of my order.
"What time do you close?"
She replied it was normally four o'clock.
The smart menu book was handed to me and I was left to peruse it quietly. I learned that morning customers can enjoy a variety of breakfasts. Options include Scott's Porage Oats (£1.90); Granola with Greek yoghurt and honey (£2.75); Greek yoghurt with homemade fruit compote (£3.25); free-range scrambled eggs on toast, a muffin or a crumpet (£3.60). For those who like a man-size breakfast, there is always another option: free-range scrambled eggs and two slices of bacon (£3.80).
But this was not morning. It was gone half past three in the afternoon.
I was distinctly peckish and homed in on the light lunches section. I opted for a homemade chicken, leek and sweetcorn pasty in a creamy Cheddar and mustard sauce, served with a side salad or a creamy coleslaw enlivened with sultanas (£5.90).
A young mother and her toddler daughter arrived for a coffee and the tot became restless. Mum went off to fetch a toy from a box in the corner of the café.
After the coffee was finished, she wished the staff a happy Easter and left.
Outside, a heron encircled the pond looking for fish.
I continued reading the menu and was pleased to see that traditional afternoon teas are available. These include a special made up of a choice of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, a slice of cake and a pot of tea (£6.90).
I couldn't resist a warm scone with jam and clotted cream (£3.20) and placed my order hoping it was not too close to four o'clock.
"What jam would you like?" asked the waitress.
"Oh, strawberry please," I replied.
Another mum arrived with her small son. She ordered a cappuccino and took a seat at the far end of the tearoom. The child had a blue beaker into which a straw was inserted. The coffee came with a pre-wrapped biscuit.
The window behind them had a view on to the yard where a basket of mauve and yellow winter pansies hung.
A "man in a van" called in and ordered some food to take away. While he was being served, he was busy tapping a text message on his mobile and then making a call.
"Try turning it off and turning it on again. It should then be all right," he advised down the phone.
Nearby, the little boy became agitated and Mum gently waved a finger at him, saying: "Just behave!" She sighed and sipped some more cappuccino.
Yet another mother called in with her three offspring.
"What would you all like?" asked Mum.
There were cries of "chocolate brownie".
Mum ticked off one of the children for demanding two brownies.
A little boy in the party was pulled away from a wooden high chair he was attempting to climb into.
"No. That's not for you."
During my visit, I was treated to the songs of Amy Winehouse as I whiled away the afternoon.
One of the lady customers spotted a friend or neighbour walking past across the road. She opened the front door and called out: "Do you want a cup of tea?"
The passer-by caved in and joined the get-together. The café was now at its busiest.