Talking Tea, BathSpa and Sally Lunn’s Buns

What do you do when you are low on energy, inspiration and the general joie de vivre that is sooo essential to keep a travel blog lively and vivacious – and more importantly make you want to live that experience through me or even better it some time later? Well, you dig deep into your travel notebooks for stories already told. While sending it out to you, I’m also living that day of that year once over – the smells, the taste, the joy returns momentarily – and life springs anew inside the jaded wilted me. ( It could also be this haunting summer heat – Delhi is currently a molten 45 degrees – where you feel the heat seep into your bones cooking your brains and innards alike)

So what better time to talk about food?? Food that makes me yearn for the lovely weather in which I’d savoured it. So this story, my lovely loyal readers comes to you from Bath. Read on. I was exploring Cardiff with N when a dear friend, S suggested we make a trip to BathSpa. We’d tried to rouse ourselves for a visit to Bath a year earlier. But snowed in December in Cardiff meant getting a train to Bath wasn’t really an easy task. So this time, I was in Cardiff in October. And I was determined to make the most out of a bright autumny day.

I always recommend a visit to BathSpa ( yes, that’s the name of the railway station you need to alight at to head to the Roman Baths – a massive complex that gave the area its name. University of Bath too has quite a reputation of being a good institution to head to, so if you do get through for courses there, grab it. It is a heavenly city to spend your study years there)

The Roman baths, I shall write about it on another day. Today I want to tell you about tea. Not as much about English tea which I must admit I never really developed a taste for. I’m still too loyal to other forms of brewing tea – the Kahwa, the Arabic Suleimani and the pudina chai…But I’d say no one beats the English when it comes to dishing out accompaniments with the tea… Ohhh..on that note, remind me to tell you about tea and scones in Rottingdean soon.

Watch out for this board while walking to the Roman Baths
Watch out for this board while walking to the Roman Baths

Coming back to Bathspa…and teahouses, have you heard of Sally Lunn’s Buns. I was perversely pleased by the name as we crossed Sally Lunn’s house, which incidentally is said to be the oldest house in Bath, dating back to the fifteenth century!!

The English take their tea rooms very seriously – the china ( if you aren’t oh-so-posh, then mismatched and flowery is the way!), the lace doilies, the tea pot and the creamer jug and of course the kitschy rooms with starched table cloths and assorted knick-knack dotting any inch of surface available. Sally Lunn’s place tries hard to maintain its age-old look.

Sally Lunn herself lived there in the seventeenth century after she landed in Bath from France, or so the story goes. And in the bakery she set up, she baked her famous buns… Till recently, in India, bread and buns usually meant those tasteless batches churned by the thousands by factories. Now you do have artisanal bread and some love shown to baking. But in England, baked goodies in teahouses are a league apart.

The recipe followed in baking these buns have not been changed since Sally Lunn’s day, which means the bread you eat tastes the same as over four hundred years ago! The parlour where we sat for our afternoon tea had hosted guests and later patrons. The rooms upstairs, which has been converted into a museum can be accessed via a narrow staircase ( Always makes me wonder, did the fat ladies in their girdles and multiple layered petticoats get stuck on their way up or down?)SL2

Now, I had ordered a ratatouille served on a Sally Lun bun ( the savoury one) while my friend had the sweet one that goes well with tea – half a bun smothered with cinnamon butter. Ever heard of the latter? It is as gorgeous as it sounds..Heavenly smelling butter infused with cinnamon and sugar and a little slice of divinity in the mouth. I was intrigued to know that we were to be served half a bun ( now who eats that?) It takes you to see the size of the bun to realise that a half is about as filling as a decent sized doughnut. Also you need to remember, you nibble on a slice of history served in the same traditional manner. (Guess what, I’m sorry there are no photos of the heavenly buns. My camera ran out of battery just when we got there! So like a lot of great memories, the vision stays in my head..and I hope you see it through my words!)

After a trip to the Roman Baths, heading to Sally Lunn’s house for a spot to tea is a good idea to ensure another little trip into history…:) Highly recommended..and if you do end up going there, do remember to ask how Sally Lunn made that divine cinnamon butter..:) Perhaps the only competition to good English scones in my book of tea treats!

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