Review: Afternoon tea at The Running Fox lives up to its reputation
I am struggling to recall how – when I made the arrangements many weeks ago - I justified booking myself into The Running Fox to sample their much talked about afternoon tea.
Yet, if lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that we should seize such opportunities when they present themselves and this opportunity presented itself right after I googled ‘afternoon tea Northumberland’.
The Running Fox is actually a chain of three (soon to be four) bakeries and cafés located in the villages of Felton, Longframlington and Shilbottle. Work on the fourth, in Longhoughton, is expected to be completed in June.
I visited Shilbottle on a wet day (which hardly narrows it down) and was given a warm welcome.
There’s a small shop selling deli items and gifts at the front, although I was somewhat distracted by the large display counter filled with tasty looking treats.
Fortunately for more spontaneous types, these are available to takeaway or you can eat outside if you’re lucky enough to catch a dry spell.
The café was roomy and tastefully decorated with slightly dimmed lighting to give it a cosy atmosphere and the tables were spaced out and separated by discreet screens.
There’s a lot of decisions involved in ordering an afternoon tea here; each person can pick their own choice of sandwich, pie or quiche, scone and cake from a wide selection. It’s actually quite taxing and we needed a cup of tea after all that exertion. Luckily, an unlimited supply is included, or there’s coffee if you’d prefer.
I started with the sandwich; chicken and bacon mayo with chilli jam on brown bread. Be warned: there are no dainty little finger sandwiches with the crusts removed around here. The Running Fox sandwich is a generously filled, hunk of a sandwich – but it’s good. Artisan bread with tender chicken and crispy bacon, nicely complemented by the chilli jam.
Sensing that we weren’t going to complete our tower of treats, I shared the quiche with my afternoon tea partner, safe in the knowledge that anything we didn’t manage could be boxed up for later.
I had selected feta, spinach and pinenut, as I love that combination, but my friend’s choice of pork pie was taken home. The thick, golden pastry made it look very appealing.
In return, I got half of her banoffee pie which we ate in silence, savouring its magnificence. A light base topped with wedges of banana, caramel, whipped cream and chocolate flakes.
The fruit scones with jam and cream and Malteser slice went the same way as the pie - packed away to be enjoyed later. My daughter’s eyes lit up when she saw the traybake and reported that it was the best ever. My husband stole the scone with raspberry jam (yes, I even took the jam it looked so good) and gave it the thumbs up.
It is testament to the mightiness of The Running Fox afternoon tea that it fed a family but it was a delight worthy of its reputation. And this was a special occasion. Ok, it wasn’t…but it was an opportunity seized.