MEAL REVIEW: Bari Tea, Narrowgate, Alnwick (2012)

Home-made smoked mackerel pate, served with oatcakes and fresh fruit at Bari Tea, Alnwick.
Home-made smoked mackerel pate, served with oatcakes and fresh fruit at Bari Tea, Alnwick.

Here is a review of the Bari Tea tearoom first published in the Northumberland Gazette on December 6, 2012.

Bari by name and bari by nature, that’s one of the newest tearooms in Alnwick.

Cauliflower cheese soup at Bari Tea, Alnwick.

Cauliflower cheese soup at Bari Tea, Alnwick.

As its name suggests, Bari Tea specialises in the British people’s favourite drink and there is quite a range from which to choose. They serve more than 30 teas including traditional blends, single estate blacks, green, white, oolong and herbals, in fact, everything from familiar brews like English Breakfast to the unusual and bizarrely-named Jasmine Dragon Tears for the more adventurous drinkers.

Each comes with tasting notes, so you are made aware that, for example, Quangzhou Milk Oolong is ‘smooth and velvety with an almost creamy finish... this premium oolong’s character of sweet milk and light orchid notes with a smooth finish is utterly unique’. As if you didn’t know already!

The whole experience in the Bari Brewery brings the phrase ‘quintessentially English’ into the 21st century, from the pleasant, polite but understated waiting staff to the egg-timer brought with your pot to allow the tea the right time to brew to perfection. I had a plain old Afternoon Tea (mellow blend of Darjeeling, Kenya and Ceylon black teas), while my wife pushed the boat out and plumped for the Jasmine Dragon Tears. I confessed to being boring and also wished I had tried something more adventurous when I tasted the jasmine tea – it was exquisite.

There is also a range of prices for the teas – Commoners’ Tea is £2.25; Treat Tea (like mine) is £2.55; and Posh Tea (like the jamsine) is £3. It sounds expensive but by the time you’ve had extra water added to the pot, you get several cups from it, and the quality is beyond question.

Two crumpets with butter

Two crumpets with butter

The tearoom, again as the name suggests, prides itself on serving Northumbrian produce. For those who like their food as local as possible, it is impossible to find many other places more local. While the tea is not sourced locally (global warming has not yet allowed Northumberland farmers to diversify into tea plantations), the food certainly is! Every dish is either homemade or has some local ingredient.

The menu is a glorious celebration of Northumberland. Perhaps the best example is the Bari Platter for two or three people (locally-cooked ham and beef, Northumberland cheese, homemade mackerel pâté, a hard-boiled Northumberland free-range egg, pease pudding, Lynette’s red onion marmalade, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks and salad, served with locally baked bread and butter stottie, £17).

A colleague had recommended it as an enjoyable and scrumptious feast. But it was a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon and I had taken a shine to the homemade soup of the day – cauliflower cheese, served with artisan bread from the Running Fox bakery at Felton and butter in a white ramekin (£4.50). It was gorgeous and had barely touched the sides as it rested, glowing inside me. The flavours blended well, the cheese making it creamy and the cauliflower adding an almost sweet taste.

My wife went for the home-made smoked mackerel pâté, served with oatcakes and fresh fruit (£6). It was beautifully presented and the pâté was equally as tasty yet subtle, the flavours of lemon and possibly capers drifting through.

Carrot and walnut cake

Carrot and walnut cake

We had the rare pleasure of both of our offspring for this lunchtime meal. Son followed in his father’s footsteps and chose the soup, while daughter stuck to what she knows best – two crumpets with butter, rejecting the honey or jam on the side (£2.50).

We had originally planned to have a Bari High Tea for Two (a choice of two scones with a pot of tea for two, sweet scones, for example fruit, served with Northumbrian cream and jam; or savoury scones, for example cheese with butter and Lynette’s red onion marmalade. Also served with fresh fruit skewers, £10). But disappointingly, they had run clean out of scones, there being a rush on them earlier in the day apparently.

So we contented ourselves with some cake to accompany the rest of our teas. Chocolate and banana (son), carrot and walnut (wife) and my orange and almond (gluten free) were all yummy, moist and the very definition of moreish.

Bari Tea has just the right blend of comfort and quirkiness. Add a pinch of soothing music, a mock wood-burning stove and beautiful, chic decor and you have the recipe for a relaxing lunch or breakfast.

Orange and almond cake (gluten free)

Orange and almond cake (gluten free)

BARI BIG BONANZA FOR VEGETARIANS

Bari Tea is heaven on earth for vegetarians. While there may not be a massive choice overall, the majority of dishes cater for non-meat eaters or vegans.

Small children, ages up to five and older children too, also get a decent selection: Bairn’s Bari breakfast (v), £2.50 (until noon; bains’ soup (v), £2; baked beans on toast (v), £2.50; bairns’ bait (v), £3.50 (bread and butter soldiers, cheese, crisps, vegetable sticks and fresh fruit); flower pot tea, £1.50

SELECTION FROM THE MENU (December 2012 prices)

Breakfast (served until noon)

Bari yari (v), scrambled eggs/toast......£4

Chocolate and banana cake

Chocolate and banana cake

Sausage sandwich (v avaliable)......£4.50

Porrideg (v), honey, fruit, nuts......£3

Toast (v), butter, honey, jam......£2.50

BAIT

Northumberland cheese plate (v)......£7

Northumberland on a plate......£8

Mushroom pate (v)......£5.50

Smoked mackerel pate......£6

PLATTERS (for 2 or 3 adults)

bari cheese platter (v)......£15

Bari plattter......£17

SPECIALS

Homemade soup (v)......£4.50

Bari high tea for two (v)......£10

CAKES AND BITES

Bit o’Crumpet (v): Two crumpets......£2.50

Homemade scones (v)......£1.75

Selection of cakes......£2.40

Varuious tray bakes......£2

STAR RATINGS

Quality of food......9

Choice......7

Vegetarian choice......9

Use of local food......10

Value for money......7

Atmosphere......8

Service......8

Children catered for......8

Access for disabled......9

Toilet for disabled......Yes

Overall experience......8½

Verdict: A dream for local-food aficionados

Contact: Tel: 01665 510508; full menu on website www.baritea.co.uk

Pot of tea at Bari Tea, Alnwick

Pot of tea at Bari Tea, Alnwick

Inside Bari Tea, Alnwick.

Inside Bari Tea, Alnwick.

Inside Bari Tea, Alnwick.

Inside Bari Tea, Alnwick.