The Fir Tree Tearooms
Fir Tree Tearooms,
Penshurst Place, the ancestral seat of the Sidney family, creeps
over the surrounding countryside like ivy, bestowing the weald with
that archetypal Kentish serenity. On this unusually balmy Good
Friday afternoon, people swarmed like bees about her crabapple
blossom and herbaceous borders and marvelled at her hotchpotch
medieval architecture. In the nearby village, jostling for place in
the single, daffodil-festooned, Tudor-facaded street there are
several cottages, two tea rooms and a pub.
The Fir Tree Tea Room was first on our list. It had the homely look
of somewhere that is actually someone's home; it makes you feel
for the one part that you're a privileged guest and for the other that
you're an intruding in-law. Floral paintings of dubious artistic merit
crowd the walls. Scrubbed wooden floors and church-pew seating
lend the place a reverent, sleepy air which would have been
peaceful, had a young boy next to us not been repeatedly trying
(without any notable success) to attach a very clattery teaspoon to
his inadherent little tongue.
Good Friday, it transpired was a hell of day for sconiseurs in the
South-East. Faced with a complete and unprecedented sell-out, and
in an unusual break from protocol, we settled upon a round of
Monty Python- inspired rocket, rocket, egg, cress and rocket
sandwiches, which we ordered from a flustered adolescent, who
promptly forgot our order. The tea, when it did arrive (minus cups,
of course, for which we had to propose a pleading soliloquy)
constituted an enormous pot of unconvincing Darjeeling, a
knuckle-burning jug of hot water 'on bed of dried ham' and an only
partially effective strainer.
It really was a glorious day to be out celebrating the arrival of
British springtime through the medium of mediocre afternoon tea.
Despite the gloomy religious overtones of the occasion, the lack of
ingredients and obvious communication breakdown we found the
place wholly charming and will be back in the summer to catch up
with our friend the waiter, enquire as to his GCSE results and ogle
at Penshurst's blooming magnolia.