The Grange Centre, Rectory Lane, Great Bookham, Leatherhead, Surrey KT23 4DZ
Cream teas, yummy fudge and home grown produce for sale!
The upside: A changing menu of innovative scones and proper pots of tea!
The downside: The tea-room is only open on Tuesdays.
The flipside: Having tea here is a real treat with the added bonus of visiting the Walled Garden Shop too!
Sitting in an ornate Victorian conservatory sipping fresh brewed tea accompanied by a freshly baked scone, home-made berry jam from the garden with a dollop of fresh cream is my idea of work. Even the freak hail storm rattling onto the glass roof couldn’t dampen the feel good aura of the afternoon. It was pure chance that I was introduced to this tea room and confirms the ethos of my blog that some of the best places to eat out in Surrey are hidden away and definitely not on the high street!
Going to an annual social media event in Guildford each year to update my skill set is also a great networking opportunity. This year was no exception as it was here that I met the Grange marketing manager Gill Caldwell who thought I might be interested in how food education is used to help residents at her workplace learn valuable life skills. Open to the public for just one afternoon a week she invited me to ‘Simply Scones’ a pop-up tea room set up and run by residents with disabilities. Under the guidance of support staff, residents learn a range of food service and productions skills. So here everything is made fresh on the day apart from the jam! However this is made with fruit grown in their acre walled garden which also houses a shop. In season you can buy fruit, vegetables, garden plants and even their own honey. Running these enterprises provides much needed confidence-building and self-esteem raising experiences. In turn this enables for many, future employment opportunities.
During tea I learnt more about The Grange and its fascinating story. Set up in 1927 by a pioneer of training provision for the disabled Julia Sweet (originally for nurses injured during the first world war to continue to earn a living) as the School of Stitchery and Lace in Leicestershire. The charity moved to its current home in Bookham in 1938. While needlework and crafts skills are taught here the charity has modernised and developed into an educational centre for men and women living with disabilities. Whilst the activities of the original charity has a more contemporary outlook the philosophy and aims of providing vocational training is very much in tact.
A social enterprise that uses food production as part of its curriculum is such a brilliant concept. All you have to do is book a delicious home-made cream tea in their weekly pop-up tea room, buy home-made fudge online or visit their walled garden shop for home-grown produce and garden plants. By default you will also be supporting the work of this community and provide much needed footfall and experience in customer relations.
Getting back to the cream tea (regardless of the venue) this menu can hold its own. Fresh and delicious from steaming pots of tea to light oven warm scones the eating experience is faultless. The scones change regularly as innovative new recipes such as New York Cheesecake and even gluten free lemon and sultana scones (to order) are available. Popular recipes are even published on their blog for you to reproduce at home. Slices of fresh baked cake are also on sale such as coffee and walnut and classic Victoria Sandwich (tea and cake or scone £3.50). In addition to the food the service is friendly and welcoming and it’s just a pleasure to support such a great project.
A few weeks after my visit for tea I returned to visit the walled garden. By now the first crops of lovingly tended fruits and vegetables were winging their way into the shop to be sold to the public. As well as being used in the kitchens of the Grange for on site meals and being sold to residents who self-cater excess produce is up for sale. I bought a bag of red-currants, a few courgettes and some freshly dug spuds.
This was just a glimpse of what they grow in the gardens here but of course it’s seasonal. I had just missed the blackcurrants and first show of raspberries and the green beans and sweet corn weren’t quite ready to harvest. Luckily Gill posts a list of produce on the website each day to let customers know what will be in stock. Last time I looked Swiss chard, runner beans and carrots were being harvested.
In addition to horticulture and running the tea-room there is an online fudge business and a craft shop selling handicrafts such as tea cosies in their gift shop in Dorking. For a full description of what the Grange has to offer make sure you visit their website. To visit for tea on a Tuesday afternoon bookings must be made in advance. The walled garden shop is open every day during the week for produce and plants.
Book for Simply Scones 01372 452608
Walled Garden Shop (check the website for produce for sale prior to visiting)