On Sunday my lovely friend Lill and I headed into Leicester, the nearest city to my little town Loughborough, for a spot of shopping and afternoon tea at St Martins Tea & Coffee. I love a good afternoon tea, although have only experienced it before at someone's home or at tres fancy establishments in London, so either a very relaxed or a very formal setting. I think St Martins gets the experience just right, it's such a welcoming environment with its mish mash of furniture and wall full of books and board games, and yet when you are presented with lovely stands overflowing with dainty treats and a big pot of tea with beautiful china tea cups you can't help but sit a little straighter and attain a slightly more formal demeanour - I have to mentally stop myself sticking out my pinky finger when taking a sip of tea. The tea by the way was very lovely, I'm not sure which of their teas it was but it was right up my street and I fell in love with the tiny milk bottle that came along with our cups and teapot!
As for the edibles I get the impression that what you will receive changes day to day based on what quiches they have in and what sandwiches whoever makes them fancies doing which I absolutely love. We had a ham quiche and a tomato quiche and both were lovely - the pieces were cut into bite sized chunks too which I was a fan of as I didn't end up with pastry crumbs down my top as so often happens in these situations... The sandwiches we had were cucumber with mayonnaise and black pepper and then prosciutto with I think a Westcombe cheddar with a little chutney and nice peppery salad leaves. I'm not a chutney fan as a rule but these were lovely and just the right amount was used to lift the sandwiches up to the next level.
Now for the cakes. I'm pretty well versed in this kind of thing as I ran a mail order bakery for just under two years and I have to say I was very happy with the selection we were given. The cupcakes were truly lovely, some of the best I've tried with interesting flavour pairings, moist cake and creamy frosting that wasn't too sweet so you could taste the cake as well as the topping. The rocky road type slices was very good and the peanut butter brownie fairly good too as were the macarons - I'm a bit of a brownie and macaron snob so am hard to please in this field but they were both much better than a lot of others I have tried and I wouldn't say no to them if someone handed me one. There was also a scone that Lill had and I went for the vanilla slice which is one of my favourite pastry treats and was quite delicious with lots of gelatine stabilised cream in the middle and just the right amount of jam - yum! Finally we had some little slices of cream and jam doughnut finger which although is just a supermarket bought treat is lovely and offered a lighter bite in amongst all the other rich, sweet goodies on the tower.
As I said earlier the cafe itself is very lovely, a mix of lots of different textures and time periods create a very eclectic but cosy atmosphere. I love the display of tea tins and jars of their roasted coffee beans which is one of the first things you see when you walk in and as you look around you spot lots of other wonderful tea and coffee related ephemera. If you're in need of a new teapot or stove top espresso maker (a kitchen essential in my books) then just head here and you'll be well sorted, you could also pop in and buy some lovely little presents like pretty printed and filled tea caddys and there's even a selection of greetings cards on offer.
St Martins is pretty big too as there is also an upstairs seating area where most of the events take place. I love this side of St Martins, they offer loads of courses and classes and you can even head there to watch a movie every now and again when Film Tramp turn up with their portable screen and show a film accompanied by tasty treats. The next one is Chocolat accompanied by choccy treats from Chocolate Alchemy a lovely little chocolate shop in my town. There are sewing socials, coffee clinics, life drawing workshops, tea tastings, butchery classes and much much more. It's such a great community spirit and I think it adds something really special to Leicester city centre.
Last but not least one of my other favourite sides to St Martins is the deli counter! Everything is sourced from independent companies and the range on offer is great - olives, cured meats, fancy scotch eggs, delicious pickled garlic cloves and semi dried tomatoes, artisan truffles and even amazing olive oil! You can also grab a bag of their house tea and coffee blends to take home with you if you so desire.
I absolutely love St Martins and what they have brought to this little bit of town. I'm so happy to have somewhere like this so close by and I know I'll be making many return trips in the future, I highly suggest you stop by if you're in Leicester and grab a snack and a coffee - you won't regret it.
Throughout June and July you can get afternoon tea for two for only £20 - head here to buy your voucher and make sure you book in advance!