This week I made my first visit to Shatesbury and fancied taking tea and cake, as is my usual want on visits to small towns, and looking at my previous reviews it is rapidly becoming a habit.
King Alfreds Kitchen is situated in the corner of town centre, next to a "Costa" and the main Town Hall and a short walk from what everyone refers to as "the hill from the Hovis advert". I thought it an ideal place to stop off for a spot of refreshment.
The cafe is basically a relatively small seating area with around six circular tables. You do not see the kitchen or any preparation areas. On entry through a very low door, the first thing that hits you is how dated it is. The cast iron stove is a nice feature (but not working in summer), but the ambiance is ruined by the unwelcoming state of the tables. Plastic tablecloths are not inviting. If it was not for my companion already being seated, I would have made my exit.
The staff member was attentive, handed us a menu and straightaway without time to sit down, asked what we would like without giving us any chance of perusing it. Odd. Not to worry, tea and cake was ordered.
During the wait the atmosphere in the room was subdued. It was quiet, and all conversations could be heard. The eavesdropping was broken by the sound of intermittent hammer drilling, a shop is being refitted next door.
Now I cannot hold the management of King Alfreds Kitchen responsible for the major works next door, however, a little notice or an apology from the staff would not have been amiss - so we could have made a choice to stay or leave before ordering. The sound of a drill is not at all pleasant when taking a spot of tea. Again, I regret not apologising and walking out at that point.
Tea for two arrived in a joint ceramic pot. The pot was absolutely impossible to pour - the type with a spout that basically gets it everywhere rather than the cup you are aiming it at. Why do tea shops persist with this ridiculousness?
A lot of tea was spilled all over the plastic cloth. Annoying.
The lemon cake, purchased unseen, was a block of dry sponge with a hard icing. Awful.
I should have stuck to my rule of never ordering cake from such a cafe without first seeing it.
Other diners in the 'kitchen' had ordered hot food. I did notice that some orders were served on a wooden board instead of ceramics. This again turned me off.
Why do places still do this? In my book, food should not be served from wooden boards. They are incredibly difficult to keep clean and bacteria free.
Outside the cafe are public areas on which to sit. The areas had been taken over by persons from a local hostel and, whilst this is obviously not in the control of the shop, it made for an unpleasant atmosphere to say the least.
Overall a regrettable experience, and I wished that I had read some recent reviews before giving them my patronage.
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