Without wishing to go all Pollyanna on you, sometimes the peskiest Nuisances Of Life can end up as good things and such was the day which started with a ridiculously long detour because we forgot about the road closure at Clare and ended up driving miles out of our way. After months of being tortured by photos of gorgeous cream teas on the Nancy’s Tea Shop twitter feed we decided to visit but had NOT intended to drive to Newmarket via such a circuitously long, albeit pretty, route. We trundled past the ancient and flinty Packhorse bridges at Moulton, watched streams of racehorses being exercised in clouds of dust as they cantered along the Newmarket runs and crossed the borders of three counties: Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. Eventually, our chosen route (if you could call it that) deposited us outside the door on a side street off the main shopping drag in Newmarket.
The street is fairly unprepossessing and I would imagine it’s not an ideal location for a business that must rely on footfall as much as local rep but the curious shopper, venturing off the main streets onto the ‘clock end’ of Old Station Road, will be greeted by a warmly retro interior which manages to stay on the right side of the past. Nancy’s avoids the overly fussy, rolled- through- Cath- Kidston- covered- in-glue style of interior decor that some tearooms fall into the trap of. It’s light and airy, there’s plenty of space to move around and you aren’t crowded in by flowery, bobbly ‘stuff’.
(Cream tea image by Nancy’s)
There’s a menu of teas with names to help you navigate (Tranquil-tea, Purit-tea, Heart-tea) and these are custom blended, including the classics such as Earl Grey (a darn good EG too) and Breakfast Teas alongside cold American-style ice teas with mint and lemon. They’re poured out of teapots into bone china teacups, patterned with violets, primroses and sprigs of ferns, or served cold in retro glass jugs and tall hi-ball glasses. While we were there, we saw a table full of young women enjoying an afternoon tea with teetering cake stands piled high with scones, petit-fours, cream cakes and slices of sponge cakes (lemon drizzle, red velvet, coconut and raspberry). There’s various permutations of afternoon tea too with special events such as VE Day, baby showers and leaving parties and Wimbledon catered for (themed tennis ball patterned macarons anyone?) and the in-house chef guarantees a constant supply of these, all freshly baked.
I have managed to ignore my inner Judge and can now freely order cake for starter and main course should I so wish to without feeling *too* piggish. I have achieved this by ensuring I sit facing away from everyone else in the room so I don’t have to look at their judgy judgy “look at her, she’s eating cake three times in a row” face as they nibble delicately on their three leaves of rocket with gluten-free celery on the side, or whatever these joyless, soulless folks live on. This is a TEAROOM people, and yes, I KNOW Nancy’s also serves savoury food and YES I do like non sugary things too but there was FOUR cakes on the counter, fluffing up their buttercream icing, their layers of fruit and cream flirtily peeking out like the underthings of the dancers at the Moulin Rouge.
I had cake for starters. The raspberry and coconut with a buttercream icing. We also ordered a china plateful of curried cauliflower soup which sounds rather unsummery but actually worked in a ‘Days of the Raj’ kind of way ie curry spices = cooling us down through various biological epocrine processes over which I will draw a veil. It was lightly spiced and spoon coatingly creamy. I’d have added more salt but then I always say that and it was actually perfectly balanced salt wise, according to my husband who isn’t as committed to an early salt-related death as I am. The soup left enough room (even after the accompanying cheese scone or bread) for a fruit scone, jam and clotted cream (I wonder how many scones Nancy’s gets through each week?) with a good tart jam offsetting the richness. A pear and elderflower cooler from local company Breckland Posh Pop was so good I ordered another bottle.
We could have had a pea and ham salad (specials board) and they also do classic English things like gala pies, homemade pork pies and picalilli, eggs hollandaise and plates of tiny triangle sandwiches alongside larger rolls and toasties. There’s ice cream sundaes too which little kids will have to stand up to reach into.
Nancy’s is where I’d bring a gaggle of teenage kids to entertain them and teach them how to ‘bee-haive’ in polite society although Nancy’s is not stuffy or staffed by people who will look sniffily at you should your teenagers remain glued to their smartphones or put their elbows on the table. It’d make a great venue for a tea party for younger children too, alongside bringing mum/granny/grandfather. The prices are incredibly reasonable, the staff are friendly and you can linger on comfy sofas and take your time- nobody is going to chase you out with a stick after twenty minutes.