Following a lovely night at Paddocks House and a day exploring Ely, Mike and I were ready to settle down to afternoon tea at our second hotel, Poets House.
The sister hotel to Paddocks House, this one's city centre location gives it a very different feel, while its outward appearance is different too. Housed within three elegant 1900s townhouses, it has a smart and sleek exterior.
Also very different is The Study, where we tucked in to a delicious afternoon tea following our day spent walking around Ely and climbing to the top of the cathedral. While this one shares the comfortable soft furnishings we found at Paddocks House, it has a livelier, more modern vibe, with floor to ceiling windows and huge feature bar.
We loved it in here. We also loved our afternoon tea, which was without a doubt my favourite meal of the whole trip and as good as any afternoon tea I've had anywhere.
I went for lemon and ginger tea, my favourite blend besides traditional English breakfast, while Mike chose Earl Grey. We started with finger sandwiches, which were soft and delicious, in classic flavours like ham and mustard mayonnaise, smoked salmon and cream cheese and egg and cress.
Funnily enough, I'm not generally a great fan of sandwiches, but there's just something about them in the context of afternoon tea that I can't get enough of. We had no difficulty in polishing this lot off in an embarrassingly short amount of time.
Then we moved on to the scones. These were amazing - still warm from the oven and ever so slightly crisp on the outside. We tried both the plain and the raisin filled variety and both were equally wonderful. My preference was for the plain ones - simply because I've never been particularly keen on raisins in baked goods - but Mike's favourites were the ones with raisins, so that worked out pretty well.
Drawing on lessons learnt from past afternoon tea experiences, I resisted the temptation to eat every last crumb of the scones. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life (OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration), but I had to do it for the cakes! Imagine if you were too full to properly appreciate these little works of art. Life is quite simply too short for those kind of regrets.
If you're thinking that the raspberry macaron with the chocolate centre looks like heaven on a plate, you'd be right. But the little rectangular chocolate sponge with the crisp coffee beans on top was even better.
After all that food, there was nothing for it but to hibernate for a little bit, and attempt to build some kind of appetite back up for dinner. Our room was decked out just as the one at Paddocks House had been, and given how much I'd loved the decor there, that suited me just fine.
The only feature that reminded us we were in Ely and not Newmarket was the charming view of the cathedral from our bedroom window. (The view actually made me think of the Anthony Trollope novel Barchester Towers. Bonus points to any fellow book nerds who've read it!)
And yes, there was a copper bathtub in the bedroom, just like at Paddocks House. I think I started running a bath the second we got back to our room! I want one of these at home.
Now, I don't know what it is about food and holidays, but despite stuffing ourselves with sandwiches, scones and cake at four o'clock, by eight o'clock we were feeling just about ready for a small three course dinner.
And it's a good thing we were, because there were some treats in store.
I began the meal with scallops and squid, which was beautifully delicate, and served with a light, lemongrass sauce. This was so good I basically inhaled it.
For the main course, I went for slow cooked blade of beef with creamy mashed potato and vegetables. This was probably my least favourite of all the (many!) dishes I consumed while on this trip. I don't think that was due to it being done badly, though, I just think I made an uninformed choice from the menu. Sometimes you have an idea of what a dish is going to taste like and the reality ends up being quite different from what you expected, and that's what happened here. The potato and vegetables were lovely, especially the spinach. I just wasn't keen on the soft, crumbly texture of the beef.
Dessert on the other hand.... Mmmm....
I'm a little bit rubbish at writing about restaurants because when it comes to dessert, 99 times out of 100 I am going to choose chocolate. You would think after the cakes at the afternoon tea I would go for something different, but no. I don't seem to be able to help it. I have a problem.
But this was chocolate fondant, which is probably my all-time favourite, so there was no way I was going to miss out. (Yes, I want to provide varied and interesting content on my blog, but not if it's going to interfere with dessert, OK?) I first discovered these heavenly creations when I lived in Belgium. They're called "moelleux au chocolat" over there and they basically consist of a warm, soft, rich chocolate sponge filled with hot chocolate sauce. This one, I'm happy to say, was a spectacular example, and the combination with the vanilla ice cream was out of this world.
I should have photographed the dreamy sauce oozing out of the middle as I cut into it, shouldn't I?
Too late now!
Mike and I both thoroughly enjoyed our flying visit to Cambridgeshire and both hotels we stayed at were fantastic. As much as I love going abroad, there's something really nice about discovering new places closer to home. Neither of us had been to this pretty county before, unless you count driving through it on our regular journeys between Kent and South Yorkshire. Now we know it's a place we want to go back to.
Where's your favourite place you've discovered that's close to home?