Polly Tearooms, Marlborough
Polly Tearooms were sold to me as the crème de la crème. Country Life recently had them down as the finest teashop in England, a claim unhesitatingly echoed in the Daily Telegraph. Very possibly this is true, but it does mean that the best teashop in England does not sell Victoria sponge on a fine afternoon in May. But there they sat regardless, with the local Tory party headquarters plumb spang across the High Street and grey-haired old biddies and equally grey-haired American tourists filling up their tables.
The Tearoom’s website invites customers to send in poems about their experiences of Polly’s. Euterpe allowed me ‘Tiffin’s made of biscuit bits: is it really cake?/I wanted some Victoria sponge, for God almighty’s sake’ before she drifted off, possibly to the nearest M&S. But in her absence I can tell you that Polly’s tiffin is really rather good. It’s sort of like reverse cheesecake, with the thick chocolate topping as the biscuit base and the biscuitish-toffeeish-cherryish mass as the cheese. It comes in a hearty slab, is full of nicely contrasting textures and goes very well with Darjeeling. It even has an etymologically obscure and vaguely lost-empire name, which is just what you want in a place with sagging wooden beams and sun and Tories and teapots. But before I break into a one-man chorus of ‘Jerusalem’ I’m going to calm down and leave you, with the information that a poster in the gents declares the state fish of California to be the garibaldi and who knew?