Anyone ever been to the same quaint cafe twice within approximately 24 hours? No, me neither. However, I did just see a pig fly over my house and my nose seems to have grown suddenly since I started typing on this damp and grey Wednesday afternoon. Eating out is such a joy, especially with close friends. Close friends who do not mind my child like excitement whilst we are together at our chosen food spot, or the array of photos I love to take to flaunt and remember our food and time together. I am sure the homely, local cafe of Market Street Kitchen did not mind either, or notice across the day and a bit that it was, in fact, a double whammy of yours truly (I did wear different outfits for both occasions, which to be honest, is an achievement).
A Hidden Gem
Market Street Kitchen is located in the picturesque village of Appledore; a truly wonderful place and one of the many gems we have in North Devon. Placed slightly aback from the wide, open space of Appledore Quay, MSK (that abbreviation flows quite well actually, so it will be staying) is situated literally on Market Street. It is a cafe that could only really be named one thing (I assume Market Street Kitchen was top of the name list).
Unlike the vast quay which sits parallel to the sandy beach and tourist filled village of Instow across the River Torridge (another hidden gem), walking through Market Street is a bit of a step back in time. Patches of cobbles you can feel undulating beneath your flip flops, as you walk between two rows of buildings consisting of cottage houses and local shops. Decorated by a sea of bunting that makes its way from building to building with an abundance of colour, patterns, and grace. Even if you are not local, it makes you feel at home; a big North Devon hug you want to hold on tight to. Walk far enough along the slim line street and your eyes will be hit by a vibrant splash of lime green; let the photography and smiles spreading across everyone’s faces commence, especially mine!
Once your eyes adjust to the vibrant entrance and striking arrangement of flowers and knitted creatures, the homely cuddle continues inside and through into their secluded garden. A small counter proudly displaying large jars filled with their home made sweet treats, ready for you to make a last minute decision that you thoroughly deserve a piece (you always deserve a piece). Once you have peeled your eyes away from the chocolate brownie, the shelves in front of you hold up even more jars filled with an array of coffees and beautiful loose leaf teas. Putting your eyes back into your head at this point, you turn to see the rustic cabinet full of their home made (obviously) jam, pickle and marmalade. Is there anything this little kitchen can’t do? Now you can see clearly again after being bombarded by such mouth-watering delights, you walk out into the beautiful garden. A stoned pathway leads you past their quirky shed shop that sells all kinds of bits and bobs from the area, and up into the small outdoor space, arranged with mosaic patterned tables, a wooden shelter for those rainy days, and wondrous plants and flowers to fill the senses. I was lucky enough to enjoy both my visits in their serene garden, and randomly, at the same square, wooden table.
Breakfast for Lunch!
There isn’t a time of day when breakfast cannot be consumed, fact. And a Monday lunchtime with one of my Wingmen clan (if you know, you know) was one of those glorious breakfast not at breakfast filled times. A fantastic, simple menu filled with local produce and home made goods made for a back and forth decision for both of us, until we finally decided upon the same enticing meal; The Vegan Breakfast. I am not vegan (mainly because of eggs. Man I LOVE eggs) but really enjoy eating vegan and vegetarian based meals. The majority of the time, I will probably decide on a veg filled plate of goodness, and the MSK vegan breakfast was one of those filling plates.
A rare day off from consuming eggs, this vegan breakfast hit the spot and filled my stomach with smiles, as well as my face. The white, oval plate held a quartet of well cooked breakfast regulars. Lightly pan-fried mushrooms were earthy and soft, with what I think was a small coating of butter (correct me if I am wrong MSK!), gracefully piled next to two vegan sausages. Meat free variations of our favourites, such as sausages, are underrated (in my opinion) and these did not disappoint either. Crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, the sausages were filled with colourful, bite sized pieces of sweetcorn, peppers and peas. Both were full of flavour and obviously got a good ketchup dunking. Halfway through the quartet, two lovingly roasted, caramelised halves of tomato. Roasted tomatoes are hard to beat; such an easy way to enhance their natural sweetness and pimp up any breakfast, or meal for that matter. And what breakfast wouldn’t be complete without a big spoonful of home made baked beans in a tomato sauce, a warm pile of wholemeal toast and a little saucer of butter? FYI, none. The MSK vegan breakfast is worthy of your time at any time of the day; breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner.
It was a fabulously chilled few hours, and the best way to prepare for the next MSK endeavour approaching in 24 hours time: the afternoon tea. Cue ridiculous levels of photography and smiles, most definitely from me!
The MSK Afternoon Tea
So here we are, the afternoon tea, one of the most British things you can do, alongside a Sunday roast and standing in a queue. An afternoon tea definitely tops that British-ness list for me for a few reasons: it does not happen very often so always feels like a real treat! It mixes sweet and savoury which I am all for. Miniature versions of your favourite sweet and savoury treats makes you feel like you are indulging in so much more than you probably actually are! Finally, everyone has their own version of a classic afternoon tea, so you never know what might get put down in front of you. And when your best friend tells you she would like an afternoon tea for her birthday, who am I not to make that dream a reality!
It was very much a deja vu feeling walking down to Appledore for the second time, wearing my favourite pink, flowery dress (it was the best friend’s birthday after all) just 24 hours after consuming that stomach filling vegan breakfast. The same cobbles, bunting, and bright and warming sunshine had the makings for another fantastic afternoon at MSK (we both knew it would be a fantastic afternoon because cake was involved, and cake is life).
Sitting on our rustic chairs, excitably chatting away and sipping our chosen teas (super fruit tea for Nicola, and green tea for moi), we awaited the arrival of our first afternoon tea of 2020. Would the amount of sweet and savoury treats be balanced? No one wants too much of one and not enough of the other. What flavour would the cakes be? *Prays for something chocolatey to be involved*. Jam or cream first? Jam, and I will explain my reasoning. I may be Devonian through and through, but jam is a spread and must, therefore, be spread onto the scone first, before the glorious dollop of cream. Jam cannot be spread on cream – it is just a mess. I will now leave you all to argue over which way is best (I am not budging, and Nicola agrees).
Finally, the moment of truth arrived, in the form of a mountain of afternoon tea delights.
What a Spread!
Our eyes nearly fell out of our heads, and mouths almost hit the wooden, square table we had chosen for our afternoon adventure. A tall, vintage, four tier (yes, FOUR) afternoon tea platter was placed down in the middle of our table, and almost towered above us as we sat, almost dribbling. What. A. Spread; sandwiches, cakes, tray bakes, scones, jam and cream, it was time to dive in, mouths first.
Savoury Sandwiches and Scones
The MSK afternoon tea started off the only way it could, with an array of savoury sandwiches arranged on the bottom tier; we were making our way up from the bottom to the top! Upon our arrival that sun kissed Tuesday, we were asked if we were happy with sandwich fillings. A small tweak to prawn mayonnaise from a cheese based sandwich due to my massive lack of cheese favouritism, and we were good to munch. And munch we did, upon prawn mayonnaise, tomato, and tuna mayonnaise triangular filled delights.
A mixture of white and brown bread encased the freshly made fillings. The brown bread in particular was a triumph; soft that it slightly bounced in between your fingers, light to chew and on the stomach, a well coloured crust to add that bitter note, and a light dispersion of seeds throughout for an extra crunch. Plus, being thinly sliced, the bread to filling ratio was definitely in favour of the fillings; it is always a sign of a good sandwich when you take your first bite and the filling starts to spill out slightly, they were jammed packed!
The most memorable of the savoury sandwiches was the unexpected and surprising tomato filling. This wasn’t your average tomato sandwich, it wasn’t even an M&S tomato sandwich, this was an MSK tomato sandwich (did you just read all that in the voice of the very recognisable posh TV lady? Or was that just me?). The filling was the expected striking tomato red colour, with a scent that was almost Mediterranean. It was like a mini tomato garden had been planted between two pieces of bread; small chunks of fresh, sweet tomatoes, mixed with what seemed like the heftier hit of sun dried tomatoes, and an aromatic dollop of red pesto. Whatever it was, it was a heavenly filling I have not had anywhere else before, and I’m disappointed in myself for not asking what made this zingy tomato sandwich so, well, tomato-y (MSK, if you’re reading this, I would love to know!).
From vegetarian to fish, and the classic, well loved, prawn mayo and tuna mayo sandwiches. Fillings that stood up to their name and had big, afternoon tea worthy pieces of actual prawn and tuna chunks (not any of this pre-made, smooth stuff you may find in large supermarkets). The prawn was sweet in flavour, juicy in texture, and slightly blush pink in colour. The tuna was on a par with its sea loving counterpart; textured with large pieces of flaky tuna, rather than the smooth, sometimes dry paste that some tuna experiences can be. Both seafood sandwiches were rich with just enough mayonnaise to coat the delicate protein, and rounded off a trio of triumphant sandwiches.
Continuing our savoury journey, we temporarily skipped a tier, climbing our way to tier three and made it to our first scone. A plump cheese scone, accompanied by a helping of cream cheese and home made onion chutney. Despite swapping out a cheese based sandwich, I was very keen for this cheesy chutney based endeavour (I can cope with and enjoy small amounts of mild cheese in foods). The scone itself was light to hold, had a crunchy cheese top, egg washed outer and was easy to break into two pieces with our hands like all good scones should. When broken into two, the light smell of cheddar flew through the air between us from the soft and slightly crumbly inner. A layer of slightly sour cream cheese made a perfect pillow for the amazing home made onion chutney to lay upon. The chutney was so flavourful; full of caramelised onions, dried fruits and an abundance of spices that complemented the cheese flavour of the delicate scone perfectly. The scone was tasty on its own, but with the onion chutney on top, it was divine. Plus, with the cooling, palette cleansing cream cheese, the perfect way to prepare for our climb onto the sweet tiers.
Savoury completed, it was onto the sweet (saving the best to last for you all).
Sweet Sponges, Scones and Tray bakes
The long awaited sweet treats were spread over three tiers, with at least one piece each of everything. Some had two pieces each! As we washed away the savoury note in our mouths with warm flavourful tea, we gazed at the mixture of cakes, scones and tray bakes, taking in all their colours with our eyes, and sweets smells with our noses, ready to grab with our eager hands. Our thorough cake inspection led us to the following conclusion of what each tier entailed: plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam; cranberry and peanut tiffin; cherry bakewell sponge; and an orange and sultana tray bake. It was time for the taste test, and we were so ready.
With the savoury scone already a triumph, we had no doubt that the sweet version would be just as good, if not even better. Plump with the recognisable ring around its middle, the plain scone split into two halves with very little effort, to reveal another light, soft, and slightly crumbly interior. Plus, each scone was still slightly warm in our cake grabbing hands; talk about fresh from the oven! The first layer of deep red, sweet and sticky strawberry jam was SPREAD onto the pale scone canvas FIRST, to be swiftly joined by a thick, luxurious dollop of clotted cream. That first bite was heavenly, and to quote from my notebook: “tasted like a damn good scone”. The pillow like scone combined with the power house duo of strawberries and cream, made for an absolute dream. A dream we did not want to wake from!
Now, it wasn’t until I actually bit into the next slab of sweet, cake-y goodness that I really worked out what the delicious flavour was; orange and sultana. I have never had a bake like this before, and if I am honest, I want it all over again because it was probably my favourite from the afternoon tea! The bake was more dense in texture than your average cake, but in a totally good way. Each square was super moist (I very much dislike that adjective, unlike Mary Berry) and luxurious with orange syrup; so much so we were left with a gooey orange layer on our fingertips, which obviously wasn’t wasted. The sultanas were in abundance, locating themselves in every part of the sticky morsel, throwing even more fruit sweetness and texture at our already very happy palettes. Surrounding that mandarin coloured, sultana filled interior was a dark and treacle like exterior. It almost reminded me of the epic outer edge of a well baked flapjack, know what I mean? It was the perfect contrast and fingertip worthy surface.
From tray bake to actual cake, we had made it to the top tier of our MSK afternoon tea expedition. At the summit we were greeted with a glorious sight, almost topping that of actual summits, such as Everest. This was our Everest. Two layers of vanilla sponge, light and fluffy as a cloud, were glued together by a deep and rich cherry jam, topped with smooth, creamy buttercream, and a noticeable hint of almond dancing through the whole slice. This bakewell tart sponge was exactly that; a bakewell tart transformed into sponge form and it was tremendous. I wanted to buy the whole cake (might do that next time I am in Appledore).
Before we could slowly start making our way down from our sugar summit, we took a trip to the chocolate medical tent, where we prescribed ourselves a dose of peanut and cranberry tiffin. My peanut butter obsession struck again and would be satisfied once more. Generous flakes of peanut giving a nutty edge and crunchy texture, was matched by crumbled pieces of a very famous tea dunking biscuit (we all know which one). Succulent cranberries contrasted the savoury taste of peanut and biscuit, adding sweetness, acidity and a pop of dazzling deep red; looking like hidden gems themselves. All of these wonderful flavours were bound together by lashings of rich chocolate that became almost ganache like in places, where the bitter brown liquid met with the fine crumbs of our beloved biscuit. Our blood sugar levels had now reached their summit.
It may surprise you, but we both controlled ourselves over those couple of hours and did not eat the whole shebang in one go; hence the title. The kind MSK staff popped our few pieces of leftover cake (feels weird typing those words as that normally does not happen, ever) into empty clotted cream tubs for us to transport home and further enjoy at our own discretion. I don’t know about Nicola, but I managed to drag mine out for a few days, which totally deserves a medal.
Blimey. I hope everyone is feeling OK, because I am exhausted after all that. An expedition in itself reliving that fun filled, cake eating, brunch munching 24 hours, and an expedition you should definitely all undertake!