Posted by: marymarthatours | October 18, 2010

Some Favorite Pubs (and Tea Shops)

Martha and I have just returned from two wonderful weeks in England, one week in York and one in London. The weather was rainy in York and hotter than expected in London, but that didn’t stop us from cramming in most of our must-see places. We laughed about our pace — we decided that our group tours are much more relaxed. When we’re traveling on our own, we tend to leave the B&B right after breakfast and not get back until 8 or 9 PM.

Of course, we needed refueling throughout the day to keep up our strength, so we worked in lots of visits to pubs, tea shops and museum cafes. As promised in our last blog entry, here are some of our favorites:

  • The Earl Grey Tea Room, York. We had our first lunch in York here after a free walking tour of the city. Located on the narrow street known as The Shambles, the dining area is up a tiny winding staircase overlooking the street. I had a cold plate with three varieties of smoked fish and salad. It was a great introduction to the good eating ahead of us.
  • The Hole in the Wall, York. This wonderfully traditional pub is located just inside the Bootham Bar (or gate) in York. We stopped there for our first dinner. The roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was just so-so, but the Toffee Puddle Pudding (their version of Sticky Toffee Pudding) was “to die for”. That set a high bar for other establishments to try to top and meant that we often had Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert.

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The Hole in the Wall Pub, York

  • Mr. Chippy Fish & Chips Shop, York. Not much for atmosphere, but the BEST fish & chips that I’ve ever had. Dessert was like thick fudge frosting in a cup; if you like chocolate, it was heavenly.
  • The Punch Bowl, York. Martha said they had the best fish pie that she has ever eaten. I had a delicious Shepherd’s pie. Of course, we both had a pint of bitter along with our dinner and another great Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert.

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The Punch Bowl Pub, York

  • Little Betty’s Tea Shop, York. The original Betty’s Tea Shop is a crowded tourist stop, but Little Betty’s on Stonegate is an undiscovered gem. We stopped here for afternoon tea twice and would have needed to go back a few more times if we wanted to taste everything offered on the sweets’ trolley and the extensive menu.

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The Sweets’ Trolley at Little Betty’s

  • St. Martin’s in the Field Crypt Restaurant, London. The fame of St. Martin’s in the Field for great musical concerts extends to their restaurant in the crypt. Although the service is cafeteria-style, the food is delicious and reasonably priced. We stopped here for dinner on our way back from a day in Windsor.
  • The Rising Sun, Bloomsbury, London. Near our London B&B, the Morgan Hotel, we found this local pub on our penultimate night in London. Our waiter was a charming New Zealander. When we told him that his pub’s Sticky Toffee Pudding was “right up there” on the list of our favorites, he said, “how high?” We thought about it and decided this one was number one in the 2010 Sticky Toffee Pudding tastings.
  • Chelsea Physic Garden Café, London. After wandering through the amazing Chelsea Physic Garden, we decided to stay for an early dinner on our last evening in England. We didn’t regret that choice. Both of us had the Salmon en Croute (salmon with a raisin and ginger sauce wrapped in pastry) with rocket salad. Heavenly. No Sticky Toffee Pudding here, but we shared a marvelous Meringue with hazelnut cream and a tangy Ginger Cake with Crème Fraiche.

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Sunset in the Chelsea Physic Garden

Can you believe it –I didn’t gain a pound with all that feasting? That says something about the amount of walking we did. A win-win combination, walking and great English food at pubs, cafes, and tea shops.

(text and all photos by Mary)

Where we stayed — both great combinations of charm, location, and value.

York — St. Mary’s Guest House, www.stmaryshotel.co.uk

London — the Morgan Hotel, Bloomsbury, www.morganhotel.co.uk

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Responses

  1. An added footnote from the other M: The Punch Bowl Pub in York has been in business for over 400 years. It has a long history of providing drink and fodder to the folks who stop in for rest or refueling. I loved the “fat rascal” (a dried fruit filled scone) I had with a terrific coffee at Little Betty’s. In addition to great food and atmosphere, pubs offer another bonus: no tipping needed because you place your orders at the bar and there is minimal table service. And we feel less like tourists and more like the locals in pubs.


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