I’m sitting comfortably, chatting with proprietor Jane Stollery, sipping a delicious cappucino prepared so nicely by Emma Harrison, and feeling very cosy and expansive, after walking the long way around the circuit from Station Garage, as I survey the delightfully, but subtly decorated tea room. But I’m really supposed to be listening.
Jane, who comes originally from Kent, by way of North Yorkshire, is talking about her passion for this project, which she took over on the 1st of June last year, “A traditional tea room, not so much chintz, but tastefully organised for service of our home-made cakes and healthy hot meals. Perhaps with a fresh perspective, but certainly developed with sensitivity for the past in this character-filled building.”
Jane seemed quite firmly grounded as an independent business woman, although she wanted to emphasize that she’s really new to the tea room kind of service, and she says it’s been a lovely learning curve figuring out how to be a tea room lady, how to manage efficiencies, that sort of thing. I’m empathising as far as my gender will allow, remembering how in a previous stint in our own café Carrie and I had agonised over staff rotas, hospitality challenges, all the while waiting for the timers to sound on the next cake or bread or scones to emerge from the oven. When you’re new to a particular discipline, you tend, I think, to do things properly, by the book, without slipping into the lazy habits or short cuts that can be acquired with experience. And that often means that you’re that much more attentive to quality, since the food served is such a personal reflection of your own skills. So you’ll never see a Tyneside lorry delivering pre-cooked meals to the Tea Rooms, for example. All of the dishes served are home made by the proprietor herself!
As a business, of course, the Allendale Tea Rooms also hosts a cosy suite of rooms for B&B, which is occupied primarily by word of mouth and recommendation, Jane says, and that certainly cuts down on the advertising expense! Good business acumen, didn’t I say?
The Tea Rooms are dog-friendly as befits a countryside establishment, warm and welcoming, open from 10-4 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday opening, mooted for the summer, will be decided on closer to the time.
We chatted a bit about being incomers to this area. Jane has already, in the six months she’d lived at Keenley before taking over the tea rooms, walked all around the Keenley Methodist Chapel, which I have not yet done, after nearly 30 years residency. But there’s still time, this year during this diary foray, to do that! Meanwhile, no matter how much I do learn about these ‘Dales, I know I’ll always be an incomer, of course, and I suggested that local folks can be very welcoming to incomers, as long as we approach our new home with humility, courtesy and sensitivity for the way things have been done. With that sort of approach, folks seem to be more than willing to consider new ideas, new perspectives, that in coming years they might even remember with appreciation! And so, quietly and with a minimum of fuss, we incomers might just be able to integrate into the life of the community.
I’m very sure that with good, wholesome real food offerings at Allendale Tea Rooms, and with such delicious coffee (thanks Emma!) Jane will be continuing to build on the rooms’ reputation in this community as a quiet, warm and welcoming place to visit, and to return to like a golden old friend.