I looked up and everything was pale, pink and patterned. Pretty, but in a prancing pony sort of way. Rain pitter-pattered pleasantly outside, and on the table across sat a gay couple – one was sipping white wine and the other a cup of tea. The waitresses wore pink and white, their outfits matched the cushions, curtains, blackboard edges and even the wooden chairs. It was then that I thought, bugger it, I’ll have a Devonshire tea.
Now I’m usually at home in a rustic pub, with a plate of beer-battered fish and chips and a pint of stout. Although here I was in a quaint little place called Flutterbies Cottage Cafe, in Tyalgum, about an hour and a half north-east of Byron Bay. I don’t drink tea and I’ve never had a Devonshire tea in my life. Suddenly, however, I became interested in this fattening ritual the English have embraced heartily for hundreds of years…
Yes, I know, if you’re going to review Devonshire tea, wouldn’t it be best to do it in Devon, England? Well I looked outside and all was green, wet, slightly dreary (much like England) and Emerald, the friendly manager who was serving me, looked and sounded second generation English (like a lot of us over here). Furthermore, Flutterbies also serves the fabulously fussed over high tea – a decidedly British affair. This is a place that takes its tea time seriously.
Anyway, I ordered my Devonshire tea and thought about how it all came about, and while I was waiting, I read up on the “Devonshire method” of taking Devonshire tea. The tea arrived, the scones should be warm (they were), heaved in two (I did), smeared with clotted cream and finally strawberry jam (I did that too). The tea should preferably be milky (it was). I even ordered English Breakfast tea.
I thought it all very indulgent. Wads of cream, butter and flour being washed down by a hot, milky pot of tea. The tea gets cold quickly and it was all very filling. I thought about how it was really just a big, civilised tray of fat in various guises and how the English love it, and I pictured them scoffing and sipping and looking all pleased and perfectly portly in the tea room. Perhaps I’m just an uncivilised cynic. Flutterbies also dishes up a lavender version should the urge take you.
Moments later, when I could still feel the Devonshire-style fat sliding slowly through my intestines, Emerald told me about the gelato. Now regretfully I didn’t try it, I just thought I’d mention it here as it’s made by an Italian chef who learnt his craft at Gelato University (yes, there really is such a thing) near Bologna, Italy. Flutterbies sells a salted caramel flavour called ‘Oh My God’.
What I did try, however, was Flutterbies’ panzerotti – a calzone-type dish which was excellent. Whilst it looked fairly average, the pastry was soft – the perfect chewiness – and the flavours tasted authentic. A subtle, wholesome satisfaction lingered after each mouthful. Get yourself a plate of this.
After further investigation, I found there was a lot more to Flutterbies Cottage Cafe. Whilst the quaint interior reminded me of a dollhouse, outside there’s a rustic courtyard attached to a bar that transforms, each Friday night, into a jovial pizza tavern with live music. The outdoor setting is very pleasant, having a cottage-like garden out front and a pretty garden out back with an eco lifestyle shop at the end of a short path.
Tyalgum itself is also an alluring little town with a stunning backdrop that springs to life when there’s weekend markets and music festivals. I’ll most certainly be returning to Flutterbies Cottage Cafe, not for the Devonshire tea (which I’m sure is good as far as they go), but possibly for the Tyalgum Music Festival this weekend, the panzerotti, the Friday night pizza and music, and to try the gelato – which sounds like it just might be orgasmic.