If you’re looking for a fresh, delicious lunch of locally sourced food with a gorgeous view, look no further than Tea on the Green.
Perfectly placed opposite the Exeter Cathedral on the corner of Cathedral Green, Tea on the Green is a favourite haunt for tourists but often overlooked by locals. Including me! I have to confess that in my (almost) three years of living in Exeter, I haven’t visited for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t realise that they served cooked meals, I thought it was just tea (apparently this is a common misconception), and secondly, I considered it to be too touristy. Despite this, I’ve always been intrigued, so when the fab team from In Exeter invited me along to review it, I jumped at the chanced and was very pleasantly surprised at what I found.
Dating back to 1530 the building itself was built by the church to house the ‘annuellars’ (people who carried out the last wishes of the benefactors of the Cathedral. It was placed int he public domain under Henry VIII’s rule, in 1850 it was used as a library, and it became a teashop in 1907. It’s a gorgeous historical building, ideally placed in this area of the city.
We (myself, my pal Debs and her 2-year-old son) rocked up at 2 pm on a Friday afternoon. We were greeted at the door and taken to a table upstairs to a table with a stunning view overlooking Cathedral Green. There were plenty of seats downstairs and lots of tables outside which are always jam-packed on sunny days.
I had a chat with the owner, Ben Mangan, who – I was delighted to discover – set up the original Boston Tea Party! BTP is one of my Exeter favs for breakfast, ethos, and ambience, so I was pleased to find that he brings some of the original magic to Tea on the Green. Ben was quick to point out that he sources all of his food from local suppliers and as a vegetarian, it is essential to him that meat they use is good quality, and that the farmers care about the husbandry of the animals. Most of their meat comes from Hele Farm (which is so close you can see it for the upstairs window). The restaurant also offers an extensive gluten-free and vegetarian range.
Awaiting us on our arrival was lush homemade lemonade – the perfect drink for a hot day. I was interested to see the sort of food they served and whether it would suit my healthy-eating-mostly-veggie-but-occasional-pescetarianism. According to their menu: “Tea on the green brings together influences from great cuisines around the world that have come to Britain across the centuries and, in the afternoons the great British tradition of tea time.” And the menu is indeed, a great combination of healthy, naughty and traditional British fayre with plenty to choose from including breakfasts, salads, curry, catch of the day, sausage and mash and of course, the revered cream tea.
Debs opted for the warm goat’s cheese salad, and I went for the fillet of sea bass with salad, both were deliciously prepared and beautifully presented. Of course, we couldn’t leave without having a cream tea and trying a desert. Especially when the scones come with an accompaniment of real Cornish clotted cream and jams made locally by a family producer in Willand, and a farmer’s wife in the nearby Blackdown Hills. Being a bit of a philistine, I like a coffee with my cream tea, and I was excited to discover that they have their own blend roasted for them by DJ Miles in Porlock, North Somerset (who isn’t a DJ, I might add).
Tea on the green is open every day, and on Sundays, it’s all about the traditional Sunday lunch which, according to the The Times is “magnificent (and inexpensive)”. They also have a license to serve alcohol, and you can choose from a selection of beers and ciders from Devon and Cornwall brewers. Or you can go for a cream tea WITH PROSECCO – my kind of cream tea (when not driving obviously).
Debs also informs me that Tea on the Green boasts the best baby changing facilities in Exeter. Apparently, not only are they spacious and clean – they even play soothing music!
So if you are local and you usually walk on by, pop in and give them a try, you won’t be disappointed. And if you are visiting Exeter and you’re looking for lunch with one of the most beautiful views of the city you won’t go far wrong with Tea On the Green.
Stephanie Darkes is a local Writer writing for Devon Life, Exeter Life and on her own blog Exploring Exeter www.exploringexeter.co.uk @exploringexeter / @stephaniedarkes