Sally Lunn's Bath BunsSunday, March 20, 2011
Today is the end of our week-long holiday. Going back to work is not something I think of with fondness, there's an awful lot of hullaballoo that's going to happen in the next few weeks, but I'm happily looking back on our little sojourn. The universe was conspiring as we were planning it: work happened, our plans to go to Italy fell through because of financial constraints, we still have wedding invitations to make and send out... but we were okay. We hired a car, packed a bag, and headed to Oxfordshire.
I've got so many anecdotes to share with you that I'll have to split them up into bite-sized posts. I'll start with Bath and Sally Lunn's Bath Buns.
If the name isn't enough to sell it to you, we ventured to the beautiful city of Bath on a whim. G's grandparents hadn't yet had the opportunity to see the Bath empire, so it was the perfect day trip - and we were a mere forty-five minutes from the spa resort, established, as Wikipedia tells us, in the wee early days of AD 43.
There is much to see and do in Bath, but we were there for a few hours and we had a distinct plan of action: have a look at the general architecture, visit Kitchens and Lakeland, walk around the shopping district, see the Royal Crescent, and have tea at Sally Lunn's.
Sally Lunn's is a rather famous tea house. The last time we were here we dined at Jane Austen's Regency Tea Rooms so G and I thought we'd try out something else. This eatery has a lot of history, a Baked Bun legacy and a secret recipe that is passed down from generation to generation with the deed of the house.
Sally, a French refugee, arrived in Bath in 1680. She found work at what is now Bath's Oldest House, and today her baking legacy lives on in the form of her baked buns - which you can still purchase from her old kitchen gift shop for £1.60, or from the tea shop above her kitchen for around £4. You can see the building in the scanned postcard above; I bought it from the Sally Lunn gift shop, down in the basement of the building amongst the ancient, exposed foundations.
Sally Lunn's is very narrow. The roof is low, the wooden beams of the building are exposed underneath the thickly-applied white paint, and the deep red, maroons and yellows of the Sally Lunn legacy are plastered across the interior decor. There are framed maps and drawings haphazardly hung on the walls, and the tables (of which there are many) are squeezed into Tetris shapes surrounded by (mostly) comfortable chairs.
The buns are rather surprising baked goods. I had expected something like a currant scone, but what I got was something altogether different. You can see from the postcard above that they're more akin to oversized hamburger buns.
You get half a bun (horizontally sliced) when you order from the menu. There are a lot of different options - sweet and savoury - that vary from clotted cream with strawberry jam to the one I chose: cinnamon butter with clotted cream.
They heap the topping on to the bun, and top it with a slice of orange. The bun itself might look like a hamburger roll from Woolies, but it had a denser texture that was heavier and sweeter than the ones you might eat for lunch. The cinnamon butter was a bit overpowering, but I scraped some of it off to suit my personal tastes and it was quite enjoyable. My tea companions each opted for scones instead:
That's clotted cream in the top left, not butter. Clotted cream, as I may have mentioned before in a previous post, is a deliciously butter-thick cream (think: marscapone without the cheese) which you get with scones or other baked goods from tea shops, but which you can quite easily pick up from a supermarket. They really should export this stuff to South Africa, it would do brilliantly.
This is a flyer I picked up from the gift shop. I'm surprised that they advertise it as 'award winning' - - the service wasn't particularly good (we were served cold coffee by unfriendly women), the atmosphere was quaint and cosy (which is a nice way to say that it was a bit cramped) and we were rushed out because there was a long queue outside. That being said, it was still a good 'Bath Experience', something I'd recommend to anyone who is interested in history (or anyone who is interested in baking, at least!) - just try to go early in the morning or mid-afternoon to avoid the lunch rush. Do pop downstairs and have a quick look around the museum: you can see the exposed foundations which record the various phases of history and Sally Lunn's bricked oven. You can also buy jars of their butters - Maple and Pecan, Cinnamon, Ginger, Chocolate and others - as well as their tasty jams and take-home buns.