“ Cuisine: Cafe / Location: 5 Sheinton Street, Much Wenlock, Shropshire TF13 6HT / Tel: 01952 728 523 „
The Priory Tearooms can be found in Much Wenlock, which is a beautiful medieval town in the heart of Secret Shropshire. I love living here in Wenlock and have a sense of joyful gratitude for living in such a lovely part of the world. I am particularly lucky to have a delightful tearoom on my doorstep that caters to the needs of the gluten intolerant. With gluten intolerance I find that it is not unusual to go to cafes and restaurants where there is nothing, or almost nothing on the menu that I can eat. I have on occasion been served soup with no bread, which makes a bit of a thin meal, or the filling of a sandwich with, well, nothing else. Or if I am very lucky, there might be one gluten free option on the menu (a baked potato!). Needless to say gluten free cakes, puddings or breads are almost never available. ~~~A Rare Choice~~~ Bread, pastry and pasta are a staple lunch item nearly everywhere, and there is usually no substitute available for those who can't eat them. It is a rare and wonderful thing to be able to go out for lunch or afternoon tea and be provided with a choice of gluten free items to enjoy; and that is precisely what I get at the Priory Tearooms. Everything is freshly cooked on the premises (not a microwave in sight), including cakes and scones; and it is all very tasty! In fact, I've just had a piece of Sue, the chef's, chocolate roulade which was out of this world. Jan, the proprietor, and Sue understand what gluten intolerance is and know that you really don't have to add wheat flour to everything! And it isn't just a choice of cakes that are gluten free. So are the sausages which means that you can enjoy a full English breakfast (or in my case mini English) and still have sausage with a choice of gluten free bread, roll or scones. And of course, the menu isn't just gluten free, there are all your usual favourites using fresh local produce. Prices are reasonable and just what you'd expect for an English tea room. ~~~Imaginative Menus~~~ Jan and the team are also very accommodating. When I first started going to the Priory Tea Rooms I was looking longingly at some of the sandwich fillings and asked if I could have the bacon and brie as a salad. Knowing that I am gluten intolerant they willingly obliged with a lovely hearty salad bowl, which soon became a fixture on the summer menu and one of my favourite things. If you've ever tried eating gluten free bread you'll know how important it is to have this option made available, as these breads usually make lousy sandwiches as they crumble and fall apart. ~~~Pleasant Ambience ~~~ From the street the tea room has an old fashioned double shop front with large windows through which the tea room is visible. The window frames are painted a nice deep red. Inside one of the windows you will find three comfy chairs with a coffee table; and right next to those is an upright piano with a display of icing-sugar characters and motifs. The tea room itself is spacious with a mixed collection of dark oak tables that seat from 2 - 6 people, and covered in deep red table cloths that match the window frames outside. Most of the tables have a glass top so it feels clean and fresh. The room is pleasantly decorated with a few pictures as well as cases for cakes and desserts. Towards the back of the room is a bar behind which tea and coffee are made. When it is busy and the room is full, the tables are positioned so that you don't feel crowded and can converse without being overheard: Altogether a pleasant and cosy environment. ~~~Creative Cakes~~~ Jan also has a thriving celebration cake business and bakes and decorates cakes to order. Not only are her cakes tasty, but the icing decorations are artistic, versatile and often humorous. A range of sample icing-figures are on display on top of the piano beside the window, and well worth looking at. It has been a delight to watch the range expand and develop over the last couple of years; although, I have to say, I particularly enjoyed the three lady pole-dancers. At this point it perhaps goes without saying that one can order gluten free or ordinary cakes for any event or celebration! ~~~Wheelchair Access~~~ The tea room is wheelchair accessible with a wide entrance that opens directly onto the pavement, although it does have a slight lip. There is enough room to be able to position a wheelchair next to two or three of the tables. Unfortunately the toilet is not wheelchair accessible. ~~~Toilets~~~ There is one toilet and it is clean and well kept. It is at the rear of the tea room behind the kitchen and accessed down a short corridor. The corridor is too narrow for a wheelchair and also has a step. ~~~Pooch Party~~~ For those of you with a pooch I will just add that the Priory Tea Rooms is dog friendly and will happily allow you to bring your well behaved dogs in. There are a number of regulars who like to bring their dogs. I don't have a dog myself but I find that the tea rooms are spacious enough that I never feel it is intrusive. In fact, I think it's quite nice. ~~~The Setting~~~ Much Wenlock is a lovely place to visit. The town is nestled into a gentle bowl of green hills and is the starting place for a number of pleasant circular walks. It boasts a number of buildings of historical interest, a couple of good pubs and eating places, and a range of interesting shops. The ruins of the 12th Century Wenlock Priory are an English heritage site and only a stone's throw from the Priory Tea Rooms. And of course, this is the birthplace of William Penny Brookes who was the founding father of the modern day Olympic Games. ~~~How to Find It~~~ Once you're in Wenlock you'll find the Priory Tea Rooms by walking from the Square past the Guildhall and the church (both built in the 14th Century), and then onto the Bullring. Here instead of turning right for the priory, you continue straight on to find the tea rooms on your left opposite the Old Police Station.