Church Stretton has a new kid on the block, The Bake House Cafe, and it is not just open for coffee and cake, but you can get a glass of fine wine or a locally brewed pint into the evening! It sits on the corner of High Street next to the Square and has a lovely blue door; if you’re a doctor who fan, its Tardis blue and just like the Tardis, it is much more prominent on the inside. Run by Clive and Jan, a husband and wife team who previously (before it closed) ran the Lazy Trout on the A49 in Marshbrook. If you know the area, you will know the cafe – known as the bikers cafe locally. Clive said, We brought all our regular customers with us, so we are already doing ok”. Clive looked like he would have been very comfortable riding alongside his customers. He’s a big sturdy guy, goatee beard, tattoos down one arm, wearing heavy silver bracelets but his warm smile and cheerful welcome as I approached said he was just as comfortable behind his bar chatting to all kinds of folks.
It had an easy-going atmosphere. The radio softly in the background, two guys leaning on the bar who knew Clive. It was nice to see men chatting over coffee. You observe many men in European countries in cafes socialising, it would be nice to see that happen more here. All they needed was a set of backgammon.
The bar area had seating at benches sweeping the windows, leaving ample, airy space in the middle. I imagine this would be full of people in the summer standing with drinks, maybe spilling out onto the street enjoying the balmy, light British summer evenings.
To the side of the bar was a more intimate room with a few tables and chairs looking out at the garden, which also had seating, a mixture of benches and small round tables surrounded by established trees. I discovered even more seating upstairs – cosy corners with sofas and more tables – something for everyone. The lighting was chic and modern – bare lightbulbs hanging from rope juxtaposed against a rustic open brick wall. It was a great mixture of old and new. Most of the old flooring had been replaced with wooden floorboards, but a corridor of original tiles has been preserved and, here and there, exposed original wooden beams and supports. Some of the walls displayed old car registration plates from all over the world.
Clive was a farmer before the couple’s cafe life, but some seven years ago they decided running a cafe would mean an easier life. He laughed when he said that. Jan, his wife and self-taught baker, produces (with the help of her sister) fresh cakes daily, which include gluten-free. I can’t resist a cake with my coffee when I’m out, and the Victoria sponge was shouting out to me – taste me, taste me. And it didn’t disappoint. The sponge was perfect, light and airy, and it had my favourite – buttercream, which was thick, sweet and indulgent, and of course, strawberry jam fit for a queen. As I devoured my cake, I noticed an elderly couple in the corner. They were sat, not speaking, just looking out of the window. There was a stillness about them. I glanced up a few times, but still no chat. Perhaps they liked to pop out for a cup of tea, and a slice of silence is golden. But, on the other hand, maybe they had been married for 60 years and finally ran out of conversation.
Jan popped into the bar area. She was dressed in a black polo shirt and black apron with tattoos down one arm. She said something to her husband, and they both started laughing. I looked over, put a thumbs up, and told her that the cake was delicious, which made her smile. We chatted for a few minutes, during which time she told me how she liked a simple life, and that’s why she had married him and pointed at Clive and laughed. They had a playful banter between themselves.
Even though the place had a young, modern vibe, it still had that homely feel with the tom ketchup bottle on the tables ready for the orders of full English breakfasts. These ranged from mini breakfasts – one of everything to a mega breakfast which consisted of three sausages, three bacon rashes, three black pudding and three eggs! Try walking out in a straight line after that. Don t worry, they cater for everyone, and there was a vegetarian breakfast on offer. Or if you were going in for lunch, there’s was a variety of sandwiches to choose from, burgers, pie and chips, quiches, lasagnas, more homemade cakes and tray bakes of the day. I’m going to try the veggie breakfast next time I go in as I suspect Jan, the star baker, will be an excellent cook.
Oh yes, and if you are in a rush and haven’t the time to stay, you can phone in with an order and take it away.