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Saturday, 11 April 2009

Tea, Green Drops and Moonsquirters at Nottingham Castle

Moonsquirters – does that mean anything to you? Well, before I went up to Nottingham Castle’s ‘Cafe at the Castle’ and for a nose around the museum and galleries there I had no idea either.
This was last Wednesday and I thought I would take advantage of admission being free for Nottingham folk on Wednesdays. It’s a while since I’ve been up to our major tourist attraction and I remembered that they had a tea shop/café to investigate so off I went.

The style of this piece will make sense as you continue to read. Reach for your inner child here. It’s story telling time.

The first person I encountered was Mr Crusty Jobsworth. Mr Jobsworth is one of the guardians of the castle and he likes to dress in a crumpled blue blazer and a dusty hat. He has sly quizzical eyes that slither from side to side as he makes sure everyone has paid to come into his magic kingdom. He would like to be the owner of the magic kingdom with a castle on the hill - but isn’t. The daffodils and nice floral arrangements would have more chance than him and at least they were bright and jolly. Unlike Crusty Jobsworth.

Mr Crusty Jobsworth wanted to know if I was a citizen of Nottingham. I am. He wanted proof. I said “Ey up me duck”. This wasn’t proof enough. I said I liked Robin Hood. Mr Jobsworth looked annoyed. I was a time waster and probably from Derby. He may have to throw me out.
He challenged me to show him proof. I got out my astonishing, money saving, colourful, plastic, cash saver, yellow zone, 28 day Trent Barton bus pass. Mr Jobsworth’s eyes snaked suspiciously over the card. His job was severely at stake here if he let me in and I turned out to be an impostor. Minutes passed by – as did several paying tourists. The air smelt of mown grass. Time stood still.

“This might be a bus pass from outside the walls of fair Nottingham!” he said. “I may have to fetch the Sheriff.” Actually, I lie. He didn’t say those exact words – but the threat was certainly there lingering in the blackened cobwebs of his mind. Thinking back, I do believe that there was a humungous spider inside his hat controlling his movements and whispering dark things to him. Then came the final challenge or I was out the gate, n’er to return.

Like something from the wizard scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Crusty Jobsworth spake thus: “What … is …your… postcode!?” I had a fraction of a second to answer.
I got it right! I was local! I am resident in Nottinghamshire! I had passed the first test. I was in. Crusty Jobsworth was a beaten man. When I looked back on my way up the hill he was gone! Had the spider eaten him alive? No time to think about such things. I needed tea and green drops and Moonsquirters. What?

As I got to the castle museum entrance I saw a big sign advertising a touring exhibition for fans of the children’s writer and illustrator, Lauren Child. Not having kids myself I wasn’t overly aware of her but being the big kid I am I felt compelled to visit the event upstairs situated in three of the side galleries. It was great and all the little tots with their mums and some dads were having a wonderfully creative time with the activities on offer.
I now know all about Charlie and Lola, Clarice Bean, That Pesky Rat and Hubert Horatio Bartie Bobton Trent. According to the flyer you could buy Charlie and Lola books from the souvenir shop too and eat themed delights in the café. As part of the exhibition there was a wall full of imaginative images and words telling you about the writer and her inspirations as well as her own childhood. Totally over excited it was time to grab a cuppa in the cafe.

Well, at the time I was there (about 10.30am) there weren’t many families bothered about the themed delights on offer in the café but I enjoyed my pot of tea as it rained outside. As you can see from the photo above the interior decoration of the café space is stylishly arty and there is generally some good food on offer. The soup of the day was courgette and mint with a crusty bread roll (no relation to Mr Crusty Jobsworth, I imagine) and looking at the menu on the table I was impressed with some of the offerings.

It all seemed reasonably priced with dearest item only being £5. There was a good variety of drinks hot and cold including traditionally fermented drinks botanically brewed from Fentimans. They do Castle Museum Cream teas – a large fruit scone with strawberry jam with clotted cream and a pot of tea for one for four quid.

Brunch dishes included an oven toasted English Muffin served with a choice of smoked back bacon and poached egg; Cumberland sausage with mushrooms and vine ripened tomatoes or poached eggs with mushrooms and vine ripened tomatoes.

Home made light lunches incorporated:

Spring vegetable terrine served with mixed leaves and chunky bread.

Warm mozzarella, tomato and basil with tomato pesto on a puff pastry tart.

Pan seared salmon with crushed sea salt and black pepper crust served with sautéed potatoes and seasonable vegetables.

Homemade meatballs in tomato sauce in pesto mash.

You could also get a variety of organic baguette and ciabatta sandwiches and home made cakes.

It all looked rather nice and thankfully not a Robin Hood burger or Friar Tuck fries in sight. I think I’ll be back.

The museum and gallery spaces were certainly worth a look around and I enjoyed the military uniforms from the Crimean Wars (Nottinghamshire Regiments) and other eras up the present day soldiers uniforms and special equipment. On a more aesthetic level I liked the Wedgewood collection very much, especially these stunning teapots. I can’t really imagine them being used in a practical sense though.

'Green Drops and Moonsquirters - The Utterly imaginative world of Lauren Child.' is on at the Castle Museum in Nottingham until 26th April.


Marian said...

What a lovely post - it made me smile from beginning to end.

Mmmmmm an English cream tea sounds delightful!

Happy Easter

ps I've just linked to this blog on one of mine.

marge said...

Hi, being not too far away in Yorkshire, I will have to get the husband to give the a "go", he's promised me a meal out over Easter!

I enjoyed your story.

Gail's Man said...

I went up twice this week. Even though I live in Beeston, I have a city library card & so can get in for free too. There's usually something to snap, even though it's 'prohibited' inside the house; sorry castle.

StGeorgeOfEngland said...

No Gails Man, you are right with house. Hehe.

Great blog Phil. The restaurant there is really good now. I wnet a couple of months ago when they had special displays from the Zulu wars. Chaps were all dressed up and were giving great informative talks about the wars, the equipment and the life of the soldiers and Zulu warriors.

I usually flash my Nottingham library card too for free entry. Shhhh... don't tell 'em but I sneak my girlfriend in on it too. Hehe.

StGeorgeOfEngland said...

I like the work of Wedgewood too. Classic!

Boring photography fact no.1;
Thomas Wedgewood, son of Josiah is credited with performing the first ever capture of and image onto light sensitive paper in about 1770. Alas, the image could not be fixed so he did not achieve fame for it.

Ok, safe to wake up now. I'm done.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post!

"Crusty Jobsworth"...Dickens would be proud of you.


Cheryl said...

Yum! Wish I could visit, I love cream teas and Charlie and Lola, though Mr Jobsworth would probably turn me away...

French Fancy said...

I'd have had the meatballs