Cecily: [Severely] Cake or bread and butter?
Gwendolen: [In a bored manner] Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays.
Cecily: [Cuts a very large slice of cake, and puts it on the tray.] Hand that to Miss Fairfax.
-The Importance of Being Earnest.
The fetishisation of the distant past is still the zeitgeist. The collapse of Northern Rock in the spring of 2008 gave rise to the trend for vintage living. Some of us found our make-do-and-mend wartime sensibilities. Others are happy to pay over the odds for clothes our grandmothers last wore when Berlin was still divided (as my Rayon tablecloth stands testament to) and of course, Baz Luhrmann staged F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in 2013 without a sequin spared.
Whether we’re fond of historic detail or not, there must be few people on the planet who don’t enjoy tea and cake. Now open for a few months, The Cake Shop on Fossgate magnetised me like a mere mortal to cake.
A boutique cafe, with no more than a dozen tables, was sanctuary on a busy Sunday afternoon in town. I ordered loose-leaf breakfast tea and a sultana & cherry scone that was served on gleaming silverware and delicate china. This was the best place to make like Daisy Fay for an hour. The phone-free policy meant that I didn’t get photos. But I’m sure you can imagine what a big scone looks like. I’d also expect our Poppleton-resident readers to recognise a silver tea set if they saw one. The tea was flavoursome and I profited 3 cups from my pot, while the scone hit the moist-to-crumbly ratio perfectly. Try one for yourself. The other cakes on display were vibrant, decorative and, frankly, in the same league as Betty’s bakery in terms of visual impact.
I feel conflicted about the discouragement of phone use. The small space means that the person taking a call would share their half of the conversation with the rest of the cafe. However, I was on my own and rely on my phone to keep up with work emails when I’m out and about. Fortunately I had a book and was grateful for the chance to make headway into 700 pages on the history of Jerusalem.
I visited on Father’s Day and there was indeed a table of four wonderfully-behaved children with their dad. I love family-friendly cafes and restaurants, so was delighted that there was a table big enough to welcome them.
The 1930s theme is gently considered. White tablecloths, gold damask wallpaper and delightful prints adorn the walls. For a place that was newly-established, it didn’t appear unfinished, nor overdecorated. We’ve all dined at places where they push the theme so far it just looks naff. The sound of Ethel Merman’s golden voice filled the air, which pleased me personally as I’d argue her rendition of ‘Anything Goes’ is one of the best popular songs there is.
Card payments under £5 aren’t accepted, not convenient when most of their menu is priced under that point. But I do encourage you to go for a nice lunch date, or a quiet spot to get through a few chapters. While there are a million places to get a coffee on Fossgate, this is one I’d be happy to take my mother to.
As the title states, this is a ‘first look’ and I visited for pleasure rather than work. It won’t take me long to find an excuse to make a return visit for a meal. I wish everyone at The Cake Shop the very best of fortunes and welcome them to the York food and drink family.