During a week where I ate 3 afternoon teas I’d hoped the best had been saved for last. The Running Fox, located up the Northumberland Coast, is somewhere I’d raved about in my pre-vegan days. Their pies and cakes were proper homemade goodies and the afternoon tea was good enough to feature in my Top Ten. There wasn’t much on offer for those who are dairy and egg free so had not visited for a while, obviously, then someone on Facebook alerted me to the fact they did a vegan version of their infamous cake stand. I was overjoyed!
I booked to go with my son who, at the last minute, decided he wasn’t going to come along. Considering this was something booked in advance I was not impressed. It isn’t easy to rope friends into things who have full time jobs or commitments through the week either. The person who happened to be free was another vegan, and I’d only requested one ‘special’ tea for myself. The Teen would have been content with a selection of meaty sandwiches, pies, and creamy cakes, whereas my substitute companion was just as restricted as me.
I telephoned up and explained the predicament. I was told they could split the cakes and pasty that had been specially made, give us a side salad to bulk it out and charge less than the normal £27 for two. Sounded fair enough to me. I was apologetic but they seemed to be understanding of the situation.
We were sat upstairs and it seemed like everyone around us was there for the same thing. Seeing the beautiful afternoon teas arrive; the gasps, people snapping away on their phones, it really is a sight to behold. I have included a photo taken from The Running Fox’s Instagram above so you get an idea of what I mean.
Pictured above was ours, as a comparison. This was for the two of us to share. I appreciate my plan change meant they had to think on their feet, but I felt quite disappointed by what was presented. While Running Fox have a more ‘rustic’ approach to presentation compared to the likes of Jesmond Dene House, I felt this was basic. The brownies, while tasty, weren’t tarted up in the way The Bohemian had with theirs. A dust of icing sugar and a sliced strawberry would have been something to elevate it to ‘afternoon tea’ standard grub.
The Vegetable Pasty had a cheesy flavour which made me and my companion both inquisitive as to how this was achieved. If it hadn’t been halved it would have been a substantial portion for just me. The Hummus and Beetroot Sandwich was a doorstop and also very filling.
The scones were nice, but I just felt the whole experience lacked the ‘wow factor’ I was expecting from somewhere like The Running Fox.
The brownies were delicious, but they looked quite sad on the stand. The flavour was clearly there with the food but the presentation was somewhat lacking.
I couldn’t manage all of the stand because it was quite filling and took some of the brownies home with me. In that respect Running Fox differed from the other afternoon teas I’d sampled that week. There wasn’t a reduction in price, as it transpired, which meant we paid £13.50 each for what was on offer.
Afternoon teas are clearly something many places feel they can charge a premium for. At Jesmond Dene House you will pay £25 per person, which is quite the mark up on cakes and finger sandwiches. What you get there, however, is an experience. This is a special treat and feels like such because of the ambience and the service. I’d always rated The Running Fox historically because of the quality and the value, but felt this was lacking during my visit. Whether or not that can be attributed to the staff having to think on their feet because of my booking change is not something I’m completely convinced on. An afternoon tea is supposed to be a thing of beauty which is why it attracts a higher price tag. While I can’t fault the savoury offering, to qualify as an tea in this manner Running Fox need to up the ante on their vegan version to compete with the likes of The Bohemian.
Thanks for reading,
Fancy an afternoon tea after reading this? We round up where you can find a vegan version in the North East here.