Tracking down the Chapel Cross Tearoom
I drove up the road. I drove back down the road. I asked a man walking along the road. I asked a man in his garden. I asked some smartly dressed women walking to a mystery destination. I asked a man in his car trying to squeeze past me on a nerve-wracklingy narrow, cow-parsley-lined lane. I knew the Chapel Cross Tearoom was somewhere in the teeny, tiny hamlet of South Cadbury, off the A303 not far from Sparkford, just outside Yeovil – but where exactly? After my fourth set of (different) directions I crawled back down along the same road, crossed my fingers and turned into an overgrown entrance. As I drove in, I caught a glimpse of this very small, soon to disappear under the encroaching greenery, sign:
I’d arrived. The Chapel Cross Tearoom is in the former Chapel of South Cadbury, an old grey lias and carystone building with hamstone windows and a thatched roof – and has a couple of resident gnarly old goats, some hens and a proud cockerel strutting around in the ‘grounds’.
The building dates back to the 13th century, when it was thought to be a wayside chapel for pilgrims en route to Glastonbury (the current owner, Rosie Adams, goes to Glasto every year too, but to sell coffee and cakes out of her geriatric horsebox at the festival).
In the 15th or 16th century, it was extended to create what’s now the kitchen and a bedroom on the first floor and became labourers’ cottages. Rosie’s mother bought the chapel for £500 in 1966 as a family home; Rosie lived here for about 20 years before turning it into a tearoom about six years ago. It’s much more than just a tearoom, though; it seems to be at the heart of village life, with a youth theatre, a choir and various musical events taking place here, including, recently, an opera workshop in conjunction with the Garsington Opera – it’s got great acoustics.
You enter in past the tiny kitchen, where Rosie does all the cooking (this is a one-woman band) –
– and into the only room, with a barrel-vaulted roof, whitewashed walls, stone-edged windows and a tiny window (which used to be a hole) for the priest to bless passing lepers. It’s really very, very small – there are only a few tables, designed and made by Rosie’s husband – with mismatched seats and pews (what else?) around the sides. Stairs in one corner lead up to an even smaller mezzanine.
Interesting artworks and objects fill nooks and crannies and adorn the walls.
The menu couldn’t be simpler: it’s light breakfasts and lunches, cakes and tea/coffee. Rosie bakes bread every morning – white, brown, saffron rolls, focaccia with rosemary and sea salt, for example – and makes delicious looking cakes and buns. There’s always a soup, sandwiches, a salad and a main (when I was there it was smoked salmon and scrambled eggs). And that’s it. She’s not a trained chef (in a previous life she worked with a youth project in Yeovil) but the food, inspired by Nigella and Hugh, is very good.
I had the mixed salad plate: almond mint pesto linguine, couscous with feta, olives, peppers and tomatoes, puy lentils and mixed leaves, with a hunk of focaccia with Parma ham and olives for the princely sum of £4.50 (yes, you did read that correctly). It came with a big bottle of icy tap water and oil and vinegar to dress.
I had no time for cake, rocky road, and other assorted delights, sadly, but they all looked yummy. Next time.
Good for: a light lunch after a walk around nearby Cadbury castle; somewhere a bit different to bring your mum or a friend. There’s seating outside (tho the sound of the A303 is a bit off putting) and free wifi.
Not for: anyone seeking an extensive menu (it’s very basic) or a big meal (the emphasis is on light); it’s also got limited opening hours
£££: Extremely good value; lunches £4/£4.50; coffee £1.60.
To find the Chapel Cross Tearoom, come off the A303 at the North Cadbury/South Cadbury exit. If you’re coming from the west, turn right and right again; if you’re coming from the east, turn left and left. Or use your SATNAV: BA22 7ET.
Chapel Cross Tearoom, South Cadbury, Somerset BA22 7ET. Tel. 01963 440501. 11am-5.30pm Weds to Sat.