A THIRD consecutive weekend of storm force winds and torrential rain sent us splashing through the flooded lanes of the dales, every dip concealing a giant puddle, in search of shelter.

In the Teesdale village of Barningham, south of the A66, the gale had flattened the A-board pointing to Coghlan’s tearoom and it had torn a large branch from a tree. In falling, the branch had gouged out a trench in the lawn and taken out the broadband connection.

But on entering the converted coach house, we stepped out of the wind and the rain into a different time, into an era of Edwardian elegance before the storm of the First World War, where drinks are served in matching chintzy china, where sugar comes with tongs, where a white linen napkin is on top of the white linen place setting which is on top of the white linen tablecloth in which the iron’s creases are still sharp, and where there probably still is honey for tea…

A maitre d’ in waistcoat and tails greeted us, took our coats, and smoothed the napkins on our laps while the wind howled outside.

A CD of gentle piano music – Satie and Gershwin – played in the corner. There was a display case of knitted Beatrix Potter rabbits which had tea cosies shaped like a bishop’s mitre on top of it, and a baby howled behind us.

Thankfully it quietened down as we examined the menu, comforted by six complimentary bread rolls from the on-site bakery – wholemeal, white, granary and black pudding. They came in a china bowl on a china plate, to add to the colourful clutter on the table.

The rolls were warm on the outside and cold in the middle, but the delicate aroma of the black pudding bread would have gone fantastically with a tomato soup.

It is a classic tearoom menu, ranging from soup (£4.50) through to a full blown Teesdale trout (£12.95), plus open and toasted sandwiches. A couple opposite were having the increasingly popular afternoon tea (£21 per person), with tiers of sandwiches, quiches, cakes and desserts on a china rack; unfortunately they weren’t brave enough to use any of the flamboyant hats in the vestibule which are available to those who wish to fully embrace their Downton Abbey side.

Plus there was a specials board which existed solely in the maitre d’s memory. This was an impressive feat, but it also meant we had no idea what we were paying for anything.

Theo ended up with chicken tagliatelle which we found when the bill arrived had been £13.95 and so must have been the most expensive dish available. It had originally been a chicken and mushroom tagliatelle but as it was prepared to order they were able to not include the mushrooms for him.

It was a great bowl of tagliatelle in a lovely creamy sauce (which would have been superb if he’d allowed the proper mushrooms in it), with slabs of chargrilled chicken on top. It was such a great bowl that it defeated even his gargantuan appetite.

Petra had a goat’s cheese toastie (£8.95) which was accompanied by an inventive green salad with a tang of sundried tomato in it, a homemade coleslaw plus a potato salad with chives among the mayonnaise. It also came with a china bowl of excellent pomme frites, with shavings of salt on top. She declared it all very tasty, although she wouldn’t have come close to managing it if Theo hadn’t waded into the chips, and she enthused even more about her glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, which was perfectly chilled and fragrant.

I opted for the savoury bread and butter pudding (£11.50) from the specials memory. There was a vegetarian version of the dish, but I went for the one with bacon and tomato in it. I felt this was a brave choice because I’ve previously considered bread and butter pudding to be just a way of creating a gloop to get rid of stale bread.

This, though, had more of a rosti feel to it than a bread bin clear-out. It had a crispy crunch topping, chunks of powerful bacon and a layer of tomatoes. It was served with all the salads and was really rather excellent.

Theo and I still had room for dessert. On the menu, most desserts – Grenoble tart, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate brownie – were £6.95, but we chose from the specials memory and were charged £11 for the two.

Theo chose one of three frangipanes – apple, raspberry or cherry – and I had a chocolate tart. They came on curiously-shaped plates, with pipings of creams and a scoop or two of a decent vanilla ice cream. The tart was very good, cold and not overly rich.

With drinks, the bill for three was £63, and the maitre d’ with his bygone tails flapping attempted to address a 21st Century problem: how to get the card machine to work without broadband. After he’d walked it around the coach house and waved it at various windows, we scrabbled together enough old fashioned cash to pay our way.

And then we stepped out of a warm world of chintzy china into a frozen February – now the wind was throwing bullets of hail at us, the used cartridges covering the floor with a white sloppy mess, but for a welcome while we had escaped.


Coghlan’s Tearoom, Barningham Park Coach House, Barningham, DL11 7DW

Hours: 10.30am-4.30pm, Monday to Saturday. Open some Sundays for dinner – booking required.

Tel: 01833 625295 or 07494 582444

Web: coghlanscatering.co.uk

Ratings (out of ten): Service 7, Food quality 8, Surroundings 8, Value for money 8