Melanie's in Tewkesbury
By Alan Russell
We had just driven for over two hours on a cold morning into Tewkesbury. We checked in at the hotel, The Tudor Hotel, where we were too late for breakfast and too early for coffee. The manager, whom we both thought was Tom Kerridge’s brother in looks and accent, pointed us towards a Costa Coffee across the road. Wanting to avoid the big national chains we settled for Melanie’s about two doors away from the hotel.
As you can see from the picture the front is broad and welcoming with its big glass windows. Inside it is sort of sixties, seventies and eighties in décor with oil cloth table cloths, plastic flowers in the vases and tables for two, four or six customers. More retro aspects of British catering were to follow. There are a couple of low sofas hugging coffee tables as well.
The welcome from the crew was warm and friendly. I appreciate it was a cold morning but the place had been open for at least an hour and temperature wise struck as less than warm when we entered.
Currently I am avoiding the full English breakfast and settle for lighter less fried options. So, on the waitress’s recommendation we both settled for the Welsh rarebit. We were told it was all homemade with local produce and we would not regret the choice especially as it came with a salad garnish as well. This definitely is a time warp back to the eighties and before ten in the morning.
While we were waiting we were served with a stainless steel pot of coffee which came with a serious health warning. The waitress told us to be very careful pushing the plunger as this sometimes forced the boiling hot contents out of the spout in torrents over whose ever hands were on the pot at the time. In the end the waitress did it for us as she ‘had the knack’. As she ‘plunged’ we were told about a family with a little girl who ordered coffee. When it was served they were given the standard health and safety warning. The little girl made the ‘plunge’ and had to be taken to hospital with severe burns on her arms but it was not the restaurant’s fault as ‘they had warned the family about the dangers of the coffee pot’.
Two plates of Welsh rarebit arrived. The salad garnish was as promised but the main attraction looked depressed enough to throw itself under the bus passing outside on its way to Worcester. Firstly, it was served on white sliced processed bread of uniform thickness and size. Secondly, it looked like a Welsh rarebit trying to impersonate cheese on toast. Thirdly, the actual mix on the toast was thinner than the toast, was dry and had very little if none at all of the promised flavours of mustard and local ale. A further time warp back to the eighties was having to open sachets of salad cream to add to the salad garnish also before ten in the morning.
A couple of weeks ago I tried the Welsh rarebit at Polly’s Tearooms in Marlborough which was the best I have ever had. It was a rich mixture that was creamy and full of cheesy and mustardy flavours that made you wish you could fall into the dish and just gorge. That would get a ten in my book. The same dish at Melanie’s by comparison would only warrant a four.
As I said earlier, the welcome was warm and friendly. The service was good but if the coffee pots have to carry a health and safety warning every time they are used then shouldn’t they be replaced?