So, following my last blog post, you might recall that I’ve decided to take my summer hols and spend some time chilling out (chance would be a fine thing with all the work Burlesque Bakery’s got on, but I can’t complain!) indulging in some of my favourite pastimes.
Unsurprisingly, said pastimes usually involve cocktails and copious amounts of cake, and if you’ve read some of my past reviews you’ll know I’m an afternoon tea fanatic, but unfortunately Witney seems to be pretty much tea total – or so I thought…
Until I discovered The Great British Gin Party at The Fleece, hosted by Miss Jones (unfortunately not THAT Miss Jones, could you imagine the debauchery?!) Imagine my delight – my two favourite things – cakes and gin – Witney-goers, I’m sure you’ll all recall from the first Fleurlesque show what a fan I am of Mother’s Ruin Better yet, afternoon tea included cocktails served in tea cups, live music and a gin workshop hosted by Hendricks on their bus – ding ding, get me a ticket, I am so on board!
At £35 a ticket (I’m used to paying around the £40 mark for tea in London), I just bought the one and as usual prepared myself for an afternoon of solo cake consumption which if my usual sessions are anything to go by, would probably only take me the best part of an hour. Not quite sure how I would fair for the entire 3 hour sitting, I threw a book in my bag and headed out the door, complete with my Pearls and Swine cocktail fascinator. I wouldn’t usually wear something so conspicuous in my sleepy hometown, but I figured when on the Hendricks bus… – it turned out my tipple titfer went down a treat with the gin guys and it certainly did turn a few heads during the afternoon.
I’ll be honest, when I first arrived at The Fleece I was a little alarmed when I clocked the long party style table decked out in all its wares – where was my little lonesome corner table?! I hadn’t prepared for being sociable, and had I known what the format was I most definitely wouldn’t have booked – but then I would have missed out on an amazing afternoon.
Though not partaking in tea, Tom Cat decided to tag along for a drink – as usual he was the first to tell me that it was ridiculous that I could get up on stage and take my clothes off in front of a room full of strangers, but terrified at the thought of trying to have a conversation with one! Armed with a head start Hendricks, I was taken under the welcoming wing of a couple of regular Fleece folk and it wasn’t long before I got talking to some other lovely couples (although I do hope I didn’t end up gate crashing what looked like it could have been a first date in one case!) Whilst I would never have dreamed of sharing afternoon tea with people I’d never met before, it was a refreshing change to get to know other people and share in the experience, and it really helped create a fun sense of nostalgia.
Surrounded by my fellow party goers, I tried to show some self-restraint towards the sweet treats and refrained from tucking into a slice of lemon drizzle cake for about all of 5 minutes before succumbing to temptation. Whilst the selection of sandwiches was limited for those less sweet toothed than myself, I for one was only too happy to let them have mine and eat their share of Victoria Sponge, Chocolate Marble and scones which were topped up in abundance! Not of course before I’d taken more photos than David Bailey of the afternoon delights, displayed on an assortment of pretty vintage china. A quirky Hendricks tea set completed the theme, with cocktails served in teapots – but be warned, should you ever try one of Miss Jones’ concoctions, they’re so easy to drink on a hot summer day you’ll probably down an entire teapot before you remember your guzzling liquor, not Lapsang Souchong!
As buses tend to do, MA’AM (the Mobile Academy of Alchemical Meanderings , god forbid you actually refer to her as a bus!) arrived a little late due to traffic, and then had to be lovingly set up with all her many props, but she was worth the wait. Aboard we were welcomed with another yummy cocktail and given a whistle stop tour and potted history of Hendricks and gin, not to mention a rather cute potted cucumber plant with instructions on how to grow it. Although stationary, MA’AM was just the job for transporting us into a bygone era of distilled decadence and Victorian escapades, complete with gilded frames, steampunk art, bars brimming with botanicals and potions, and crazy upcycled cogs adorned with roses. The only thing missing was the chance to shimmy and shake our own cocktails, as I really would have loved to have experienced a Hendricks mixology master class.
For the first time in my life I found myself reluctant to get off a bus, but alas, we were at our final stop and it was time for us all to disembark for an evening of acoustic music and more gin and cake – hurrah! From start to finish, the afternoon tea trip was truly wondrous and peculiar – just what I was hoping for. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to more events at The Fleece, I think my next stop might be Ladies Day – Bubbles, Cream and Rocks.
Sounds like my sort of evening
The Burly Baker x