Café Robineau is on the outskirts of Darlington. It’s one of those places that is well hidden. Once you do find it, it is a secret you want to share with everyone.
The owners of this beautiful establishment have a passion for pastry and chocolate. I’ll leave you to read how they came about here but believe me theirs is a fascinating fairytale.
I’ve been a couple of times now to Café Robineau and it’s become my go to destination if I want to treat someone special. I’d taken my mum before and decided I would introduce it to my mother-in-law. A great way to start the Christmas festivities.
They are both great lovers of afternoon tea so I know if I say that is what is on the agenda then they will both be raring to go. I left my booking a bit late and I only had few date choices because it gets sold out very quickly for its special festive themed afternoon teas but I settled for 2pm Friday afternoon the week before Christmas.
When you arrive it’s a bit difficult to tell what lies within as the shop front is dedicated to the pastries, cakes, chocolate delights and gateaux that first made the Robineau famous. It wouldn’t be out of place in the famous Rue du Sucre. Instead it is nestled within the unromantic area of West Auckland Road in Darlington. Still, that’s what adds to it’s charm … like a buried treasure.
The café is nestled at the back of the patisserie. The service is second to none and the atmosphere is very homely. Everyone that you come into contact with is very friendly and it feels like they can’t do enough for you. The only thing that does go against it is the tables are very small. I guess they have to be to make the most of the space. Because of this though not everything will fit onto your table in one go. Think Parisian café tables and you’ll be able to picture the scene. They compensate nicely for this though and are on hand to keep bringing out top ups and replenishments for you.
The highlight for me and what I get excited about each time I go and whenever I introduce anyone new to Robineau is that it’s the only place I’ve ever had afternoon tea when it’s served in two courses — yes you read this right — two courses!
So on this occasion our first course consisted of Turkey and Cranberry Gateaux, Savoury Scones with Smoked Salmon Mousse and Chives, Mini Eclairs with Pesto Creme Fraiche Olives and Sunblushed Tomatoes and Ham and Pear Chutney Finger Sandwiches. The top tier of the tea plate was filled witha selection of warm scones and jam, lemon curd and clotted cream.
I clocked the disappointment on the two mums’ faces as they thought that was it. Where were the cakes I could almost sense them thought transmitting to each other?
After copious amounts of tea the pièce de résistance arrived. Mini Rasperry Cupcakes, Chocolate Christmas Puddings, Lime and Coconut Macarons and Chocolate Ganache Lollipops. All truly lush and you could tell everything is hand made with love.
Still not very Hansel & Gretel themed but more about that further on.
As we progressed through all the dainty morsels I was itching to get back to the shop. I was keen to purchase some chocolatey stocking fillers.
The counters in the shop are bulging with the most sumptious of desserts. A good friend of mine purchases everything here for her dinner party treats and I totally understand why. You can guess I love going to dinner at her house! We shuffled around like we were in some sort of sugar museum oohing and aahing as we moved along. I made some purchases but I can’t say what they were for fear of being caught out by a certain couple of someones who will read this!
However, check these out ….
We spent a glorious couple of hours and by the time we were ready to leave it was dark outside. This is where I come back to Hansel and Gretel. The shop windows come alive at this time of day on a pre Christmas afternoon. To think a small business like this can go to so much trouble to give their customers such a treat. It’s on a very small scale but Robineau can certainly give Fenwicks Christmas Windows a run for their money. I joke, as Fenwicks windows are a Northern institution but honestly what the owners do here as well as being able to produce such quality on such a scale every day is to be truly admired.
Café Robineau gets my vote every day of the week and I’m pleased to report that it got the yes vote from my two afternoon tea experts.
Sadly, it’s too late for you to try this year but bookmark us so you don’t forget. I’ll certainly be back to see what they dream up for Christmas 2017 if not before. I’ve visited three times so far this past year.
Have you visited? Let us know in the comments.