‘High’ tea is city tradition
Sarah Eddy and friends visited Stokes High Bridge Café, a city landmark and popular rendezvous on Lincoln’s busy High Street.
It is the coffee aroma which first greets you at street level, even before you enter the High Bridge Café. This is luring enough for many visitors as they pass by looking for refreshment – that and the wonderful location. The magnificent, timber-framed, three-storey building dates from the mid-1500s and straddles the bridge over the River Witham. It is the only medieval bridge in England which still has buildings upon it.
We visited on the Discover Lincoln Weekend and understood why the café does not take bookings. The queue was moving and being quickly replaced by more eager diners. There are three floors, the ground serving short order tea, coffee and light snacks while the first and second floors serve those wanting more substantial meals and afternoon tea.
We four were shown up to the third floor and slid into one of the cosy window booths. It was a warm day so the leaded glass windows were open and the music of the busker on the pavement below was a charming backdrop to our conversation. My son sat nearest the window and was fascinated by the bird’s-eye view across to the narrowboats on the Witham and the bustling city centre. I used to visit the High Bridge Café with my parents as a child and it is a tradition I enjoyed sharing with him.
Stokes are well known within and beyond Lincolnshire for their excellent teas and coffees and there is plenty of choice of blends and a separate tea menu to mull over. The café starts the day at 9am with a breakfast menu and successfully transitions to serve mid-morning snacks, a full lunch menu from 11.45am and lite bites and afternoon teas from 2pm each day. The staff in their charming 1930s inspired uniforms are kept on their toes but were smiling and cheerful throughout our visit.
Stokes take great pride in the quality of their dishes and have a roll-call of local producers and ingredients on the back of the menu. Children have their own menu – great value at £3.95 – with a good choice. My son went for the homemade chicken goujons served with peas and chips. Our other young diner had a tuna sandwich served with salad, crisps and a side of chips. I had already finished my excellent latte and ordered the quiche of the day, which was garlic mushroom served with salad and coleslaw, while my friend chose the Lincolnite omelette – a dairy-free ham and mushroom option served with salad and chips. Freshly made and substantial, these dishes are traditional favourites which did not disappoint. My dish was from the Set Menu, which also offers a roast of the day, a daily chef’s special or a vegetarian dish as well as starters, side dishes and desserts. The set menu is good value and attracts loyal diners all through the week.
Desserts and cakes were definitely a must for us, so we finished our lunch with a gingerbread man for my son, brownie and ice cream for his friend, coffee cake for her mum and chocolate fudge cake with ice cream for me. The coffee cake and brownies were heroic I was told and my only regret was that I didn’t order my fudge cake to be served warm. It would have been epic with my finale cup of Earl Grey.
For my friend and I this had been a lunchtime catch-up and welcome treat. As we left, the afternoon tea takers were beginning to arrive and another British tradition was in full service at Stokes High Bridge Café.