A Lunchtime Treat At Dot-Teas Emporium, Belper
Every so often, The Man and I are invited somewhere that just warms the cockles of our hearts, and when we visited Dot-Teas Emporium recently we left with that beautiful ‘feel good factor’ glow. You may have leapt ahead and be imagining a swanky venue complete with shelves of tea caddies and penguin suited staff, but let me shatter that illusion (in the nicest way possible, I hasten to add!) quick sharp! Instead, imagine a really friendly, community cafe that oozes with charm and quirkiness.
Dot-Teas Emporium has been a real labour of love for its owner, Donna. Donna has a background in Special Needs Education but fancied a complete change of direction and so she took over this venue from its previous owner who (being polite) was less than fastidious. A lot of elbow grease, tears and determination saw Dot-Teas Emporium finally open in May 2019 with 5 stars from EHS, but then the pandemic scuppered things, as it did for everyone in the hospitality sector. Thankfully, the doors are now back open, and people come to this calm space that works in partnership with ‘Rethink Mental Illness’ and aims to be a haven for all its community, especially those who need an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or just a hug.
Belper has plenty of parking and we found a spot in a car park right next door to Dot-Teas. Donna and her team were cleaning up several tables when we arrived as a special needs group had just been in for drinks and food, but we were ushered in and sat at a lovely table opposite the big bay window. Dot-Teas Emporium has a lovely relaxed feel to it, supported by the decor: wood floors, chunky wood tables and comfy chairs, neutral wall colours that have artwork on them and the nick-knacks scattered around. This vibrant community café is currently fund-raising for a defibrillator and several local crafters have donated their makes for Donna to sell and keep the monies for this project; how fab is that? I really do applaud the spirit of Belper folk when it comes to efforts like this; you all rally round and get involved if it means that the facilities for the town are improved.
Kids can go wild in ‘The Jungle’, a bright playroom kitted out with lots of toys that has plush Snakes, Gorillas, and other ‘jungley’ animals suspended from the walls. Parents/carers can chill out on the squishy sofas whilst the littlies get rid of all their excess energy in here or you can go outside into the garden area if the weather permits. Donna and her fantastic team have got a wonderful decked area complete with pergola that allows socialising to be done in the great outdoors, and this is where you’ll find a little pond (home to frogs and tadpoles as well as the odd toad!), vegetable patch and even a herb garden!
Anyhow, back inside and to the business-at-hand: food! You may have gathered that the menu isn’t going to be winning Michelin stars, but I tell you what it’s a cracking menu for a small business and orders are cooked fresh for you. Breakfast is served until Midday and as well as the usual suspects there is an ‘on toast’ section as well as Porridge, toasted Tea Cakes, Crumpets to which you can add all manner of toppings (Honey, Chocolate spread etc.).
You can pop in for a cuppa and a cake or a Savoury Cream Tea as well if you don’t want lunch, but I opted for the Club Sandwich (£6.20) and pot of Tea for one (£1.80) and The Man had a Black Coffee (£2.20) and the Homemade Soup and Sandwich combo (£6.90). Call me odd – many people do! - but I always savour loose leaf Tea; I enjoy the ceremony and process of letting it brew and using the strainer to catch the tea leaves then adding a splash of milk to my cup. Donna uses large teapots so that you get 3 cups of Rosie for your money and it’s Ringtons Tea, which is a jolly nice brew.
Whilst we were waiting for our lunches there was a steady stream of other people coming in: a lone lady, a family with young child and a young gentleman with his carer, all taking advantage of the wide choice of beverages and dishes on offer in such a welcoming, relaxed environment. Our server was a lovely fellow called Cav whose smile could make the stars look dull; Down Syndrome wasn’t holding this chap back as he placed our food before us and did his utmost to give great customer care.
The Man had chosen Spicy Lentil as his soup and it smelled very enticing as the tendrils of steam carried its aroma across the table to my eager nostrils. After he took that beautiful first mouthful, His Nibs told me that it was fabulous! The soup certainly was spicy and warmed the Man’s tummy superbly, but didn’t make the lips or tongue tingle at all, and it had a satisfying, thick texture thanks to all the fibre-rich Lentils in it – heart healthy, too, for those that need it. Excluding the BLT and Fish Finger sandwich, all other options are included in the soup-and-sandwich price so His Nibs had a Ham and Cheese morsel (on thickly sliced malted bread) and it was crammed with filling. Both of us commented on how soft and springy the bread was (always a sign of freshness), and it tasted really nice too.
I went for the triple decker club sandwich in which the bread is lightly toasted and packed with Lettuce, Tomato and Mayonnaise, leaving you free to choose another duo of fillings from a selection. Avocado and Chicken were my choices to nestle in the malted bread, though I nearly went for Falafel and Halloumi; in the end my taste buds agreed that I’d made the right choice as the creamy flavours washed over them. My club sandwich came with a pot of crunchy Coleslaw, a crisp salad of Mixed Leaves, Cherry Tomato and Cucumber and a good amount of Corn chips – you certainly get your money’s worth in Donna’s kitchen; perhaps as well as I was starving after a session in the gym!
As I said earlier, the menu might not set the gastro world alight, but you won’t get any better in terms of freshness and flavour, and the presentation was excellent. You get plenty of bang for your buck too, so if you’re watching the pennies you’ll come away from Dot-Teas feeling all warm and fuzzy (and not just from the belly warming effect of the food either!). The feel-good factor continues as Donna offers drinks for £1 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to those that have had them ‘socially prescribed’ by the local GP’s and Community Care Workers.
We couldn’t leave without bringing a couple of slices of the Millionaire’s Shortbread away with us to have later, and all I can say is ‘wow’; this minx has a wickedly buttery base topped with a thick layer of rich, sweet Caramel and it’s all crowned with a generous layer of Milk Chocolate that’s so deep it cracks as you bite into it! It’s always a pleasure to discover a treasure like this on the doorstep; Belperites, you are a lucky bunch to have a venue that does so much good as well as serving fab food and drinks.
Owners of canine fur-babies will be happy to hear that Dot-Teas Emporium is dog-friendly, so next time you’re out for walkies take a detour to 99-101 Bridge Street – your pooch will thank you for it. Hot Wings happily awarded to Donna and her team.
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