IN THE KITCHEN: Jean Bevan of English & Miller
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“Fancy a spot of tea?” asked   of English & Miller when this GoodLife reporter stopped in to do a story on the British gift and tearoom. “Just relax on the (Union Jack) couch and I'll be right over with a fresh pot.”
And that's how our conversation about the delightful 30-seat downtown Barrie business began. Over Earl Grey Tea served in vintage china cups, Bevan (wearing a grey sweater with red double decker buses on the pockets) shared the story of their three-year-old establishment and why she and her husband, Neil, wanted to bring a taste of Britain to Barrie.

What led you to open a British gift shop and tearoom?
Jean Bevan: When we moved to Barrie from the UK four years ago, we thought it would be fun to open a business that offered a British experience. When you go into any shop in England, there is always a place to have a cup of tea and we wanted to bring that same enjoyable experience to Barrie. We picked Barrie because we loved the community and liked that it was close to Toronto. We also have two boys, aged 11 and 12, and we saw it as a family adventure.

How do you describe the atmosphere of English & Miller?
Bevan: I always describe it as more Jamie Oliver than Queen Victoria [laughs]. We were going for a modern tearoom look, rather than a Victorian lace tablecloth kind of place. But we do have vintage china, which people love. The atmosphere is quite cozy with wooden floors, barn board accents, exposed brick walls, a fireplace and large bay windows that overlook Kempenfelt Bay.

The view of the lake is stunning. Is that why you chose this location?
Bevan: Absolutely! The view here was definitely a deal breaker. I mean, isn't this a gorgeous place to sit down and have a cup of tea [as she points to the view]? Having said that, we had to do major renovations to get the space ready. It was a very outdated office space from the 1970s, so we stripped it right down and started at the beginning. We did all the work ourselves. Neil (a marine pilot by trade) is extremely handy and also has a home-building company in Wales. I have a graphic design background, so we have experience in renovation, building and design.

Even though English & Miller is on Dunlop Street (on the southeast corner of Memorial Square), it's still a little hard to find. Do you struggle
with that?
Bevan: We are definitely a little hidden, so we don't always get the walk by
traffic. But once people finally find us, they always seem to come back.

What's on the menu? 
Bevan: Our menu is based upon a traditional British tearoom with simple, freshly prepared food. Items include soups, sandwiches, a ploughman's lunch, baked potatoes, desserts, cakes, scones, high tea and more. It's very much a lunch place. We open at 10 a.m. and start serving lunch at 11 a.m.

What's your food philosophy?
Bevan: We believe in making simple food with high-quality ingredients. It's not complicated or complex. And our customers seem to like that. When people come in for a cream tea, for example, they are just looking for a raisin or plain scone with Devon cream and proper jam imported from England. We focus on making it an authentic British experience.

Is everything made from scratch?
Bevan: We have a tiny kitchen, but we do manage to produce our own scones, shortbreads, flapjacks, tarts, brownies, carrot cake and rocky road. We also do other treats and specials depending upon where our fancy takes us. We also make a fresh soup every day from scratch and our sandwiches and other lunch items are made fresh to order. We use fabulous ingredients to make our food simple, but tasty. We have two staff members, Kristen Bauer and Jessie Reid, and they do all of the baking and cooking.

What are some of your most popular items?
Bevan: Everything is popular, but our customers particularly enjoy our soups, ploughman's lunch and cream tea. The cream tea is a baked scone, jam and Devon cream with a pot of tea of your choice. You don't need a reservation for cream tea, but if you are coming in with a group of six or more, we recommend you call ahead.

Let's hear about high tea.
Bevan: High tea or afternoon tea was originally served between lunch and dinner at around 4 p.m. We serve it at any time, just a day's notice is fine as we prepare each one fresh. We serve our high tea on vintage china with a three-tiered platter. The bottom tier has a selection of small finger sandwiches, a home-baked scone with jam and thick Devon cream on the middle tier with cakes and biscuits on the top tier. We serve it all with a pot of tea. The cost is $22.50 per person, which is pretty good value compared to the cost of a high tea in London.

Have the people of Barrie and beyond embraced high tea?
Bevan: Yes! People love the British experience. We have a very committed group of customers who come here all the time for high tea. Some of them are from British heritage, but many aren't. It's just a fun thing to do. I should mention that we do a whole Mother's Day weekend of high tea only and it is really popular. We do lots of lovely decorating for it. It's like a garden party at Buckingham Palace [smiles].

How many teas do you have?
Bevan: We have about 25, but we change them around from time to time. The most popular ones are Everyday Tea, Earl Grey, Cream of Earl Grey, Lemon and Ginger, and Tropical Green.

Let's hear about your 12-seat party room.  
Bevan: We have hosted baby showers, birthday parties and groups who want to get together for a special treat. You need to book it ahead of time with a reservation, and it's free as long as you order food. It's a lovely spot to host a group high tea.

Do you have coffee?
Bevan: Yes! We have fabulous Fair Trade coffee from Ashanti in Thornbury. We also have a decaffeinated version.

How do you cater to diners with special dietary needs?
Bevan: Our soup is almost always gluten-free and can be served with a salad. Our baked potatoes with various toppings are a great gluten-free lunch option. We also make fantastic gluten-free brownies.

What's on offer in the gift shop? 
Bevan: We have a unique selection of curated items that are designed, sold or made in Britain. Our shelves are lined with teas, jam, biscuits, Marks and Spencer products, Doctor Who merchandise, Jamie Oliver books, various tea towels, tea cozies, knick-knacks with London images, toys, teapots, mugs, kids' books, candy, jewelry, blankets, Beatles stuff and more. We try to have gifts for everyone, but the core goal is to keep it British.

I particularly like your jewelry. Let's hear more about it.
Bevan: We have just brought in the Downton Abbey line, which is just stunning. We also have some lovely, colourful pieces that have been made from vintage teacups.

Do you buy everything in Britain?
Bevan: I'm back and forth all the time to source items for the store. We still have a home-building business in Wales, so we are always travelling over the Atlantic.

Tell me about your online business.
Bevan: Everything that we have in the shop is also available online.

Besides English & Miller, what's your favourite foodie destination?
Bevan: My favourite place for tea in Britain is Liberty London (liberty.co.uk). It's a wonderful shop with the most fantastic tearoom. Liberty London is the grandmother of everything I would like to be here. Locally, we really like Bohemia in downtown Barrie (bohemiabarrie.com).

What about specials?
Bevan: We run a WagJag twice a year.

Any interesting future plans?
Bevan: We are planning a second location, which will probably be in Collingwood. Along with expansion, we are also working on creating our own tearoom merchandise line with English & Miller branding.

You've got the ear of thousands of local diners, is there anything you'd like to add?
Bevan: Come and have a cup of tea.
The kettle is always on [smiles]. 






SHORTBREAD
This shortbread is inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe and it's a
popular treat at downtown Barrie's English & Miller.

INGREDIENTS:
1-1/3 cup (200 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (55 g) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup, plus 1 Tbsp (125 g) unsalted butter, softened

PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 325F.
In medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir in butter. Form into a dough ball. Don't knead it.
Remove dough and place onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Push or roll it until it is about 1-cm thick. Once it's in the shape you like, feel free to thumb or pinch the edges. (Note from writer Katherine Elphick: When testing this recipe I used a nine-inch round springform pan with a removable bottom and it worked well).
If you want to score lines on the shortbread so that you can break the biscuits off into pieces later, you can. Sprinkle some caster sugar on top.
Place baking sheet into the oven and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the shortbread has a nice light golden colour. Remove from oven. Let cool in pan on rack for five minutes. Cut through score lines. Let cool completely. Enjoy!






ENGLISH & MILLER
89 Dunlop Street East, # 201
Barrie
705-503-4030
www.englishandmilller.com

Open 7 Days a Week
Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 

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