A SECRET TEA AT CHEZ SHAMWARI
Saltaire • chezshamwari.com
Shirley Quarmby bakes the most amazing cakes. Her creations are works of art that look as if they were made in a professional pâtisserie. And yet, her love of preparing cakes, chocolates, and delicious savories for afternoon tea is just a hobby—from Monday to Friday she works as an IT business analyst. Once a month, however, on a Saturday or a Sunday, she hosts tea parties for up to six people in a cosy corner of her kitchen in Saltaire, a fascinating Yorkshire town built by Titus Salt in the 19th century for the people who worked at his textile mill. Shirley is from Zimbabwe; Chez Shamwari means “at my friend’s house” in Shona (the language of the indigenous Mashona people), and her tea occasions are truly gatherings of friends. She advertises as a “clandestine bistro and tea room” and keeps her address completely secret, only revealing it to guests just before the appointed day. But of course, the tea parties are so special and fun that it is only the location that is still a secret, and she has a long waiting list of would-be customers.
The aim of these happy occasions is not to make a profit but to practice her cookery skills, serve excellent tea, and make sure that everyone has a really wonderful time. Faces light up, and eyes pop when she brings to the table her mini beef wellingtons, beetroot and goat cheese macarons, gift-wrap carrot cake tied with sugar-glazed carrot ribbons (so clever and inventive!), and stunningly theatrical strawberry gâteau. If there are ever any leftovers, they are given away or sold to raise funds for Shirley’s favorite local charity.