It’s not very often Little Oliver ventures beyond the Leeds postcode but very occasionally, we feel the need to stand on top of a metaphorical weatherworn hill and stare out beyond the borders of God’s Own County (or Country, whichever it is - answers via postcard only please).
This we duly did during a recent trip out to North Yorkshire, that vast wind-scoured hinterland where the ghosts of the Bronte’s roam amid purple-flecked moorland.
It was here, in the village of Helmsley - a beautiful location which could very well be the living embodiment of the word ‘idyll’ - that we discovered Cocoa Tree, an exquisite little cafe just off the main square with a real country feel to it.
Being ‘from the city’, of course, I’m used to things like people giving me false smiles as I enter a place and placating me with all manner of formalities, so it came as something of a shock to experience the real thing. First: a smile, as warm and wholesome and honest as you like. And then, actual conversation. (Not banter.) There was genuine interest here and a lingering stare as if they genuinely wanted to know what we’d been up to. This sort of thing must be what happens in the countryside all the time, I thought, so I went with it and it felt very strange. Good strange, not bad strange.
I was going to describe the interior of this cafe as pokey but I don’ want to do it a disservice. It’s innards are welcoming enough, with quirky little knick-knacks on the walls and a loo which looks like it’s just in someone’s house.
Menu-wise, they do melts and jacket potatoes and sandwiches, waffles with ice cream and hot chocolates and things of that nature. The sign on the outside says they do ‘seriously good coffee and cake’ and use award winning Beachdean ice cream. My son had the jacket with beans and cheese, while the boss of the family (daughter) had a tuna sandwich with the crusts cut off (yes, they actually did this for us after we mentioned it in passing, so, you know, nice touch and all that). My partner went for a cheese and onion sandwich, while I had a toastie, all of which came to £23 and that included drinks (tea/coffee for me and the missus and two juices apiece for the little ‘uns).
Service, I have to say, is pretty much faultless, although I am not sure you could replicate it in the city (or even if you would want to) but it was refreshing to experience it all the same.
There are plenty of other places to eat in Helmsley (for a small village, it’s spoilt for choice, really) but you could do worse than nip in here for a quick cuppa, slice of cake and a genuine chat, if only to be reminded of what life used to be like back before Leeds was turned into one great big homogenous mass.
THE COCOA TREE, HELMSLEY