Turns out the drive home from Norfolk to Bristol isn’t a fun one – especially with a four-year-old in the car. We’d just finished a great week exploring North Norfolk before he started school, but the time had come to go home.
Without the delights of motorway services en route – at least for the first part of the journey – I decided it was sensible to research in advance where we should stop for lunch. Google Maps had told me that we’d be in the Kettering area at around that time, and the Water Mill Tearooms in Ringstead, just to the east of Kettering, seemed like it could be a great stopping point.
As you enter Ringstead from the east, the Water Mill Tearooms are on the right hand side – next to the river, as you’d expect. After we’d valiantly tried to battle our way into the car park next to the building, we luckily realised there was additional parking for customers just a little further up the road on the left
Wandering down from the car park was a great chance to admire the setting – and for the small person to stare in amazement at the water wheel from both the front of the building and the back, where the entrance to the tearooms can be found.
The former water mill – a listed building – has been decorated tastefully inside. In the first room you enter you’ll find cosier seating options, as well as an impressive display of cakes. The toilets, the door to which is just out of sight on the right in the picture below, are seriously swanky, too.
We were led through to the main dining room, where we initially sat before deciding to head outside and make the most of the sunny weather. With a beautiful beamed ceiling and a wood-burning stove in one corner – as well as the water wheel, encased in glass – it’s a stunning room which has a cosy and friendly feel.
We were lucky enough that it was sunny and warm when we arrived, so it made sense to make the most of it and grab a table in the garden. We weren’t the only ones: a fair few tables on the artificial grass lawn were taken by the time we left. We picked a spot beside the river, a damson tree and brambles full of blackberries just out of reach over the fence.
Time for a nice strong latte (£3.25) and a kids’ chocolate milkshake (£3) before the food arrived.
Very reasonably priced at £10, my Ploughman’s plate gave me a choice of white or brown bread (the latter proving to be a thick slice, slathered in butter), along with a generous wedge of decent-strength Cheddar and two slabs of mild, creamy Brie – neither, thankfully, served over-chilled. The pork pie wedge was encased in delightfully thick, stodgy pastry with a good layer of jelly, and I was impressed with the homemade coleslaw and thick hunks of ham, both served rustically chunky.
These were accompanied by a vinaigrette-drenched salad with cherry tomatoes on the side, plus chutney and pickles: the gherkins some of the tangiest I’ve ever tried.
Across the table, the sweet and spicy gochujang chicken wrap, part of the specials menu, went down a treat, as did the sausage and chips from the kids’ menu (£5.50): a meaty local Stanwick-made sausage with both beans and salad on the side.
If you’re travelling back to the South West along the A14 and need somewhere for a lunch or coffee stop, I’d definitely recommend the Water Mill Tearooms in Ringstead. A great lunch spot, full of charm and with a fantastic setting – we couldn’t have asked for anything more.