One of the most delightful and tasty, surprises is just off of Highway 84. There, perched on a beautiful hillside just a few hundred yards from the main road, sits The British Wine and Tea Shop.
It’s not just the name that sets it apart from countless other dining spots. It’s also the extraordinary cuisine and the absolute dedication to culinary perfection of its owners, John and Maki Farmer.
Both of them are classically trained chefs, with the husband handling the main courses while the wife prepares the devilishly delicious desserts. Maki Farmer, a native of Kumakura in mainland Japan, is an honors graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, the British branch of the famous French school of cookery. She perfected her artistry at the posh Savoy Hotel and the five-star Sheraton in London.
Finding them is a quest in itself, but the reward can make an epicure of the least sophisticated and please even the most jaded palate.
After the turnoff to a leafy country lane one will see a chalet-style edifice, once a fine art gallery. A welcome from Ollie and Cromwell, the Farmer’s pampered toy poodles, sets an exuberant tone for the experience that follows.
The menu is simple. Four entrees are listed, including Quiche of the Day, Moussaka (a Greek casserole), British-style chicken curry with riceand tandoori chicken with rice and salad.
“Hold on a minute,” you may think, “Where’s the meat and potatoes?”
Be bold and keep an open mind. One taste of the buttery salmon quiche and you will be hooked. It melts in your mouth in an explosion of goodness that leaves the old taste buds clamoring for more. Your perceptions of what a meal should be will rise to new heights.
There’s more. While the menu lists only the four dishes, Chef John Farmer may spring yet another surprise and offer something his robust creative mind concocts especially for the occasion. A generous salmon steak with a cream sauce that can only be described as divinely inspired.
The meat is flaky, the accompanying broccoli perfectly steamed. Broccoli? Yes, friend, broccoli. Not the limp, overdone stuff served as an afterthought, but a novel sensation that brings glory to the much misaligned vegetable. And the side of scalloped potatoes has to be experienced.
British curry evolved from the English tenure in India. It is robust and flavorful without the excessive bite of most curries, allowing for the savoring of the sublime spices within. Save room for the desserts.
Maki Farmer is a Michelangelo with pastries. The cheesecake with blueberry compote will tempt you to wolf it down. It’s beautiful in the bowl; the tartness and the sweet play melodies in your mouth.
Did anyone know that the English make wine? Indeed they do. Both white and red and even a confirmed beer drinker will have to admit there is something great about the bounty of these grapes.
The final revelation occurs when the tab comes – none of the entrees are more than 850 yen. The fabulous desserts are only 420 yen. But if you decide to add clotted cream to the Freshly Baked Rock Scone and Jam it will set you back another 100 yen.
To get to this little Shangri-la, look for a small sign announcing ‘Izumi’ on the left about three kilometers past the Nago Pineapple Park. The next turn to the left after Izumi will have an even smaller sign saying “British Wine and Tea Shop.”
They’re open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily except Fridays. They will open on demand for special occasions. For details, call (098) 047-7133.
Note: This story was originally published in Stripes Okinawa, Sept. 4, 2009 edition.