Afternoon tea has arrived in Amherst, bringing distinctively British tastes, smells and sounds to a cozy, brick-framed space in an old downtown warehouse.

“We are the only tea room using the three-tiered stand with the traditional English afternoon tea,” explains Adrian Bradbury, co-owner and co-culinary creator of Birkinshaw’s tea room and restaurant. “It’s what we want to do and it’s what we think there is a niche for.”

His wife and business partner, Eleanor, has wanted to run a tea room since she was seven years old. After immigrating to Canada in 2010 with their four sons, the couple eventually settled in Amherst and made Eleanor’s dream come true. Since opening Birkinshaw’s last December, they have been tempting palates with traditional English and European food with a modern twist.

“We’ve always cooked,” Adrian says. “My wife is Le Cordon Bleu trained, I’m a trained baker, and circumstances came about that this was the right opportunity at the right time.”

Birkinshaw’s is named for his maternal grandfather, Cyril Birkinshaw, a butler who worked for various well-to-do and aristocratic families.

“I learned my love of food and the correct way of doing things through my grandfather,” says Adrian, who applies these teachings particularly to their signature offering.

Traditional afternoon tea is not a fifteen minute break with a biscuit but a meal in itself (in England, four o’clock tea is actually supper). The tea room offers five different kinds of afternoon tea, which is served in the proper style, with china tea pots, cups and saucers, and a three-tier cake stand ladened with tea sandwiches and savoury treats, scones, tea bread, and a selection of pastries and sweet treats.

The Maritimer afternoon tea is the Bradbury’s nod to their new community and to create it, Adrian and Eleanor take their inspiration from the local area.   

“The bottom tier may have a lobster roll and maple sausage rolls. On the middle layer, which always has scones and tea bread, we do a blueberry tea bread and maple-glazed scones, and on the top tier, there might be a blueberry cheesecake parfait. We try to incorporate the wonderful products available locally within an English design,” Adrian says.

Located at the corner of Havelock and Ratchford Streets in downtown Amherst, Birkinshaw’s is open Monday through Saturday. Served after 2 pm, afternoon tea needs to be booked three days in advance – which provides ample time to work up an appetite.  

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Sara Jewell
Sara Jewell is the author of Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia. She’s also on a search for art, and as she discovered, the village of Pugwash is teeming with creativity. In this issue’s Field Notes column, Sara explores the opportunities available for anyone to indulge in a “summer of art”.