Dolly's Tea Room, Wine Bar & Gin Palace
21 Church Street (above the Falmouth Bookseller), Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 3EG
In a beautiful Georgian room above a bookshop in Falmouth on Cornwall’s south coast, you will find a little piece of gin heaven.
The vintage crockery and scrumptious-looking range of baked goods may fool you into thinking Dolly’s serves only tea and cake.
But peep behind the small wooden counter and the stash of bottles will reveal that you’re in for a treat, because this is no ordinary tearoom. Indeed, those china tea-cups are just as likely to contain gorgeous cocktails as they are Earl Grey.
“I never expected to open a business when I moved to Falmouth almost ten years ago – let alone a Tea Room, Wine House and Gin Palace,” Dolly’s founder and namesake, Dolly Makin tells us. “My background is working on magazines and newspapers and you could say I have spent the last 30 years researching my business as a customer at many bars, pubs and restaurants.”
The idea for Dolly’s was born from a combination of that experience, from Dolly’s love of reading cookery books and from talking to friends about what they really wanted from a bar or restaurant that wasn’t being provided elsewhere.
Since opening in 2011, the venue succeeded in growing its own unique offering, combining a taste of old-school glamour with the relaxed, fun atmosphere of a good friend’s house party. There’s even a resident dog – the pearl-wearing Yellow Labrador, Hebe.
There are more than 100 different gins on offer, which you can enjoy in cocktails, created especially for the bar and poured from teapots into dainty teacups, or in a Copa glass with tonic and a matched garnish. We’re not surprised that, as Dolly tells us, “staff training is really good fun and no one can remember it in the morning.”
If you want something to accompany your drinking, you can choose from a range of homemade scones and cakes or, come evening-time, some delicious tapas. And as well as delighting the taste buds, Dolly’s is also a real feast for the eyes – from the beautiful décor of the bar itself to the lovely china and the Spanish glassware in which the wine is served.
It’s perhaps no wonder that the Tarquin’s Gin team are fans of Dolly’s – and vice versa. “We started serving Tarquin’s gin as soon as we found out about it,” Dolly explains. “We garnish it with thyme and lemon. It is one of our most popular gins and customers particularly like the bottle design. We have also hosted a gin and pastis tasting with the chaps from the Southwest Distillery, which was very popular.”
There are a host of other special events that take place regularly, including burlesque evenings, and Great Gatsby and Blitz-themed nights, which see guests dressing up for the occasion and a local dance teacher on hand giving Charleston lessons. There are also special suppers held twice a year, created by guest chef Lucas Hollweg who has worked at the Sunday Times, and now write for Waitrose and Sainsbury’s magazines.
On these occasions, as Dolly admits, it may get “quite chaotic, especially after a gin two,” but that’s never put us off – in fact, we think it’s all part of this unique gin joint’s charm.
Signature Gin Cocktail
“Our most popular cocktail is The Vicar’s Tea Party (which Dawn French sampled when she visited Dolly’s).”
The Vicar’s Tea Party
25ml Fresh Lemon Juice
25ml Lemon & Ginger Tea Syrup
25ml Gomme Syrup
Fill a cocktail shaker to just over half full with ice, add ingredients and shake.
Place three or four ice cubes into a teacup (or glass) and garnish with a slice of lemon.
To make the Gomme Syrup
2 parts water to 1 part granulated sugar
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the sugar and once it has dissolved leave to cool and thicken. When cool bottle and refrigerate (it will keep for about a month).
To make the Lemon and Ginger Tea Syrup
2 parts water to one party granulated sugar
2 Teapigs lemon and ginger tea bags
Soak tea bags in hot water and leave for an hour or two. Pour two cups of the lemon and ginger tea (with the bags) into a saucepan. Add the sugar. Simmer from about 10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove teabags and leave to cool and thicken. When cool, bottle and refrigerate (the syrup should last for a month).