Pinkies at the ready?
Pass the scones we're off to Rosebourne in Aldermaston – a garden centre with a rather nice restaurant – for a very local afternoon tea. Pass the elasticated pants, I'm going in.
It’s March, the healthy eating has hit the skids and with Mother’s Day sitting pretty at the end of the month (Sun 31 Mar, in case you’re asking for a friend), downing carbs, cake and Champers is practically the law. So in the name of research I thought I’d check out Rosebourne in Aldermaston’s afternoon tea offering, as word has spread to Muddy Berks HQ (via Strictly’s Craig Revel Horwood) that it’s rather good and they’re going like the clappers.
On the face of it you might think it’s garden centre with the usual plants, outdoor furniture, tools and gifts – and it is. But food is very much at the heart of Rosebourne with a farm shop that resembles a local Whole Foods, butchers, a cheese counter and a buzzy, table service restaurant that is super busy… All. Day. Long. No more shuffling with a tray, it’s all very civilised.
The decor is also very anti-garden centre, lovely upholstered love seats, oversized rattan pendants and large house plants and the silver birch screen is a nice touch. It’s an oasis of calm and actually feels very relaxing.
If it’s hot and wet you can have it. There’s a good selection of Twining teas from your traditional Earl Grey and English Breakfast to your fruity lemon and ginger or cranberry and raspberry but, if tea’s not how you roll, then all the coffees can be served with your afternoon tea or a hot chocolate (sugar coma, almost certainly guaranteed).
But let’s swerve the hot drinkies for a minute, because it’s the booze that’s caught my eye (no change there). Come to mama Cranberry Gin Fizz – Winter Solstice spiced gin with prosecco and cranberry. Or the Winter Pimms sounds nice too. So many choices. If you’re a purist and it’s bubbles or bust, you can order prosecco by the glass or pop the cork and savour a bottle of Champagne. Variety is good, dontcha think?
A crowd-pleaser, for sure. No dainty finger sandwiches, the sarnies are a bit more robust with classic flavours – ham, smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayo and coronation chicken and a grated smoked cheddar, tomato and spring onions, bound with mayonnaise with crisps. That’s right, people, CRISPS! I’m quite partial to posh potato chip, but if you’re a sucker for starched table cloths and patisseries then you’ll be reaching for the smelling salts.
The scones sparked much debate – they were warm, fluffy and delicously buxom, voluptuously spilling over out of shape. But for me, dehydrated fruit has no business floating around in a scone. I prefer mine plain. That said, once smothered in clotted cream and jam (cream first, jam on top – it’s the Devon way, baby), it didn’t stop me scoffing the lot.
The cakes? Beautiful to look at and each one bringing something different. The slab of Cherry Bakewell and the mini meringue with a hazelnut cream were a delight. The chocolate mousse with cream was just too sweet for my taste, but it looked pretty.
It’s worth noting, that a gluten free afternoon tea menu is available and all the food from the restaurant is made using produce from the farm shop. Keep those food miles nice and low, but also supporting lots of brilliant local food and drink producers. I likey that a lot.
Wanna take afternoon tea every day? Well at £13 a head, you probably could, but I’m not sure your clothes will fit you for long. But I disappeared down a rabbit hole in Rosebourne’s gift area and fell in love with this beautiful Victoria & Albert Alice In Wonderland chine tea set. Eat me… Drink me… Buy me (*cough* Mr Muddy, Mother’s Day is approaching). Each piece is sold individually so you build up a lovely heirloom collection.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: The spontaneous – no reservations are needed. Just rock up, find a table and tuck in. It’s a lovely place to enjoy a treat and catch up with girlfriends or spoil for your mum. Plus you can grab a nice gift and a plant while you’re there.
Not for: Those looking for formality. You won’t find starched tablecloths and waiting staff standing on ceremony, but then you’d be paying more than double for that kinda vibe. It’s much more down to earth and relaxed.
£££: Such good value, you could treat yourself to this finger feast every week – afternoon tea is just £13 pp; Throw in the gin fizz (£6.95) or a bottle of Champagne (£30) and it’s still great value for money. They also offer gift vouchers.