Let them eat cake
It's Afternoon Tea Week, and we like to think we know a thing or two about scones, clotted cream and Earl Grey. Do we know anywhere nice? You know we do.
Pinkies poised, big pants on for a scene of pure indulgence: melt in the mouth scones (cream first people), uniform cakes and diddy cucumber sandwiches with no crusts. We’re spoilt for choice in Berkshire when it comes to afternoon tea and whaddya know, it happens to be National Afternoon Tea Week! Shall I be mum?
THE FOODIE ONE: Hind’s Head, Bray Wed 15 – Sun 19 Aug
More tea, vicar? It would be rude not, when you’re in the duplicitous Vicar of Bray’s former digs – better known as Heston’s Michelin star Hind’s Head. Take afternoon tea with a twist, in the elegantly eccentric Royal Lounge. Take a trip down memory lane with tea-smoked salmon on rye bread, Coronation chicken sarnies; fondant fancies, scones and clotted cream, washed down with a selection teas. Or just get stuck into the cocktails, no judgement. £39 pp.
THE CHIC ONE: The Vineyard, Stockcross
Pinkies perfectly poised, it’ 5-star all the way. The Vineyard nr Newbury is one of the finest wine hotels in the UK with 30,000 bottles snuggled up in the cellar, 100 of them available by the glass. Woohoo! Throw in a legendary afternoon tea is legendary and it’s practically perfect in every way. This is the Pastry Chef’s playground, serving exquisite cakes, scones and the neatest finger sarnies ever. Choose the Champagne wine flight (is there anything else?) or a tea flight experience and your drinks will paired to each course. *Dabs napkin and starts on the 100 glasses of wine. From £29.50pp.
THE FANCY ONE: Cliveden ’66 Traditional, Cliveden House, Taplow
Whether your fancy yourself as Meghan Markle taking tea with the Queen, her gym-honed tush perfectly perched on plush velvet or Christine Keeler swinging from the chandeliers, afternoon tea at Cliveden House is a bit speech (from £37 pp). You’ll be seated in this neo-classical pile’s Great Hall and served delicate finger sandwiches, scones with homemade jam and clotted cream with delicate pastries and cakes. Why not be truly decadent plump for the alternative T – a glass of Tattinger. Now you’re talking my language. You might as well leave the bottle, garçon.
Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire SL6 0JF. clivedenhouse.co.uk
THE MODERN ONE: Malmaison, Reading
If you’re looking for a tea with a twist, then pull up a chair at Malmaison. It gets full marks for the city slicker vibes, serving hot smoked salmon & creme fraiche and chipotle chicken wraps, fruit smoothies in diddy glass bottles with retro stripy straws and your choice of our specialty teas. They also do a ‘tipsy’ version with cocktails – hello Hendricks G&Tea (gin, elderflower liqueur, blackberry & elderflower tea syrup, lemon juice, tonic) come to mama.
Malmaison, 8-20 Station Rd, Reading RG1 1JX malmaison.com
THE VINTAGEY ONE: Vintage Cream Tea Whittington’s Tea Barge Reading
Now this is a truly unique experience – eating scones al fresco on a narrow boat on the north bank of the river Thames alongside Christchurch Meadows in Reading. Afternoon teas don’t come quirkier. Be warned though – it’s only open Friday to Sunday. But, don’t just rock up unannounced, as it can be booked up for private parties. Expect mismatched vintage china, homemade cakes, sarnies and scones. Prices starts at £13.
Whittington’s Tea Barge, North bank of the River Thames, alongside Christchurch Meadows, Reading, RG4 8BY whittingtons-teabarge.co.uk
THE ROMANTIC ONE: Coworth Park, Ascot
One of Prince Harry’s favourite places, Coworth Park is elegant and romantic with an afternoon tea to match. You’re more likely to find Hazza on the polo field, but Head Pastry Chef, Lucy Jones’ precision pastries, finger sarnies and scones will lure you in to The Drawing Room like the Bisto kids. Amazing selection of teas to choose from. £35 per person for the traditional.
Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7SE. www.dorchestercollection.com.
THE ROYAL ONE: The Bel & The Dragon Windsor
If we’re going to throw a Royal Wedding as fabulous as Harry and Meghan’s, we might as well flog it until Christmas. The Bel & The Dragon Windsor is still offering its Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea and you’re so close to Windsor Castle you can practically boast the queen is sitting opposite you. For £17 pp (£24 with English sparkling wine) you’ll get Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake, House of Windsor scones, Scottish salmon, cucumber and egg sarnies, plus a large selection of teas. Shall I be Ma’am?