Pinkies poised? Let’s eat cake
Rejoice, it's National Afternoon Tea Week - but where can you get your fix of diddy sandwiches and scones? I know, I know!
We don’t need any encouragement to scoff a cake or two (or three) but let’s just put it out there for those of you with better self control – it’s National Afternoon Tea Week right now, people!!! Pinkies posed? Here are our top picks of the best local places to enjoy your crustless sarnies and scones across Berkshire and beyond, plus some brilliant themed options in London – the Mary Poppins tea for two, anyone?
THE LUXURIOUS 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 spesh (from £37pp). 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, washed down with a choice of teas – or go for only ‘T’ I know (tiddly) and knock back Cliveden ’66 cocktails – shot of vodka, Grand Marnier, rose liquor, topped up with Champagne and gold leaf. Oh, go on then and keep ’em coming, garçon.
THE INDULGENT ONE: Hurley House Hotel, Hurley
Hurley House Hotel has become a foodie destination in its own right. The perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, then – and the afternoon tea is a culinary food tour of the Great Britain (useful in a post Brexit world). Smoked Loch Duart Salmon, Horseradish Cream, Caviar; Waterloo Cheese, Plum Tomato, Cucumber and Cumbrian Air-Dried Ham, Grain Mustard Sandwiches, served alongside Cornish potted mackerel and strawberry & cream choux bun, salted popcorn & caramel macaron and scones… not forgetting the scones. Foodie heaven. £42pp (including Champagne).
THE SOPHISTICATED 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 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 be paired to each course. *Dabs napkin and starts on the 100 wines*. From £31.50pp.
THE GIRLY 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. There is a special Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea on offer with a bubblicious glass of Laurent Perrier Champagne (and a cheeky gift – useful if you forgot), but I’d also recommend the Garden Afternoon Tea with its floral-inspired pastries and views of the meadow. From £55pp.
THE FUNKY 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). Book in for Mother’s Day and your ma will get a glass of Champers and a gift. Winning. From £27.95pp.
THE QUIRKY 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. Go for the Special Occasion Vintage Tea, £19pp.
THE ROYAL ONE: The Bel & The Dragon Windsor
Can you believe nearly a year has passed since we went Union Jack mad, hung the bunting and slapped Meghan and Harry’s face on anything ceramic? Ah, happy days. The good news is that 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?
THE GIN ONE: Stoke Park, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Bucks
A G&T served in a teapot? I’m in! Stoke Park’s brand new afternoon tea offering comes with homemade scones, Eccles cakes, dainty sandwiches and lashings of gin – I’m talking gin cured smoked salmon, gin infused prawn cocktail, plus award-winning Exec Chef Chris Wheeler’s Lemon, Lime and Gin Curd fruit tart. for £52pp. Stoke Park also caters for the little people with its Little Stars under-12s tea (complete with cute teddy bear biscuits) at a very reasonable £13.50 – it’s in Condé Nast Traveller’s Top 10 child-friendly retreats, no less.
THE CLASSY ONE: Café Wolseley, Bicester Village
If you usually just whizz into Pret for a coffee while at Bicester Village, there’s now a whole new level of refreshment indulgence to enjoy. This is the little sister outpost of the gorgeously elegant Wolseley on Piccadilly (where I spent about 90 percent of my working day in ‘meetings’ in a previous life). Afternoon tea is decent value at £27.75pp and it’s available anytime from 11.30am – 6.30pm so you can definitely fit in some ruinous designer shopping around it.
THE PROFESSIONAL ONE: The Orangery, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
Award-winning Master Chocolatier and Pâtissier William Curley (CV: The Savoy Hotel, Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, winner of the Academy of Chocolate “Britain’s Best Chocolatier” and Pastry Chef of the Year) has teamed up with Blenheim this summer to create a new bespoke afternoon tea menu. Classic finger sandwiches, handmade pastries, scones, plus a choice from the cake table (I’ve got my eye on the pistachio and raspberry nancier- yum!) From £34pp, booking advised.
THE GIRLY ONE: The Ivy Marlow Garden, Marlow
I’ve had afternoon tea here with girlfriends a couple of times and it’s the perfect atmosphere for the occasion – grown-up, glam and indulgent. Served 3pm – 5pm daily, you can order Cream Tea for £7.95, full afternoon tea for £18.95 or have it with Champagne for £26.50. Top tip: ramp up the alcohol levels with an English Spritz cocktail on the side. It involves Earl Grey gin so that’s technically tea, right?
THE CLOONEY ONE: Danesfield House, Marlow-on-Thames
This exquisite Grade II-listed, late Victorian five star country house hotel serves a classic afternoon tea with petite sandwiches, scones, homemade cake, Cornish clotted cream, plus stunning views of the Thames if you eat out on the terrace. Afternoon tea in £30pp, or you can upgrade to Champers or tea-inspired cocktails for an extra £10 (there’s a kiddie offering for £15 too). If it’s good enough for George and Amal Clooney’s wedding party, it’s certainly good enough for us.
THE SECRET ONE: Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden, Mill Lane, Kirtlington, Oxon
One of my favourite hidden spots and it wasn’t open last summer so I was thrilled to hear that Jane and her amazing afternoon teas are back, back, back this year. It’s an utterly quirky setting, hidden away down a canal towpath so only accessible on foot or via narrowboat. Just turn up for a cream tea but if you want the excellently named Full Jeeves (£20) then you need to pre-book. There are only four opening dates remaining this year (17 – 18 Aug, 21 -22 Sept) so book in pronto.
HEADING INTO LONDON? TRY…
Prêt-À-Portea: The Dior Couture Collection, The Berkley
Afternoon tea never looked so good! The super-luxe 5* hotel’s Prêt-À-Portea (love the name) is inspired by the V&A’s sell out Christian Dior exhibition with the designers iconic pieces transformed into delicate biscuits and fancies. Tea also includes mini savoury skewers, taster spoons, canapés and sandwiches for £60pp, or go couture and upgrade to Laurent-Perrier Rosé, Bollinger Rosé or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs for £76pp. Well, it is The Berkley, dahaaaring!
London Landmarks Afternoon Tea, Town House at The Kensington
Save the hassle of queueing for the London Eye and eat your way through the city’s landmarks instead. Afternoon tea (including a carrot cake The Shard and lemon curd Big Ben) starts at £42pp, or £54.50 with a glass of Champagne.
Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea, Aqua Shard
Loving the idea of this afternoon tea, mainly because of the opportunity to save leftover sandwiches in Mary Poppins’ bottomless bag. It’s £49pp, plus there’s a kids offering with an old school lemon float for the same price. Upgrade to ‘medicine’ (cocktails, of course) for £67 or £72 for Veuve Clicquot Rosé.
Peter Rabbit Afternoon Tea, Le Meridien Piccadilly
Little ones will love this supersweet cake off at Le Meridien, and adults will love the attention to detail – just check out the little broken terracotta pots. You can get an adult size for £35 or a children’s version for £25.
Mary Quant Afternoon Tea, The Pelham hotel
Swinging Sixties meets Modern Scoffers. Pretty much perfection really, £40pp. Head five mins down the road to check out the awesome Mary Quant retrospective at the V&A afterwards which is running until Feb.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Afternoon Tea, The Gore
I can’t say ‘hot-dog’ cakes are whetting my whistle but you have to applaud the creativity! £35pp.
What’s the Tea, Drag Queen’s Make-up Box Afternoon Tea, The Perception Bar, W London
Only in London! Ironic, celebratory, and a bit subversive – we’re liking your work, W hotel. Afternoon Tea is from £39, or you can go bottomless (I know what I’ll be doing) for £50. Once a month you can catch The Globe Girls drag show whilst you dine (£55) – the next show is on Sun 29 Sept.