Shall I be mum?
Sorted for Mother's Day? If in doubt, book afternoon tea. 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 – Mother’s Day is fast approaching and afternoon tea is the law, 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 LUXE ONE: Champagne Red Velvet Afternoon Tea, Cliveden House, Taplow
Whether you fancy yourself as Meghan Markle taking tea with the Queen or Christine Keeler swinging from the chandeliers, afternoon tea at Cliveden House is a bit spesh (from £40pp). You’ll be seated in the Cliveden Dining Room or the Great Hall and served delicate finger sandwiches, scones with homemade jam and clotted cream with delicate pastries and red velvet cakes (a nod to Cliveden’s very own special relationship with the US). Yes, you can choose from the menu of teas but popping the cork on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot sounds more fun. Taaaaaxiiiiii!
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 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 quintessentially English 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 £29.75pp.
THE CROWD-PLEASING ONE: Rosebourne, Aldermaston
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 grated smoked cheddar, tomato and spring onions bound with mayonnaise, with crisps. That’s right, people, CRISPS! I’m quite partial to a posh potato chip, but if you’re a sucker for starched table cloths and patisseries then you’ll be reaching for the smelling salts. But with tea for two costing just £26 (Vegan and Gluten-Free available £13pp), it would be rude not to splash out on a bottle of bubbles… or two.
THE SECRET ONE: 7 Flowers & Tea, Reading
Is it a florist? Is it a tea room? It’s both, people, and 7 Flowers & Tea was made for Mother’s Day. Smash and grab a beautiful bouquet and settle in for a decadent afternoon tea in the blissful surrounded by fresh blooms and a faux plant wall. It’s an utterly quirky setting, and the cakes and sarnie stack are a very reasonable £18.99pp. It’s not a huge space, so book in pronto.
THE AWARD-WINNING ONE: Coworth Park, Ascot
One of Prince Harry’s favourite spots, 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, Jonas Plangger’s precision pastries, finger sarnies and scones will lure you into The Drawing Room like the Bisto kids. There is a special Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea on offer with a bubblicious glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne (and a cheeky gift – useful if you forgot), but I’d also recommend the Vintage Afternoon Tea with its comfort classic pastries. From £55pp.
THE GIRLY ONE: Sel et Sucre, Windsor
Rumoured to be the spot where Shakespeare wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor, Sel et Sucre is a pink palace in the heart of Windsor. Although afternoon tea is an informal affair you’ll love the girly decor, the dainty cakes, warm scones and there’s candyfloss and ice cream on the menu.
THE FUNKY ONE: Malmaison, Reading
Tea with a twist. Malmaison 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 speciality 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 £27pp.
THE QUIRKY ONE: Vintage Cream Tea Whittington’s Tea Barge Reading
Now, this is a truly unique experience – eating scones al fresco on a narrowboat 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, £20pp.
THE ROYAL ONE: The Bel & The Dragon, Windsor
Royal Weddings are like buses in Windsor. Two come along at once, and then nothing. While Prince Beatrice will be saying her ‘I Dos’ at Buckingham Palace, we can all jump on the bunting bandwagon with a Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea at The Bel & The Dragon Windsor. It’s a stylish gastropub that’s 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 cake, House of Windsor scones, Scottish salmon, cucumber and egg sarnies, plus a large selection of teas. Shall I be Ma’am?
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 per cent of my working day in ‘meetings’ in a previous life). Afternoon tea is decent value at £29.75pp and it’s available anytime from 11.30am – 6.30pm so you can definitely fit in some ruinous designer shopping around it.
THE NAUGHTY ONE: The Orangery, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
The new ‘Let’s Misbehave Afternoon Tea’ by Searcys will bring to life some of the decade’s iconic and all-time favourite dishes. Classic finger sandwiches with a twist, handmade pastries, scones, plus a selection of teacakes (I’ve got my eye on the apple and gin jelly – yum!). And if you really want to misbehave, add a Gin Rickey cocktail or Champagne to your order. From £28pp, 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.
HEADING INTO LONDON? TRY…
Prêt-À-Portea: The Couture Cakewalk, The Berkley
Afternoon tea never looked so good! The super-luxe 5* hotel’s Prêt-À-Portea (love the name) is inspired by the catwalk designs sashaying down the runway. And this year they’ve introduced a delicious new finale: a cake made in collaboration with a fashion world tastemaker. Marching in for SS20 is fashion editor, renowned stylist and ‘best-dressed list’ regular Martha Ward. The 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, dahaaarling!
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 £39 or a children’s version for £29.
Mary Quant Afternoon Tea, The Pelham hotel
Swinging Sixties meets Modern Scoffers. Pretty much perfection really, £40pp. If you missed the V&A’s awesome Mary Quant retrospective, you can console yourself with cake.
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! Taking inspiration from The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, Queen and David Bowie, The Gore’s afternoon tea is rock n roll, and we like it. £35pp.
What’s the Tea, Afternoon Tease, 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 and once a month you can catch The Globe Girls drag show whilst you dine (£55). Presented in a sparkling cosmetics case, inside you’ll discover a multi-layered offering of edible cosmetics and brightly-bejewelled cakes. Genius.