Pass the scones!
Who doesn't love a fully laden cake stand? The Five Arrows Waddesdon leads our list of top tea spots in Afternoon Tea Week.
With it being Afternoon Tea Week, we dispatched Muddy’s Kerry Potter to The Five Arrows in Waddesdon to scoff disgraceful amounts of cake – well, how else could she possibly pen a thoughtful critique of their new afternoon tea menu? Here’s her review – plus five of our other favourite local spots for indulging in cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey. How terribly civilized!
My mum and I took the children for a run around Waddesdon Manor’s grounds one afternoon last week, along with every other family in Bucks and Oxon it seemed. Well, it was the only day of the summer hols thus far when it wasn’t flippin’ raining. Usually we’d pop to the Stables café afterwards for a cuppa but with it heaving we decided to give the crowds a swerve and stop instead at the Five Arrows hotel. It stands to the right of the entrance to the manor as you exit but can be easily missed. Afternoon tea, madame? Well, if you insist.
The former Victorian coaching inn, now a 16 bedroom boutique hotel, was a haven of peace. Luckily my children weren’t too mud-splattered and had burnt off enough steam on the climbing frames for me to feel comfortable allowing them into this refined, white table-clothed, fine china environment. It’s quite a trad, formal dining room but the staff were very accommodating of small people, promptly bringing colouring in paper and pens and modifying their order so their beef sandwiches didn’t come doused in horseradish. The full afternoon tea is a reasonable £20.50 per person, and my two shared one between them. And – Brucey bonus – you get a free glass of prosecco (not you, kids) with tea until 31 August. However my mum and I decided to branch out and try the Nyetimber – English fizz has a fast-growing reputation and this one didn’t disappoint. Traditionalists may prefer a glass of Taittinger or you can plump for a Pimm’s alongside your choice of five teas. (Go Earl Grey or go home, I say.)
Afternoon tea is all about ceremony, isn’t it? Before you eat, you must pause to admire the dainty nibbles, positioned prettily on the stand. The sandwiches came on pleasingly multi-coloured, lightly flavoured bread – soft brown rye for the smoked salmon and cream cheese, saffron yellow for the coronation chicken and basil and spinach green for the Cornish Yarg and chutney. We made light work of the beautiful patisserie section, with the choux bun with salted caramel sauce and lemon posset with strawberries disappearing first. Best bit? The light-as-air sultana and plain scones, accompanied with the usual debate about which goes first, the clotted cream or strawberry jam (I’ll defer to the Muddy Cornwall and Devon editors on that one).
Obviously full afternoon tea in a fancy boutique hotel is not something you’ll be doing every time you take the kids out for some fresh air, but as a treat – especially if you have grandparents in tow – it certainly hits the spot. Although, after all that sugar, my two were hyped, primed and ready to go again. Here they are whizzing around the prettily manicured garden before I bundled them back into the car.
The Five Arrows, Waddesdon, Bucks, HP18 0JE
FIVE OTHER AWESOME AFTERNOON TEAS…
THE FANCY ONE – Stoke Park, Park Road, Stoke Poges, Bucks
What’s lovely about Stoke Park’s luxe, classic afternoon tea in The Orangery is how well they cater for children – it’s in Conde Nast Traveller’s top 10 child-friendly retreats, no less. Their Little Stars under-12s tea, with its cute teddy bear biscuits, is a very reasonable £13.50, while adults may like to plump for the champagne version. Well, in these refined 5 star surroundings, it’d be rude not to.
THE CHIC ONE – The Ivy Marlow Garden, 66-68 High Street, Marlow, Bucks
Any excuse to loll around on the prettiest restaurant terrace in our ‘hood, right? And afternoon tea is a smart option if you’re struggling to get a dinner reservation at Marlow’s new hotspot. Full marks for the pleasing twists on the trad dishes – load up that stand with marinated cucumber and dill sandwiches and truffled chicken brioche rolls, please!
THE VINTAGEY ONE – The Tea Set, 24 High Street, Chipping Norton, Oxon
At this exceedingly English tea room in the middle of Chipping Norton your scones come served on gorgeous mismatched vintage china and cakestands. You can drop by for an impromptu cream tea or pre-book for the full Cotswolds Luxury High Tea. The owners – previous Muddy Awards winner, it should be noted – also offer an afternoon tea catering service for weddings, parties and events – can they cater Muddy’s HQ’s daily 4pm tea break, we wonder?
THE QUIRKY ONE – Jane’s Enchanted Tea Garden, Mill Lane, Kirtlington, Oxon
Now this is a truly unique experience – eating scones al fresco by the narrow boats, at a little shack hidden away down a path by the South Oxon canal. Afternoon teas don’t come quirkier. Be warned though – it’s only open selected weekend dates and advance booking is essential, so don’t just rock up unannounced. You’ll also need cash (no credit cards) and may have to queue. But the incredible homemade cakes and hostess with the mostest Jane make it utterly worth it, we promise.
THE CITY SLICKER ONE – Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street, London
This one is well worth the jaunt into the Smoke – and only a 20 minute walk from Marylebone. The Alice In Wonderful-themed feast is a visual as well as a gourmet delight, with its ‘Drink Me’ smoothies in diddy glass bottles and menus hidden within vintage books. They also do a ‘tipsy’ version of afternoon tea from 7-9pm, involving a flight of four cocktails alongside your sarnies. Now you’re talking!