Pinkies at the ready?
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 Bucks & Oxon, plus some brilliant themed options in London – the Mary Poppins tea for two, anyone?
BUCKS & OXON
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 SOPHISTICATED 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 INDULGENT ONE: Five Arrows Hotel, Aylesbury
A little tip for you if you’re planning a day out at Waddesdon Manor – you can escape the crowds and refuel in some style at The Five Arrows hotel. The afternoon tea, at £22.50pp, is exquisite – with pastries almost too beautiful to eat (almost, ahem). Plus if Breakfast tea isn’t your bag there’s a good selection of boozy coffees. If it’s warm, eat on the pretty terrace and take in the views over the formal gardens.
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 SPECIALITY ONE: The Chesterton Hotel, Bicester
It’s afternoon tea, but with a twist, at this chichi new boutique hotel in Bicester, with a huge list of speciality teas including Moringa Passion Fruit, Coffee Truffle, Bombay Chai and Darjeeling Queen – apparently it’s the Champagne of the tea world. Tea is served 12pm-6pm with prices starting from £10.50 for cream tea, up to the pretty reasonable £19.95 (add £5 for fizz).
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.
THE FUNKY ONE: Malmaison, Oxford Castle
You may be eating in a former prison here but the food is far from cafeteria bland. Expect oak smoked salmon & creme fraiche and coronation chicken wraps, fruit smoothies in diddy glass bottles with retro stripy straws and your choice of our specialty teas. The hotel also provides a ‘tipsy’ version with cocktails – hello Hendricks G&Tea (gin, rose liqueur, blackberry & elderflower tea syrup, lemon juice, tonic). From £19.95pp.
THE GASTRO ONE: Miller of Mansfield, Goring
Gastropubs don’t tend to be big on afternoon tea but this Goring hotspot is an exception. Priced £24.95, there’s an emphasis on top quality ingredients – think homemade bread and locally sourced cheeses. And the cakes alone sound worth the price of entry – I’ll take a massive slab of banana cake with lime cream and walnut, please.
HEADING INTO LONDON? TRY…
Prêt-À-Portea: The Dior Couture Collection, The Berkeley
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.