The Best Afternoon Teas | Country & Town House
Country & Town House | August 2011
Time for tea
Laura Ivill tracks down the most fabulous places in town and country for afternoon tea
The Goring, SW1
PERFECT FOR: Couples.
THE VIBE: Quintessential London hotel, an intimate home-from-home, still owned by the Goring family. The terrace has six tables overlooking a large, secluded garden.
TUCK IN: The six ‘courses’ of the Bollinger tea are a leisurely feast and worth the money. The Bolly Special Cuvée champagne had wonderful structure. Fresh strawberries and cream were followed by the lightest seafood cocktail. The creamy guinea fowl with wild mushrooms on brown toast was a tasty addition to the finger sandwiches, then we ogled the dainty pastries including a light rhubarb pannacotta.
TEA TIME: Choose from an excellent selection of 21 teas and infusions.
NOT SO KEEN ON: Hard to fault a thing.
WE LOVE: The privacy of dining outside
DETAILS: Traditional Goring Tea, £35; Bollinger Tea, £45. (020 7396 9000; thegoring.com)
PERFECT FOR: Family fun – Claridge’s is the tea place for a special celebration, and winner of the Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea 2011.
THE VIBE: Exactly as you imagine afternoon tea to be – thick white tablecloths, polished silverware, light laughter and the chink of china mingling with tunes wafting from a piano and violin.
TUCK IN: Traditional sandwiches are fresh and dainty; my favourite was roasted chicken with walnut and lemon. The scones were heavenly, and the jam is Claridge’s own Marco Polo tea flavour. Splash out on the full-flavoured, dry rosé champagne.
TEA TIME: A remarkable menu of 40 tea blends is an eye-opener. We loved the Marco Polo black tea with Chinese and Tibetan fruit and flowers.
NOT SO KEEN ON: The cover charge of £3.50 per person soon adds up.
WE LOVE: You’ll feel inspired to become a real tea connoisseur.
DETAILS: Afternoontea,£35;withaglassof Laurent-Perrier brut, £45; or Laurent-Perrier rosé, £55. (020 7629 8860; claridges.co.uk)
The Berkeley, SW1
PERFECT FOR: An intimate girly catch-up with your best friend.
THEVIBE:TeaisintheCaramelroom,amain room for groups and a gallery of tables for two by the windows.
TUCK IN: The cake stand is filled with a delicious display of mini sandwiches and a savoury course of canapés – mini chicken oriental wrap, taster spoon of beef... The main event is the fashion-inspired feast – cakes with beaded gold chocolate topping inspired by a Chloé clutch bag and a crème de menthe and coconut jelly with sunglasses inspired by a Jil Sander dress.
TEA TIME: A classic selection of loose leaf teas are simply listed then choose a herbal infusion to finish – the fresh mint leaves work wonders to clear the palette.
NOT SO KEEN ON: The caramel browns of the room are a little drab for this amusing tea.
WE LOVE: The experience was relaxed and refined, and the crystal champagne flutes in the Vienna design by Shot were wonderfully elegant.
DETAILS: Pret-à-Portea, £36.50, with a glass of ‘couture’ champagne, £53. (020 7235 6000; the-berkeley.co.uk)
PERFECT FOR: Little ones.
THE VIBE: Overlooking parkland running down to a lake with waterlilies and fountains, the hotel’s terrace has 15 tables in a row so you can enjoy an uninterrupted view. This is Winnie-the- Pooh country – the Hundred Acre Wood is part of the Ashdown Forest – and the hotel will pack you a wicker family hamper, a rug and a children’s tea as a slap-up picnic.
TUCK IN: The Winnie-the-Pooh tea includes fresh carrot sticks, bite-size honey sandwiches, cakes, fruit and syrup, popcorn and a soft drink – and there’s 186 acres for children to let off steam.
TEA FOR TWO: Choose from a simple list of Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon, herbal and fruit teas.
NOT SO KEEN ON: The hamper presentation was a bit disappointing with plastic trays.
WE LOVE: The terrace’s majestic country vista. And the service was warm and helpful.
DETAILS: Winnie-the-Pooh afternoon tea, £5.95. Return rail fares London Victoria to East Grinstead, from £11.60 (southernrailway.com). (01342 824988; ashdownpark.com)
Pennyhill Park Hotel, Surrey
PERFECT FOR: A relaxing spa and tea treat with the girls.
THE VIBE: The purpose-built spa for adults only is all marble and tiling with multiple aromatic steam rooms and a 25m pool. Feeling refreshed for tea you are welcomed into the restaurant by piano music and attentive staff.
TUCK IN: Traditional finger sandwiches are followed by warm scones and the richest clotted cream. The pastry chef’s pretty creations taste as good as they look and the rosé champagne went down a treat – peachy, fruity with a soft mousse.
TEA TIME: A range of 17 teas and herbal infusions gives plenty of variety. The Wuyi Big Red Robe Supreme oolong was very refreshing.
NOT SO KEEN ON: Five of the more unusual teas cost extra.
WE LOVE: The luxury of hanging out at a gorgeous spa while indulging in top-quality food.
DETAILS: Tea in the spa’s Themis Restaurant and a choice of a 45-minute treatment, £120. (01276 486 150; pennyhillpark.co.uk)
Sketch, London W1
PERFECT FOR: Relaxing after exhausting West End shopping.
THE VIBE: The Parlour is a large, eclectically styled room. Sit chatting around a large, low table on richly patterned, mismatching chairs. The waiting staff are young and friendly and won’t over-fuss.
TUCK IN: The traditional finger sandwiches on brown and white bread are soft and light. The salmon brioche bites with cream cheese had a delicious tang and the Pommery Brut champagne was flavoursome. The biscuit topped with chocolate mousse, chocolate thin and gold leaf was also fantastic.
TIME FOR TEA: An interesting menu of 14 teas – black, oolong, puerh, white and green. My lapsang was as smoky as it should be, but went cold in the teapot.
NOT SO KEEN ON: The Parlour is quite dark for a hot day.
WE LOVE: The tiny loaf of brown bread with ham and Dijon mustard was cutely rustic, and the scones came with delicious, crushed fresh raspberries.
THE DETAILS: Afternoon tea, £27, with a glass of Pommery Brut Royal, £38. (020 7659 4500; sketch.uk.com)