Olive Magazine

Afternoon tea review: Bowood House, Wiltshire

Published: July 1, 2015 at 10:30 am

Afternoon tea at Wiltshire's Bowood House Hotel, a fuss-free country house hotel, is great value for money. The cakes may be a little fancy, but a strong selection of finger sandwiches (especially the cucumber) and beautiful presentation, complete with Wedgwood china, makes up for it.

There’s no getting away from the fact that Wiltshire’s Bowood House Hotel is primarily a golf resort. As you sit in the library (a surprisingly atmospheric space in this otherwise proudly modern, new-build hotel, with vases of just-picked sweet peas and roses set among elegant velvet chairs, softly lit table lamps and, on chillier days, an open fire), you’re close enough to the surrounding green to watch the odd stray ball whizz by.


If you arrive with your own caddy, of course, that’s a plus point. If not, you might find the plethora of visor-capped, short-wearing guests a bit like stumbling into the space of a different tribe.

We weren’t here for the golf, but for afternoon tea: a restorative treat after a stroll around the estate’s stately home and parkland. And, for the younger ones among us, after a good couple of hours spent climbing, swinging, sliding and jumping around Bowood House’s extraordinary adventure playground; if you have young children it’s an unmissable day out.

The tea itself wasn’t quite the hit that the playground was, its scones slightly overcooked and the range of dainty cakes too sweet and fancy for our tastes. We would have liked a plain sponge or fruit cake, or perhaps a slice of owner Lady Lansdowne’s famed elderflower drizzle cake, in a mix that included a raspberry mousse, mini pavlovas and tiny cream-topped, fruit-filled buns.

The price, however, can’t be argued with and the selection was generous. The same goes for the beautiful presentation - our tea was served on antique silver cake tiers and Wedgwood china. And, while a pot of loose-leaf tea and a separate strainer would have added a bit of old-school glamour to proceedings, for the price and the setting, the wide selection of classic Twinings teabags and loose-leaf pyramid teabags seemed appropriate.


Star of the show: the traditional finger sandwiches – cheese and tomato; Wiltshire ham and mustard; egg and cress; smoked salmon and crème fraiche; and a perfectly executed cucumber.

Scone rating: 7/10 (extra marks for clotted cream)

Perfect for: golf fans, spa lovers (the hotel has one of those, too) and families (plenty of space to run around outside when the sugar rush kicks in)

Price: £17.50 per person, or £27.50 with a glass of champagne

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