Llanerch Vineyard, Cardiff
Served in a restaurant overlooking a Welsh vineyard, afternoon tea at Llanerch is not your average tea, cake and sarnies affair – chef Ryan Davies and his team make everything from scratch each morning on site, guaranteeing freshness. The menus are seasonal and the top two tiers of the cake stand might include lavender sugared Welsh cakes, rhubarb crumble and custard tart and blood orange posset with rosemary tuile. The savoury lower tier features classic sandwiches like egg and cress but also a more contemporary chicken and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise. The restaurant has a stunning view of the vineyard, and in the summer the bi-folding doors can be opened to enhance the experience, particularly with a glass of sparkling Welsh wine.
Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire
An Italianate mansion located on a 376-acre National Trust-owned estate in Berkshire, Cliveden has been one of the UK’s most important houses for three centuries. This is where Christine Keeler first met John Profumo, a meeting and affair that led to one of the biggest political scandals of all time. It’s also where Meghan Markle stayed before her Royal Wedding last year. Afternoon teas served in the Great Hall are so popular that you may need to book at least three weeks in advance but they are well worth the wait. Expect faultless finger sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber, crème fraiche on granary, perhaps, or beef and horseradish on caraway bread) alongside freshly baked scones with homemade jam and clotted cream, miniature bite-size cakes, pastries and aromatic Cliveden blend teas. Seasonal treats might include almond financier with rhubarb and white chocolate or beetroot cake with bergamot buttercream.
Running Fox Bakery, Felton, Northumberland
Beside the River Coquet in rural Northumberland, Felton lost most of its shops and meeting places when the nearby A1 was diverted away from the village. That didn’t deter ambitious local resident Kris Blackburn from taking over the village coffee shop eight years ago. Having spent years in catering, she thought a village bakery would work and Running Fox launched in 2011, opening seven days a week and selling a range of bakery goods and local produce as well doubling up as the local newsagents. As well as becoming the community hub – the local WI and history club are regulars – the Running Fox has made the most of its position and become a destination afternoon tea venue in the middle of an Area of Natural Outstanding Beauty close to beaches, ancient castles and historic Alnwick. Think rustic and filling rather than dainty (Kris’s words). For £15 per person, they include a sandwich, slice of pie or quiche, fresh cheese or fruit scone and a wedge of homemade cake served with ‘endless’ tea or coffee. It’s clearly a winning formula as Kris has since opened a second café in nearby Longframlington and a third in Shilbottle.
On the exact spot where the British passenger liner RMS Titanic was built and launched in 1912, Titanic Belfast’s Sunday afternoon tea allows guests to step back in time to a period of luxury, elegance and five-star service. Set in the opulent surroundings of the Titanic Suite, featuring the replica staircase recreated for a few scenes in the 1997 film, afternoon tea here features a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with Cornish clotted cream, cakes, éclairs and savoury bites inspired by those served on board the original boat. Wash it all down with a selection of loose-leaf teas served in replica White Star Line crockery. The teas are supplied by Belfast’s Thompson’s Tea, a family-run business that pre-dates the Titanic itself. Its luxury Titanic house tea is a blend of second flush Assam and high-grade Kenyan teas, but the Irish breakfast tea and six champagnes are also worth a look in.
Mrs Danvers, Liverpool
Within the landmark Port of Liverpool building on the city’s docks, Mrs Danvers is named after the housekeeper in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and the café is themed around the character and elements of the novel. Described as “like stepping back in time to a housekeeper’s private parlour”, it’s a 1930s-themed tea room serving traditional afternoon teas and even slices of retro quiche on vintage bone china. Visit Mrs Danvers with a healthy appetite as portions are generous. Every diner gets a three-tier platter comprising of sandwiches, savouries and cakes to themselves – expect leftovers to take home.
Budock Vean, Helford Passage, Cornwall
Close to the beautiful Helford River in South Cornwall, the Budock Vean hotel occupies an idyllic rural location and makes for a tranquil spot to enjoy a ‘proper job’ Cornish afternoon tea. Whether it’s a meal in the restaurant or afternoon tea, the kitchen uses as much local produce as possible, including clotted cream from Trewithen Dairy, jam from Boddington’s of Mevagissey and tea grown on the Tregothnan estate 17 miles away. A full afternoon tea at Budock Vean includes Cornish smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches with crisps and salad, two freshly baked scones with clotted cream and Cornish strawberry jam and a slice of cake, with a pot of tea or coffee from Cornwall’s Origin roastery.
Assembly House, Norfolk
In the heart of Norwich, the Assembly House is a Georgian gem which has been delighting diners for decades with dainty Norfolk ham sandwiches, fruit scones with strawberry jam and savoury scones with cheese, chive and local Colman’s mustard. Served in an elegant period building by uniformed staff, every single element of afternoon tea has been carefully considered, from the cake selection to scones and three-cheese toasties served warm from the oven. Swiss-trained pastry chef Mark Mitson (formerly of The Connaught and Claridge’s), designs an ever-changing selection of cakes and desserts and the kitchen works closely with local schools and colleges to help train the pastry chefs of tomorrow, ensuring afternoon tea isn’t a tradition that will be lost in Norfolk. And then there’s the Assembly House’s tea and tisanes list – it’s all loose leaf, including a bespoke afternoon tea blend, green tea and fruit teas. And, for those with dietary requirements – don’t worry, you’ll be well looked after here. “Whether customers are gluten-free, nut-free, soya-free, coeliac, vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant or just extremely discerning diners who like to design their own individual sandwich fillings, we cater for everybody,” assures chef director Richard Hughes. Look out for the popular themed afternoon teas, too.
Horto, Rudding Park, Harrogate
Take afternoon tea in Rudding Park’s kitchen garden-led restaurant, housed in the country hotel’s swish spa. The restaurant has a relaxed, funky vibe with neon canvasses, mustard and teal velvet booths, and flashes of florals that creep in to complement the garden view.
Chefs incorporate homegrown produce into the cakes and pastries – try macarons laced with blackberry syrup, mini choux buns with rose-infused cream, and delicate carrot cakes. Pickled onions for the ham sandwiches are homemade, and the scone course is spruced up with Horto jams (gooseberry, raspberry and elderberry).
Horto makes the most of its proximity to Taylors of Harrogate tea merchant and offers classic Yorkshire Gold as well as afternoon darjeeling, earl grey, peppermint and super-fresh and delicate green tea.
Read our full review of Horto restaurant here…
The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny
This former coaching inn, now a characterful hotel, stands in the historic Monmouthshire market town of Abergavenny, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, and its afternoon tea is a must-order. It’s served in the Wedgewood Room, a smart, contemporary, low-lit dining room brightened by tall plants, large mirrors, big windows and parquet flooring. Tea, on floral bone china, is laid out on starched white tablecloths. Kick off with a glass of Bollinger before indulging in warm savoury pastries (crisp sausage rolls and flaky duck-filled filo), homemade sandwiches (thick-cut ham and mustard, and sweet coronation chicken) and moreish sweet treats (raspberry meringues, soft coffee profiteroles and mini lemon and poppy seed fairy cakes). Afternoon tea comes at £26 pp without champagne or you can choose high tea at £31 pp with a selection of warm, savoury pastries.
The Priory, Bath
Everything in this honey-stoned country house hotel on the fringes of Bath is preserved as it has been for decades, from the ticking clocks and carefully plumped sofas in the library to the starched white tablecloths and synchronised cloche flourishes in the dining room. You’d be more likely to bring your partner or parents here, than perhaps a first date – the dining room is formal rather than funky and there’s a distinct lack of music. The bonus at lunchtime, though, is the dreamy views over four acres of gardens. Traditional afternoon tea is served from 3-5pm every day in The Pantry, lounges or on the terrace with dreamy views of over four acres of gardens. Opt for the full afternoon tea at £34 pp, or £46 pp with champagne. Expect classic finger sandwiches such as ham and mustard, creamy smoked salmon and classic egg mayonnaise; homemade British cakes including zesty lemon drizzle, moist carrot cake and fresh raspberry tart. Finish off with fluffy, warm plain or fruit scones with thick clotted cream and local jam.
The Salt Room, Brighton
Many people head to The Salt Room to enjoy the catch of the day with a view of Brighton’s seafront, but we recommend going for the afternoon tea. It’s a step above the norm with its comforting crumpets, crisp mini toasties (try our top 10 toastie recipes here) and a sweet stand heaving with chocolate pebble truffles, scones with elderflower jam, and sticks of candyfloss to take away. Afternoon tea comes at £27.95 pp without champagne or £37.95 pp with a glass of Collet, Brut.
Belmond British Pullman, London and Kent
Setting off from London Victoria, the British Pullman train carriages are super-glamourous, offering afternoon tea, lunch or murder mystery trips from various destinations across the country. We were invited aboard to indulge in the new themed Mary Poppins afternoon tea. The train itself is spectacular with every carriage restored to its original 20s-30s style – we were welcomed onto the oldest carriage, built in Italy in 1925. The carriage was made up of tables for two, each with pristine white tablecloths, elegant nouveau lamps and Belmond’s own duck egg blue and white bone china. Comfy vintage seats with art deco upholstery surrounded the tables. Afternoon tea is taken throughout the three-hour journey: start with a generous, crumbly, warm goat’s cheese tart with caramelised onion; followed by a selection of finger sandwiches (classic coronation chicken was sweet and came in a fluffy brioche bun; salmon could have done with a bit more cream cheese; classic egg mayonnaise hits with a strong taste of truffle; and traditional cucumber with minted crème fraîche on fluffy white bread). This was followed with crumbly scones served with jam and clotted cream for two. Our feast finished with a number of carefully crafted pastries: a baby pink jellied mousse square with sugared flowers; dainty macaroons; a squidgy miniature salted caramel brownie; and a not-quite-crunchy-enough vanilla biscuit topped with blackcurrant mousse. Afternoon tea on the Belmond costs from £235 pp with a glass of English sparkling wine.
Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
There’s a lot to explore at Castle Howard: an impressive stately home, 1,000 acres of land, and fragrant gardens filled with roses and rhododendrons, among other delights. So it’s worth arriving a couple of hours early before settling down to afternoon tea in the Grecian Hall.
Built in the 1750s, the hall was originally household staff quarters, but is now home to much grander affairs. Roaring fires, tables laid with crisp white linen and vases of fresh flowers created a welcoming environment. There was a quiet hum of music playing in the background when we arrived, but the room felt a little still. Slightly louder music might have been nice, and maybe a little colour in the furnishings.
The tea menu offered plenty of variety, including a few loose leaf options. Organic white tea (although not loose leaf) was refreshingly subtle in flavour, with slightly floral notes. Sandwiches were cut symmetrically and the bread was soft. Classics such as cream cheese and cucumber were pleasing, but the stand out had to be the coronation chicken: creamy and spicy, with a freshness from the added grated carrot and coriander. We’d have welcomed seconds…
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at Castle Howard…
Hendricks G&Tea/Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea Laguna Kitchen, Cardiff
Laguna Kitchen is tucked away on the ground floor of the Park Plaza Hotel; a little quiet oasis of luxury just off the main shopping street in central Cardiff. Choose between the main dining room or a plush sofa in front of a fire in the equally swish lobby area.
In a cute, boozy twist on a traditional afternoon tea, the G&Tea includes a Hendrick’s Elderflower Collins served in a china teapot and cup along with dainty finger sandwiches, light-as-air scones and sweet patisserie such as lime jellies with mint and cucumber, macaroons and chocolate opera gateau. (Try our gin and tonic cake recipe here)
The Gentleman’s Tea (also enthusiastically offered to ladies) offers more savoury than sweet with offerings such as chorizo scotch eggs, mini Brecon venison burgers, roast Welsh sirloin in mini yorkies and Severn and Wye smoked salmon blinis, as well as mini chocolate mousse and rum baba. From £19.95 pp
Oh Me Oh My, Liverpool
Liverpudlians will know LEAF, the hip Bold Street café and arts venue. Less well known is that it also runs a weekday grand café in a Grade-II former bank opposite the Liver Building. A bright, airy space of high-ceilings and enormous windows, nattily decked-out in vintage and modern furniture, Oh Me Oh My is a relaxing setting in which to enjoy head baker Matthew Rhodes’ afternoon tea.
It includes sandwiches (the mini brioche croque monsieur is a favourite), scones and mini-desserts, which usually include his classy crème brûlée. Teas are presented at the table so guests can touch and smell them first. Try Tea Desire’s champagne cassis, a white tea flavoured with lemongrass and redcurrants. From £15.95pp.
For nearly a century, this tearoom and bakery – identified by its gorgeous, art deco wooden façade – has kept Cambridge in sticky pastries. Its squidgy Chelsea buns are legendary. In recent years, Fitzbillies has been given a spruce makeover by food writer Tim Hayward and his wife Alison Wright.
While retaining key talents (head baker Gill Abbs has been here for 40 years), the pair has expanded its cake selection to include friands, florentines and the lesser-spotted Japonaise – a praline meringue sandwich (a bit like an XL macaron). Either drop in for cake and coffee or go for the full afternoon tea, which now features Fitzbillies’ own ceylon and earl grey blends. Bakery from £1.80, afternoon tea £18pp.
Sopwell House Hotel, St Albans
Sopwell House Hotel is a grand affair, with over 100 rooms, two restaurants, a spa and 12 acres of grounds to its name. But of it all, our favourite place to relax is where they serve afternoon tea – in the cocktail lounge.
It’s a long, breezy room that begins with a marble-topped bar and stretches all the way to an end fireplace and library, with little coves and floor-to-ceiling sash windows dotted along the way. Striped monochrome wallpaper, convex mirrors, fabric armchairs and lustre cushions make for a modern feel; but there’s also parquet flooring, a huge central marble fireplace and white linen tablecloths to create the kind of traditional afternoon tea ambience that most guests would want.
It’s a comfortable place to sit (there’s a soft, chunky armchair per guest), so you’ll likely be here for at least a couple of hours. Begin with a choice of Twinings loose-leaf tea or coffee – not a particularly long or fancy menu, but something for most tastes nonetheless – and plates of elegant finger sandwiches filled with the usual suspects…
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at Sopwell House Hotel, St Albans
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath
The Royal Crescent Hotel has carved out a niche as one of the best afternoon tea stops in Bath thanks to its range of five imaginative and decadent tea menus. From the classic Royal Crescent (largely sweet) to the Duke of York (largely savoury) and a vegetarian selection, most tastes are catered for.
It’s the nod to local flavours that takes the Royal Crescent’s afternoon tea up a level. Bath Chaps is a local delicacy – brine-pickled pork cheek that’s boiled and coated in breadcrumbs (think cooked ham) – and their bite-sized reworking of it is a triumph. Look out for the Royal Crescent’s perfectly sticky take on a Bath Bun (complete with ready-to-smear whipped cinnamon butter) and kaffir lime panna cotta topped with Bath Gin gel and a tiny crescent-shaped juniper biscuit.
olive editor Laura’s favourite is the Duke of York which eases back on the sweet treats and goes big on awesome savoury bites, including Bath chaps beignet; mushroom croquette with mushroom ketchup and aged parmesan; and hay-smoked salmon, horseradish yogurt and caviar. The smoked Chinese tea is a good earthy partner for such rich and meaty morsels. £37.50pp.
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at The Royal Crescent, Bath
The Spiced Pear, Holmfirth, Yorkshire
Like its ingredients, this retro-modern tearoom has good provenance. It’s owned by accomplished chef Tim Bilton and run by his wife, Adele. We have Tim to thank for The Spiced Pear’s gentleman’s afternoon tea, a kind of Yorkshire tapas.
Alongside the usual home-baked scones and pastries, it comes with bread ‘n’ dripping, Yorkshire pudding filled with beef and gravy, a pork pie and scotch egg. “All the sins,” laughs Adele. While admiring the views over the West Yorkshire moors, you can sip a pot of Yorkshire Tea or a pint of Acorn’s Yorkshire Pride ale (£3.60). £16.95pp.
The Black Swan, Helmsley, North Yorkshire
A cluster of buildings, which date back to the Elizabethan era, this hotel also contains a tearoom where manager, Alison Souter, shares her love of, say, Ying Zhen Silver Needle white tea or the Cygnet blends she helped to develop. These are accompanied by chef Alan O’Kane’s sandwiches and patisserie. On sunny days, take tea in the gardens. From £19.95pp.
Find out more about The Black Swan, Helmsley, here…
One Square, Edinburgh
Not only does the Sheraton Hotel’s bar-restaurant have a vast collection of gins – including the eponymous One Square, created in Edinburgh by artisan gin-maker Pickering’s – but, in summer, its afternoon tea menu is given a distinct juniper twist.
Pastry chef Colin Hall uses gin-infused ingredients in his creations and designs them to pair with the botanicals in that season’s gin – this summer, it’s No.3. A No.3 cocktail (using cardamom and seville orange syrup, pink grapefruit ‘mist’ and coriander bitters) will be served with afternoon tea.
You can also book a tutored tasting of four premium gins on the side (£25pp). Designated drivers have a choice of 13 loose-leaf teas prepared in Russian samovars. £27pp.
Grand Hotel, York
The polished, modish Grand will suit all ages. Its tea menus range from a Hendrick’s gin special (including a teapot of gin ‘n’ tonic) to a kids’ tea menu that includes jam sandwiches and jelly (£17). Talking of the ankle-biters, the Grand hosts monthly Charlie & The Chocolate Factory-inspired and Mad Hatter tea parties. From £24.50pp.
Cherwell Boathouse, Oxford
On a fine day, this restaurant on the River Cherwell is positively idyllic. Afternoon tea must be booked in advance. Larger parties (eight plus) eat in the pretty tea hut in the leafy grounds, and individual guests can take tea in the conservatory or on the lower boathouse terrace (3.30pm-5.30pm).
Afterwards, hire a punt (from £16/hour) and gently work off some of those calories navigating down the Cherwell towards to its confluence with the Thames. £12.50pp.
Cloud 23, Manchester
The 23rd-storey view out to the Cheshire Plain is only one attraction of this plush cocktail lounge. Guests can take a glass of fizz with afternoon tea or, indeed, a four seasons tasting flight of Pommery champagnes.
Alternatively, pair your candied pineapple scones with one of Cloud 23’s signature cocktails. The Japanese-influenced Mission To Manchester sees Hendrick’s gin combined with sake, genmaicha tea syrup, yuzu and rose water. Cream tea from £12.
Waterloo Gardens Teahouse, Cardiff
Love tea? You will be in heaven at Waterloo. It carries over 50, some from farms so tiny they only produce 100kg of that tea each year. The menu moves fluidly with the seasons, but its staff are as enthusiastic about the classics, such as jasmine pearl, as they are the freshest, most refined white teas (created from young leaves dried before they oxidise).
Waterloo even purifies its water and brews at four different temperatures in its quest for perfection. Its food is similarly fastidious. Afternoon tea is served with homemade truffles and seasonal fruits, and includes scones and interesting sandwiches (green harissa chicken, Welsh cheddar and plum chutney), which are all made to order. Excellent cakes, too. £15pp.
The Merchant Hotel, Belfast
A dazzling display of gilding, plasterwork and chandeliers, dominated by its soaring Victorian glass cupola, the Merchant Hotel’s Great Room restaurant serves an afternoon tea that is similarly hi-spec. Warm scones arrive wrapped in linen and you get a box designed by local artist, Mark Reihill, to take home any yuzu crèmeux choux or honey pain d’épices macarons you cannot finish.
At weekends, classical musicians serenade diners. For the ultimate blow-out, the hotel serves an afternoon tea that includes beluga caviar and a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, a champagne in which multiple grapes, harvests and vintages are blended to create what the Krug family has dubbed its ‘symphony’. From £22.50.
Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham
As you follow the curve around Ellenborough Park’s long sweeping drive it’s easy to forget that you’re in the busy Cotswolds’ spa town. The golden stone of the Manor House and its modern extensions (including a spa and some 61 rooms and suites) sprawls across its 90 treasured acres of land, in a prime spot, overlooking the equally historic Cheltenham racecourse. A stone statue of a filly breaks the view from the drop off, outside reception.
Afternoon tea is to be taken in the tudor-inspired Great Hall. A double-height ceiling makes room for grand chandeliers, oil portraits and a deep-set fireplace that was still being lit even in late April when we visited.
Try and nab a seat in the nook if there are only two of you – this part of the building dates back to the 15th century – otherwise make yourself comfortable on one of the pristine sofas…
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at Ellenborough Park
Betty’s afternoon tea, Harrogate
Coffee and cake at Betty’s in Harrogate is always a treat; but the Lady Betty afternoon tea is even more so. Taken in the elegant Imperial Room upstairs, it begins with a glass of Hébrart Premier Cru champagne, Moutard Rosé champagne or a kir royale cocktail and, unusually for an afternoon tea, a savoury appetiser – prawn cocktail, served in a little shot glass and sprinkled with paprika.
Next, more miniature savouries including a Yorkshire pork and Bramely apple pie with golden pastry and an accomplished smoked salmon and dill roulade. Sandwiches are soft and pretty, with succulent roast Yorkshire ham and tomato pâté being the best, and are refreshed if needs be; try them with a pot of Betty’s own afternoon tea blend (Assam and Darjeeling with a delicate floral finish), served in bone china cups.
Everything is presented on a traditional silver cake stand, including aromatic Yorkshire lavender scones (a highlight of the afternoon) and a selection of beautiful pastries. Grand Cru chocolate mousse cloaked in cocoa butter and finished with sharp raspberry is utterly decadent; a sweet ‘n’ sticky toffee-apple macaron comes hand-decorated; the miniature Battenberg is covered in good, homemade marzipan; and a coffee religieuse is all light choux pastry, billowy whipped coffee cream and crisp sable biscuit.
Price: £32.95 without champagne; £39.95 with champagne
Historical Dining Rooms, Bristol
The phrase ‘hidden gem’ gets bandied about sometimes, but in the case of the Historical Dining Rooms (HDR), you can use it with conviction. These guys only launched last summer, and have already garnered a gathering of loyal foodie fans. Tucked above the Star and Dove tavern, to enter you’ll need to ring an old-fashioned butler’s doorbell on a non-descript black door.
As you’re greeted by name and led upstairs, HDR claims to transport you and your tastebuds into the mists of the past. To me – thanks to the haunting memory of history documentaries about gruel and lard cake slabs – that felt more like a threat than a promise. Happily, such fears were swiftly banished by the expert service, unusual surrounds and truly beautiful food…
Click here for our full review of afternoon tea at the Historical Dining Rooms…
Photographs by Victoria Harley, Mai Davidson, Ian Boys, David Chalmers, Simon Dewhurst, Sopwell House Hotel
Words by Mark Taylor, Laura Rowe, Charlotte Morgan, Amanda James, Alex Crossley and Ellie Edwards