Afternoon teas have seen such a huge revival recently. This can’t be solely due to the success of English period dramas like Downton Abbey, but they certainly add to the appeal. The rise in popularity of afternoon teas has been so extensive that there are even websites solely dedicated to tea experiences. One that has really caught my eye is the London Afternoon Tea Bus Tour by BB Bakery. I love spending time in our capital city and to enjoy some of its best views while sipping a perfect brew, sounds brilliant. That is definitely on my to-do list.
Until this year I don’t recall ever having a traditional afternoon tea. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of tea and scones no doubt, but never the full afternoon tea experience of dinky sandwiches, perfect patisseries and tiny morsels of sweet sumptuousness. It seemed to me the perfect opportunity for some mother and daughter quality time. I would hazard a guess that this is predominantly the reason most of these teas are booked and what better reason. I started to research and found the options plentiful, ranging in expense from £15 per person at a local garden centre, through to a premium champagne experience that wouldn’t give much change from £100 per person! The myriad of choice made for some tough decisions. In the end, I shortlisted a few based on locality, recommendation and style, which I wanted to be very traditional. Finally I decided upon Eastwell Manor. Based in the Kent countryside, this Manor house dates back to the Norman Conquest. It offers spectacular views, outstanding commendations and possibly THE most traditional setting ever. It seemed the perfect choice. Booking by email was very simple, although it reaffirmed the popularity of afternoon tea when – although booking several weeks in advance – there was only limited availability for my chosen date.
On the day, I took the opportunity to have Mum’s undivided attention and decided to stop off for a bit of retail therapy at the Ashford Designer Retail Outlet, McArthur Glen. I think it’s worth mentioning that I was really impressed by this centre. There was a great array of shops and whether it was just luck, timing or both, we picked up some excellent bargains in Nike, Sketchers and Yankee Candle (to name a few!!). Let’s just say we were ready to be refreshed and refueled after our little shopping trip, so afternoon tea couldn’t have been more perfect.
I can honestly say that the only disappointment of the whole day was utterly beyond our control, but totally British… the weather. We were so unfortunate. It was damp and foggy, which hampered our ability to appreciate the gorgeous views on the approach to Eastwell Manor. However once we had taken refuge in the hotel, the weather was actually ideal. The smell of the open fire as we entered was instantly welcoming, as well as warming. The solid wood decor added to this warmth and provided a dark and comforting backdrop, which was starkly contrasted by the starched whites of the service staff. All of whom were very efficient and pleasant. The interior of the hotel – some might say – is a little dated in places. But I liked the oldness. Everything had a story. So I prefer to think of it as antiquated charm!
Once seated in the drawing room, again by a wonderful open fire, we were offered several variations of afternoon tea, differentiated by the beverage served with each. We chose the most traditional EastWell Manor Tea, opting for their own “Eastwell Blend” as recommended by the waitress. Served with traditional bone china – which was well weathered but wholly original – every component part was absolutely delicious. The Eastwell Blend is their version of English Breakfast and was a perfect accompaniment to the superb array of sandwiches, cakes and puddings. The standout highlight for me had to be the warm scones, with clotted cream and homemade berry jam. Simply delicious. Taking turns to be “Mummy” and pour the tea for your own Mum in such a beautiful setting, is really memorable. I’m so pleased I chose Eastwell Manor because I couldn’t have asked for a more authentic afternoon tea experience. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be up for trying a more modern twist, in a more modern venue next time though. Tea? Cake? Conversation? You can always count me in.