Festive Afternoon Tea
Festive tea you say? Don’t mind if I do! Leamington Spa's Mallory Court Country House Hotel leads our list of the best ones around.
Time for boozy hot chocolates, lashings of mulled wine and even a homemade gingerbread family. We dispatched Muddy’s Jayne Horton to the 4-star Mallory Court to scoff disgraceful amounts of cake – well, how else could she possibly pen a thoughtful critique of their festive winter afternoon tea menu? Here’s her review, plus five of our other favourite local spots.
Even on an overcast Monday winter afternoon the charm of Mallory Court cannot fail to lift your spirits. A quintessential English country house built in the Lutyens style, a short drive from Royal Leamington Spa, Mallory Court offers everything you could wish for in a luxury country hotel including a recently £8 million upgraded spa. But, if you’re just looking for a brief respite from the daily grind, going off-radar for an indulgent cream tea is probably one of the better ideas you can have, especially when it is accompanied by the warm welcome my partner in cream (ooh, too much?) and I received from their charming Deputy General Manager, Marek.
Seated in a cosy sitting room overlooking the extensive 10-acre grounds you might imagine that you were visiting a rather wealthy favourite aunt with the little library of books and board games for younger visitors at the far end. Big enough for just three groups of guests, though we were offered a table in an equally lovely reception area, it was a perfect winter’s afternoon with the open log fire roaring.
We decided to indulge in the full experience by adding a glass of Yellow Label Veuve Clicquot Champagne to our afternoon tea, but you can also partake in a glass of mulled wine or Winter Pimm’s to really get you in the Christmas spirit. Well, what else do you do on a Monday? A full selection of tea was beautifully presented in a wooden tea chest for us to choose from including Chamomile and decaffeinated tea.
Hot-on-the-heels of the refreshments came the main event – the eagerly anticipated cake tier. With a smattering of refined sandwiches below, including smoked salmon and cream cheese, cheese and pickle, lemon cucumber and ham and mustard, the second tier offered lime macaroons and what turned out to be the best lemon meringue tarts I have ever tasted and I’m not shy of a meringue or two, along with homemade and beautifully presented festive fancies including an entire 2:2 gingerbread family and mince pies.
The top tier offered coffee and walnut cake and a toasted mallow delicacy. The dilemma now being where to schedule the ubiquitous scones and clotted cream. Unable to resist the freshly baked warmth of the scones it was a no-brainer and happily they did not disappoint. Despite our best efforts, defeat was admitted but our attentive waiter was only too happy to provide a rather elegant ‘doggy bag’ to take the remaining spoils home to expectant little mouths with an emergency stop on the way home to top-up on clotted cream.
Good for: A 5-star Christmassy Champagne Afternoon Tea experience with a touch of luxury and pampering. Fabulous setting for enjoying a frosty winter walk in the grounds and then to snuggle-up by the log fire. You can also combine with a spa day or treatment at Elan Spa.
Not so good for: Larger appetites or those wanting more savoury options that are now often on offer with the more masculine cream tea versions.
The damage: £27.50 for Festive Afternoon tea with a choice of hot beverage or £36 to include a glass of Veuvre Cliquot.
7 OTHER AWESOME AFTERNOON TEAS
We’ve rounded up some of the best spots for festive afternoon tea in Warwickshire & beyond:
THE RIVERSIDE ONE, The Arden Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon
Go for a winter walk along the River Avon, do some Christmas shopping, see a play or just admire the fancy festive light displays in Stratford-upon-Avon, before heading over to Mallory’s sister hotel, a stone’s throw away from the RSC where a Festive Afternoon Tea is served in the cosy lounge –and put your feet up in front of the fire with a Winter Pimms, £22.95.
THE ATMOSPHERIC ONE, The Welcombe Hotel, Warwick Road, Stratford-upon-Avon
Served daily in the Trevelyan Restaurant overlooking the Italian gardens or in the lounge area, there are three choices of afternoon teas ranging from the mini, £17.50 to The Countess, £32.50, which includes a glass and a top-up of Prosecco. It’s served 1 – 4pm. You can even fit in a round of golf on the hotel’s course or visit its £100k refurbished spa, which reopened in March. The last time I visited here during the winter there were huge roaring fires, frost and deers wandering around the garden. It felt so festive and cosy. Beautiful gardens and views from the restaurant.
TEA WITH CAROLS, Coombe Abbey, Brinklow Road, Coventry, until Christmas Eve
Have a festive afternoon in a marquee of this grand country house hotel and enjoy listening to Christmas carols as you tuck into your Christmassy afternoon tea. £: £29.95 for adults and £17.95 for children aged 12+Other afternoon teas served in the Garden Room Restaurant include the Abbot Traditional (£24.95), the Oriental (£28.50) and a limited number of Knight’s Gentleman’s Tea, a meatier, more savoury option served with half-pint of Coombe Ale.
THE ONE FOR FOODIES, Hampton Manor, Hampton-in-Arden, Tues – Sat until December 22
Served in The Parlour with a festive twist, £40. This is teatime for the foodie. Guests are greeted with a welcome drink infused with ingredients picked from the estate. The afternoon unfolds with a procession of savoury and sweet mouthfuls, and rare teas from London-based company Lalani, specialising in small-batch seasonal teas.
THE VINTAGEY ONE, OrangeMabel, Alcester
A lovely quirky vintage cafe in the centre of Alcester serving up Vintage High Tea, £15 per person, Mini High Tea, £12 or Cream Tea, £5.50. You’re invite to join them for complimentary mulled wine on Christmas Eve (open 10am-4pm) or complimentary Prosecco on New Year’s Eve (open 9am-4pm).
ANOTHER VINTAGEY ONE – The Tea Set, 24 High Street, Chipping Norton
At this exceedingly English tea room in the middle of Chipping Norton your scones come served on gorgeous mismatched vintage china and cake-stands. You can drop by for an impromptu cream tea or pre-book for the full Cotswolds Luxury High Tea. The owners – previous Muddy Awards winner in Oxon, it should be noted – also offer an afternoon tea catering service for weddings, parties and events – can they cater Muddy’s HQ’s daily 4pm tea break, we wonder?
THE CITY SLICKER ONE – Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street, London
This one is well worth the jaunt into the Smoke – and only a 20 minute walk from Marylebone. The Alice In Wonderful-themed feast is a visual as well as a gourmet delight, with its ‘Drink Me’ smoothies in diddy glass bottles and menus hidden within vintage books. They also do a ‘tipsy’ version of afternoon tea from 7-9pm, involving a flight of four cocktails alongside your sarnies. Now you’re talking!