Tea for you and me

Join me on my epic quest to find the best tea ever

Leave a comment

Monkey Island Hotel

Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire, SL6 2EE.   (View on map)

Monkey Island Hotel is on an island, you drive into the car park and then cross a bridge to get to the hotel and grounds. The day we went there was a mini heatwave so it was baking hot and the cool breeze from the river as we crossed the bridge was most welcome.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There was a private party in the grounds so it was busy outside, we sat inside in a room lined with wood panels. It wasn’t as hot as outside, but it was still very warm. We asked for some jugs of tap water as the journey had been long and hot. Though there were five of us, two of the party were too hot to eat much, so we ordered four afternoon teas between five.

There were four sandwiches per afternoon tea, one each of: ham; salmon; cream cheese and cucumber; and egg and cress. An odd touch was the crisps in between the sandwiches and my first reaction was that we were at a children’s party. They were ready salted and the day was so hot we did wonder if they had been added just to make sure no one keeled over from the heat. We enjoyed them – though I think we would have been less impressed if the weather had been colder.

The other strange twist were the scones. When the tiers of food were first brought there was some confusion as to why we had profiteroles instead of scones, or maybe we had both? On closer inspection we just had scones, but it looked like they had been backed in a shallow bun tin rather than a flat baking tray and so they were very round with a tin line across the side. It made them extremely crunchy.

The cakes made up for the scones and crisps as there were so many different ones and one of each variety for each afternoon tea: chocolate brownie; fruit tart; ginger cake with ginger snap on top; mini bakewell tart; cheesecake; chocolate eclair; and strawberries dipped in chocolate.

We had the usual problem of running out of milk and running out of jam (one tiny pot per afternoon tea, though there were four mini scones per afternoon tea).

SH noticed some more people enjoying afternoon tea as we left, only they had mini macaroons. We were jealous, especially as they were in many different colours, but were too full to go and ask for some.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, but Twinings teabag. Very limited black tea choice of English Breakfast and Earl Grey, the rest were fruit or herbal.
Milk jug? Yes, but we had to ask for refills twice.
Price? £14.95 for each afternoon tea.
Cake? Yes! All tiny.
Go again? It’s a good place to go if you’re already relatively near, but the scones mean I wouldn’t make a special effort.

Leave a comment

The Lowry Hotel

50 Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, Manchester, M3 5LH   (View on map)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was a special afternoon tea tasting trip with the usual suspects of H, E and N. H and E had organised this visit and N and I had chosen not to be told where we were going, but instead it was going to be a surprise. This suited me fine (once I’d checked the dress code and the price) as I like surprises. Perhaps because I didn’t know beforehand, or just because it’s a very stylish hotel, I got a bit snap happy and took lots of photos.

Before heading to The Lowry Hotel we had looked round the craft and design gallery of the Manchester Art Gallery. This had dozens of beautiful teapots as well as other beautiful yet useful things. I appreciated the design care The Lowry Hotel had put into their afternoon tea surroundings and food all the more after seeing the gallery.

Stylish as it was, the lack of carpet and liking for chrome meant the room was very noisy and this meant we couldn’t hear each other properly at times, but never mind. The Ritz‘s love of plush upholstery and thick carpet is justified. And they had sugar cubes – The Lowry only had sugar packets.

The menu was already on the table when we sat down and our first thought was ‘this is not enough tea’. The menu gave of a choice of about seven types of tea and only three of those were black tea. The choices were Earl Grey, Breakfast blend and an Afternoon blend (described as 50% Assam, 50% Darjeeling). H prefers a lighter tea and would usually have a Darjeeling. She ordered the Afternoon blend and found it too strong.

We sometimes have trouble with an equal amount of sandwiches as H and N are vegetarians, E will eat fish but not meat and I eat everything. The Lowry coped without any trouble and presented us with ham, salmon, cream cheese and cucumber, Lancashire cheese and tomato and egg – all to the correct people. I think H and N also had a hummus sandwich.

Scones were small and lovely with enough jam and cream to go round. The cake course had a raspberry and white chocolate cake, a passion fruit tart and a pistachio and chocolate mousse. They were all delicious, my only grumble was that the spoon we were given to eat the mousse with was too big to get all of the mousse out of the glass it was served in. A variety of methods were employed to try and get this last bit of extremely good mousse out and the favoured technique was turning the spoon upside down and using the handle. It’s not good table manners, but when there’s chocolate at stake…

All in all a reasonably good afternoon tea and the restaurant was decorated in my favourite colours so I was happy.

Teapot? Yes, but the three of us drinking the afternoon blend had to share a teapot that looked like a coffee pot. And we had to ask for hot water.
Leaf tea? Yes.
Milk jug? Yes, but only one between four so we had to ask for a refill.
Price? £19.95 each, but with service charge automatically added so it brought it to just under £22 each.
Cake? Yes.
Go again? Yes.

Leave a comment

The Petersham Hotel and Restaurant

Nightingale Lane, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 6UZ   (View on map)

The view from our table at The Petersham

I had never been to The Petersham before, but my Mum had and she recommended it as somewhere to go for my Dad’s birthday. S, R, Mum, Dad and I all met at The Petersham in order to have some afternoon tea. The hotel was hotel-like with squishy carpets and a big piano and grand staircase in the entrance hall.

We were squashed on two small tables put next to each other, in a corner, in fact everyone who was there for afternoon tea was in a corner area of the restaurant, with diners finishing off their Sunday lunches in the main section of the restaurant. We ordered our afternoon tea and chose the tea we wanted. The tea came about ten minutes later and then we waited another 35 minutes for the afternoon tea food to arrive. As we had specifically booked for afternoon tea and had eaten lunch a long time ago in order to fit the afternoon tea in, we were not that impressed.

The fake snow at The Petersham

The tea was Twinings teabags but I still thought mine tasted a bit odd. R had three teabags and the rest of us had one, or rather, R had three teabag strings and tags hanging out of his pot and the rest of us only had one. Later we discovered that we all had three, but only R had had the strings and tags taken out of the pot for all three teabags – the rest of us had the string and tag still wrapped round two of our three teabags. By the time we realised what had happened the cardboard tags were disintigrating and bits were floating around in our tea – so no wonder it tasted odd. We didn’t complain as we couldn’t get anyone’s attention in order to complain, so just gave up.

The jam came in tiny pots and the service was very slow; on the plus side there was a fake snow flurry just outside the window at one point (to keep with the festive theme) and the food was good. My Mum has been during the week and says it was much better then, but overall we were disappointed with The Petersham.

Afternoon tea at The Petersham - note the tiny jam pots and differing numbers of teabag tags.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, Twinings teabags that hadn’t been unwound properly. Not nice.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £19.50 each.
Cake? Yes, pastries and cake and scones.
Go again? No.

1 Comment


The Forbury Hotel, 26 The Forbury, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 3EJ


Teapots and sandwiches at Cerise

When KD said she wanted to go for afternoon tea in Reading and that it looked quite reasonable at £15 a head I was very impressed. When she mentioned it was in The Forbury I was astounded to realise I’d never thought of checking here before.


Cerise is the restaurant inside The Forbury Hotel and we headed there on a Sunday afternoon to sample the afternoon tea. They offer an afternoon tea for £15 – which includes a round of sandwiches each, two scones, a selection of patisserie cakes and tea. If you pay £20 then it includes a glass of champagne as well.

There was no room on the table for the cakes and the sandwiches, so we had a 'cakes in waiting' area.

All the food was extremely tasty and we had problems finishing off all the cakes (though we managed it in the end, naturally). There were some hiccups with the afternoon – bizarrely, we weren’t given any knives (though we each had a fork and a spoon). As we were in a private booth area we couldn’t easily attract the attention of the waiting staff so we improvised with the spoons and everything worked out fine. We also constantly ran out of milk – only two small jugs for six people didn’t seem like enough. The tea isn’t loose leaf but I’ll forgive it that as the food was good and it’s very reasonably priced. This place is more about the food than the tea, I feel.

Once the sandwiches were consumed the cakes made it onto the table. Take a look at the mini mound of scones as well.

I would recommend afternoon tea at Cerise as an end to a hard morning of shopping or a good place to meet friends when you need a proper catch up. The atmosphere is calm and private and the food was very tasty.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No, Twinings teabags.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £15 for afternoon tea, £20 for champagne afternoon tea.
Cake? Yes – a selection including blackberry macaroon, fruitcake, strawberry tart, chocolate something, meringue and an eclair. Mini fruit and plain scones too, with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Go again? Yes, definitely. You should too.

Leave a comment

Woodlands Park Hotel

Woodlands Lane, Stoke D’Abernon, Cobham, Surrey, KT11 3QB

Cakes, scones, tea and Pimms sorbet galore at the Woodlands Park Hotel

Cakes, scones, tea and Pimms sorbet galore at the Woodlands Park Hotel

For my Mum’s birthday (no, I’m not telling you which one) we all went to the Woodlands Park Hotel for afternoon tea. Drinking tea and eating cake is part of the family tradition, it’s no wonder that I blog about it too.

You have to give the hotel 24 hours notice if you want afternoon tea and we found out why. All the food was excellent and fresh. Sandwiches, amazing scones, fruit cake, cherry cake, chocolate and coffee eclairs, mini pavlovas, strawberry tarts and Pimms sorbet. Yum!

The tea wasn’t so good, I’m afraid. We each had a pot to ourselves but we had to ask for hot water and I lost count of the amount of times we ran out of milk. Two medium sized milk jugs for 9 people, who are all taking their tea with milk, is not enough. Tea bags too.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? No.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £18 per person.
Cake? Yes.
Go again? Yes.


The Ritz

The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR

It’s the big one. When people think of a traditional afternoon tea then it’s often the Ritz that springs to mind (though interestingly in the movies I’ve seen when people have afternoon tea, it’s the Dorchester they’re sitting in). The four of us had booked this months ago and we were anticipating great things. Previously in London I’ve been to the Dorchester and the Lanesborough for afternoon tea and I was interested to see how this would compare.

The Palm Court at The Ritz

The Palm Court at The Ritz

The key to the Ritz is the splendour. You aren’t allowed in for afternoon tea unless you’re smartly dressed. No jeans or sports shoes and a jacket and tie for the men. There are liveried doormen and every surface is guilded.

We were shown to our table and our waiter introduced himself. There is no tea menu but what we asked for they had: English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling. No notepads or labels here – he remembered who ordered what and could tell all the teas apart by smell. The tea was loose leaf (naturally) and a bit stronger than I normally take it, but there was always a  jug of hot water so it wasn’t a problem. Our waiter was wonderful and was nothing but helpful when we explained there were three vegetarians and only one meat eater in our party. Later, when we asked for extra sandwiches from a different waiter he vanished before we could add the veggie request and we had to explain carefully when he came back exactly what we wanted. This was the only wrinkle in the whole experience.

We had a variety of sandwiches between us. As the only omnivore I had chicken, smoked salmon, ham, cucumber, cheese and egg with cress. The veggies had cucumber, cheese, egg with cress, humus and tomato salad. The sandwiches were unlimited and very moreish.

Afternoon tea at The Ritz

Afternoon tea at The Ritz

Then were the scones, they were apple or raisin and small and perfectly formed, with the obligatory clotted cream and strawberry jam (and I had to introduce controversy here but yes, the cream should go on first). The scones were also unlimited but as we’d got a bit over excited with the sandwiches we couldn’t manage any extras. The scone plate also had some slices of fruitcake which H and N declined as they were feeling full. E and I went ahead. The fruitcake was lighter than most and very moist, but it pushed us over the edge and E and I were full as well.

This posed a dilemma – we had six beautiful patisserie cakes on the top of our stand, literally the pinnacle of the meal. We couldn’t face them and yet to leave them went against all our afternoon tea beliefs. We bravely soldiered on. H chose the fruit tartlet with pistachio and berries. N took the macaroon as he hadn’t bought any from Ladurée. E had a boat with fruit in and I chose the chocolate cake. Top marks for all four. E and I shared the penultimate cake, a mound of – well, let’s be honest, it looked like a breast. We couldn’t work out what it was or what it was made of. There was sharp lemon cream stuff over a cake base with a middle of pink something, mousse perhaps. Tasted nice though. Answers on a postcard please (or just comment on this post).

There is a time limit of one hour and thirty minutes for tea at the Ritz as they have so many sittings. This didn’t prove the problem we thought it might as we were so full we couldn’t face another morsel.

I’m glad we tried it. I would recommend it if you only get one chance to go for afternoon tea, as long as you pace yourself! There’s not much time to pace yourself though, so I’m still going to carry on searching for somewhere that lets you sit for longer.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? An eye watering £37 each (not including tip).
Cake? Yes, and scones.
Go again? Yes, but not for a while.

Leave a comment

Leopold Hotel

Afternoon tea at the Leopold Hotel

Afternoon tea at the Leopold Hotel

2 Leopold Street, Leopold Square, Sheffield, S1 2GZ

We didn’t just have tea at the Leopold Hotel, we had afternoon tea, which is an altogether different thing. Afternoon tea should include tea, sandwiches, scones and cake. It should be eaten in the afternoon and should fill you up so that you don’t even want to think about food until much later in the evening, if at all.

At the Leopold Hotel afternoon tea is served in the bar and I have to say I was at first unimpressed with this plan. The tables were bare and I couldn’t quite align bare tables with a traditional afternoon tea. I am pleased to say that as soon as we ordered afternoon tea tablecloths were produced. We all ordered Darjeeling tea and it was loose leaf and lovely. The teapots were big heavy metal ones that had been recently polished. Hot water and extra milk appeared as soon as we asked for it. The one slight problem with the afternoon tea was that it didn’t include cake, and we didn’t feel it could be properly billed as a traditional afternoon tea. The atmosphere in the hotel meant the visit felt relaxed and enjoyable.

Teapot? Yes.
Leaf tea? Yes and a choice of varieties.
Milk jug? Yes.
Price? £15.50 for 2 people.
Cake? Not included.
Go again? Yes.