Afternoon tea is a very British institution. And I have to say, it is a very pleasant one. My first taste of it was at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town a few years back. It was very pleasant but not very special. I remember copious amounts of food, with tables filled with lovely sandwiches and sweet things, but you had to go up and help yourself, which made it more like a buffet really. My second was after a visit with my mum to see the garden at Highgrove, Prince Charles’s rather lovely house in the Cotswolds. That was very different, much more formal, with full waiter service which I think is as it should be. To celebrate my mother’s special birthday a couple of year’s ago, I took her to The Ritz for their Champagne afternoon tea, which was as good as you might expect but does cost £76 per person. It also involves a trip to London, which you sometimes want to avoid.
When my best friend turned 50 in November, her partner and I wanted to treat her to a lovely afternoon tea but we wanted to avoid London. Where to go? There are plenty of places that offer it but we wanted somewhere special. I immediately thought of The Beaverbrook, a very special hotel near Leatherhead which has a fantastic restaurant (reviewed here) and offers a real sense of occasion with its history and great charm. Their afternoon tea is also good value at £35 per person or £45 with a glass of Champagne, so we decided to give it a try.
We arrived in one of the worst downpours that Britain somehow seems to manage from time to time. Upon arrival in the car, we were met by the entrance by the wonderfully helpful doorman brandishing a large golf umbrella to usher us into the house. Formerly the home of Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Daily Express and Minister of Aircraft Production under Churchill, this place exudes character and a sense of history. In the rather cosy library, a roaring fire warmed guests who wanted to watch England playing New Zealand. Opposite was the quiet drawing room, with its wonderful views over the soggy Surrey Hills, views shared with the main room now housing the rather sumptuous art deco Parrot Bar, which would not not look our of place in a Wodehouse dramatisation.
The dining room is clean, classy, not too grand and surprisingly small. It leads out to the shaded terrace with its views, which today is strictly off limits. We were fetched for our 3pm booking and seated in the middle of the room. There were four other tables for tea, mostly young women along with two newly born and happily sleepy babies. Four glasses of Laurent-Perrier fizz soon arrived and our tea order was taken. Traditional Earl Grey all round for this table. The tea came in individual pots with rather clumsy but pretty strainers. Two tiered platters arrived, with dainty pasties, plain and raisin scones, cream and jam and eight perfectly cut sandwich slices. The sweet offerings were lovely, rich but not overly so. The scones were warm and fluffy with great jam. I always prefer the savouries and these sandwiches were perfect. Duck egg, beef, cucumber and smoked trout. All delicious. I just wish I could have had more, but greed is not a good look.
So, did afternoon tea at the Beaverbrook live up to our expectations? Emphatically yes! It was very relaxed, very relaxing and all the more enjoyable because of that. Less formal than say the Ritz but still special. And it was a pleasure to be able to jump in the car and be home within half an hour. Full marks all round.
We have teamed up with The Beaverbrook to offer a special discount for VantagePoint readers. You can book a Festive Afternoon Tea with a free glass of Champagne or Mulled Wine per person for just £35 per person from Wednesday 28th November to Sunday 23rd December. To book, please call 01372 571300 quoting AdVantage Beaverbrook. Offer subject to availability.
Click here to view The Beaverbrook’s Christmas brochure.