Anglophile, Britain & Travel, Tea & Food

Tea With a Twist: 5 English Options

One of the things I appreciate most about visiting England is enjoying a pot of tea and a scone in a quirky, little-known location. During my recent trip I was delighted to discover some new options:

Tea by the Thames

Hollyhock Cafe | Photo thanks: Zomato

Hollyhock Cafe | Photo thanks: Zomato

Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey is an easy day trip from London and pairs well with a visit to the famous Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. My brother, who lives nearby, has the advantage of local knowledge and steered me to the Hollyhock Cafe which is perched on a gentle hillside overlooking the river. We enjoyed lunch (with plenty of healthy and vegan dishes available), but the teatime options, such as mandarin and chocolate cake, looked scrummy too.

Tea with the Trains

My dad’s a railway buff and steam trains, in particular, hold a special place in his heart. I’d forgotten how much fun it was to travel behind a vintage engine and what could be more delightful, when alighting from the North Norfolk Railway at Weybourne Station, than finding a delicious refreshment selection and platform-side garden to enjoy them in? There’s no fancy service here: hot drinks come in a chunky mug and you choose your cake at the counter. On this occasion I spent a lovely thirty minutes sipping tea and sampling chocolate cake while the steam trains came and went beside me. This selfie is pretty bad, but the two railway volunteers I encountered were so charming, I have to provide their 15 minutes of fame:

North Norfolk Railway | Pauline Wiles

North Norfolk Steam Railway

Tea by a Cathedral

When I saw this picture I assumed Photoshop had been involved to bring a bit of poetic license. But no: if you order afternoon tea at the Swan Hotel in Wells, Somerset, this really is the view you enjoy from the special outdoor terrace:

Swan Hotel, Wells

Swan Hotel, Wells | Photo thanks: Swan Hotel

To my great disappointment, I didn’t actually have a free afternoon in Wells to partake of this tea. I was also travelling alone, making the £35.00 price tag for “tea for two” rather steep. Next time, I’ll remedy that and report back.

Tea in the Garden

Not just any garden here. The Folly Tearoom in Holt, Norfolk has brought a serious splash of interior design skills to its outdoor space with a gorgeous riot of pink umbrellas and plantings. If you’re lucky with the weather, as I was, it’s hard to imagine a more romantic, secluded spot to linger with your tea. They have entirely the right attitude to scones, serving both sweet and savoury, alone or as part of a meal. I enjoyed pea and mint soup accompanied by homemade cheese scones. Classy! Holt is a small market town with a good range of individual boutiques and shops.

Folly Tearoom, Holt

Folly Tearoom, Holt

Tea with Shakespeare

This last one is admittedly not off the beaten track: Stratford-upon-Avon is Shakespeare’s birthplace and visited by over 2 million people each year. I’m sure the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre performances are top notch, but my mind was on other matters the day I visited: afternoon tea in the wonderful rooftop restaurant with a dear friend from university days.

Rooftop Restaurant, Royal Shakespeare Company

Rooftop Restaurant, Royal Shakespeare Company

I’m a huge fan of tea-sized sandwiches and just look at that heap of clotted cream! In this case, I couldn’t quite finish all the tiny cakes, and that’s just as I like it to be. We sat next to huge open doors overlooking the river Avon and I really hope to return here on a future visit.

  • Best value: Weybourne station (come early in the day, as cakes do sell out).
  • Best view: Swan Hotel, Wells (bring a friend as it’s a 2-person minimum).
  • Best hidden gem: Folly Tearoom, Holt (reservations recommended).

As you might imagine, my waistline is feeling the impact of two weeks of feasting, so these tea memories will have to last me through some leaner times!

Where have you enjoyed a memorable tea? In England, or elsewhere?


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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    Tracey Gemmell
    June 4, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve added a few pounds myself during my recent trip home but you and I both know the joy of these special memories make all the lean cottage cheese lunches to come worth it. And … ahem … I’m offering my services for the Swan Hotel tea on your next trip home! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Reply
    Pauline
    June 4, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    That would be so great if we could meet for tea, Tracey!

  3. Reply
    April J Harris
    June 12, 2018 at 6:14 am

    I’ve had many an afternoon tea, but I’ve never tried any of these! Thank you for giving me more options to add to my list of places I want to visit, Pauline. I’m particularly interested in Kew (in 30 years I’ve only been once, which is really bad considering how close we live!) and also Wells. We had a cup of tea and cake at The Almonry at Ely Cathedral last week and that was very nice, although I’ve never had their proper afternoon tea.

    1. Reply
      Pauline
      June 12, 2018 at 6:54 am

      Ely is a charming little town for a wander around, April! Kew would also make a really pleasant day out for you I suspect; Wells is a bit more of a drive… but would make a great weekend break.

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