To celebrate National Afternoon Tea Week I sampled a traditional Afternoon Tea yesterday with two friends at SIX, the restaurant at The Varsity Hotel in Cambridge.
SIX is located on the top floor beneath The Roof Top Garden of The Varsity Hotel and Spa with its own terraces for al fresco dining and breathtaking 360° panoramic views across the Cambridge skyline.
We were spoilt with sweet treats at SIX which included a three chocolate mousse mini-dessert, a blueberry and custard tartlet, an orange and chocolate macaron and an indulgent dark chocolate truffle. I was delighted that we were able to order fresh pots of tea at no additional cost too.
SIX is located on the sixth floor of this boutique hotel with floor to ceiling windows ensuring spectacular views of the historic Cambridge skyline. This is certainly a magnificent location for enjoying Afternoon Tea in Cambridge, and the food and service are of a high standard so it ticks all the boxes.
The traditional Afternoon Tea at SIX remains faithful to the classic combination of finger sandwiches, followed by warm scones served accompanied by clotted cream and Jam and a selection of sweet treats. I was particularly impressed with the extensive loose-leaf tea menu which featured many interesting and unusual blends from Ceylon, China, and India.
Vegetarian and gluten free Afternoon Tea options are available and booking is essential as all the food is freshly-made daily.
Afternoon Tea at SIX is available Monday to Friday: 2 pm – 4.30 pm at £19.50 per person or on Saturday and Sunday: 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm at £24.50 per person.
Afternoon Tea Week is an annual celebration of one of this nation’s favourite traditions. Whether it’s enjoyed in a 5-star hotel, or as a home baked treat, we British love the combination of savoury and sweet treats, accompanied by some of the 165 million cups of tea we drink each day in the UK!
Last week I had lunch at the award-winning Packhorse Inn with two friends to celebrate a birthday. It was a glorious summer day and our meal at this five star AA restaurant and hotel owned by the Chestnut Group didn’t disappoint. Moulton is an idyllic village located to the north east of Newmarket, and just beyond “The Gallops” where they exercise the racehorses.
The Packhorse Inn is located on Bridge Street, in the picturesque village of Moulton near Newmarket, the home of horse-racing
Starter of Quail
Salmon and dill fishcakes, fish cream, fennel salad
Starter – Blow-torched mackerell
My rissotto main course was a hearty portion!
Scampi with fries
Another main course – Sea trout with globe artichokes
We all enjoyed our splendid three-course meal from the a la carte menu which was beautifully presented. The bill came to £40 per person including drinks which I thought was on the pricey side, but then this was a birthday celebration lunch so it was well worth pushing the boat out!
Last Sunday my daughter and I enjoyed an excellent Afternoon Tea in The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes Hotel and SPA, near St. Neots in Bedfordshire. To celebrate my daughters birthday we were booked into the hotel for the *Sunday Runaway spa package, (details below). Set in 350 acres, this modern 4 star hotel and spa, with a golf course and leisure centre is 2.8 miles from the market town of St. Neots.
The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes is in a lovely location
We were delighted to receive a glass of bubbly on the house as it was a special occasion
*SUNDAY RUNAWAY Y Spa stay
This Sunday night break includes dinner, bed and breakfast, and a full day’s use of thermal spa facilities on Monday which includes a two-course buffet lunch and a choice of one of the following treatments.
Afternoon Tea was served on pretty bespoke china with linen napkins
Unusually The Tamburlaine Afternoon Tea was served on a floor-standing three tiered stand
The finger sandwiches were freshly made with delicious fillings of egg, smoked salmon, ham and cheese and cucumber
The large freshly baked raisin and plain scones were served warm, and there were two of each
The top tier held a selection of gorgeous miniature cakes and sweet and tangy Mango Panna Cotta mini desserts
The scones were light and fluffy and served with strawberry jam and fresh cream
This brand new four-star hotel is the first UK property from the Irish O’Callaghan group, who own four stylish hotels in Dublin. The Tamburlaine is ideally located on Station Road close to the rail station at the heart of the extensive regeneration of this business and residential area, which has now changed out of all recognition. The 155-room hotel had only been open for three weeks when I visited yesterday, and work is still ongoing inside and out. The staff are very friendly and enthusiastic and they gave us a guided tour after our tea. I noticed that the restaurant has an impressive fine dining menu which I intend to sample sometime.
By the way, the hotel’s name Tamburlaine references a 16th-century play by Christopher Marlowe, who attended Corpus Christi College in the city.
My friend and I were celebrating her birthday and taking Afternoon Tea amid the genteel grandeur of the Colonial-style Garden Room made an excellent start to her celebrations. With ornate Victorian wallpaper and gorgeous silk velvet sofas, this is an exceptionally light and splendid room with a unique style.
The Tamburlaine traditional Afternoon Tea cost £21.50 per person and is priced on the high side for Cambridge, so not the best value for money but the surroundings more than compensate with a strong sense of occasion. One minor quibble though – I was surprised that a selection of loose-leaf tea blends wasn’t available, although we could have unlimited tea or coffee to accompany the food. Highly recommended.
Tamburlaine 27-29 Station Road Cambridge CB1 2FB Tel: 01223 792888
This week I had not one but two good reasons to celebrate as it’s the 2nd anniversary of the date I started my blog and it was a friends birthday, so we treated ourselves to a delicious Full Afternoon Tea at the Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa in Newmarket, Suffolk.
We ate in the elegant Squires restaurant which although contemporary was the epitome of comfort and luxury that one would expect from a 4 star country house hotel. It was very quiet on a Thursday afternoon so we had the restaurant entirely to ourselves. The service was friendly and attentive, and we were offered limitless refills of pots of tea which I always think is a prerequisite of an Afternoon Tea, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen everywhere.
The food was freshly-made and served on attractive Villeroy and Boch china, with white linen napkins and tablecloths. The finger sandwiches had exceptionally tasty fillings and were generously filled. The scones were extremely light and still warm when served with the very best lemon curd I have tasted anywhere. In fact, I liked it so much I asked if they sold it in pots to take home. (They didn’t!) We also had both plain and fruit scones, with plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam.
In addition to a delightful selection of cakes and sweet treats we also enjoyed a refreshing seasonal fruit sundae served with a dark chocolate spoon, which was a lovely touch.
Presentation of the Afternoon Tea was especially attractive and appetising. Although we had skipped lunch deliberately we soon ran out of room, so a selection of cakes were boxed up for us to take home to enjoy later.
We had a guided tour of the elite spa adjacent to the hotel which has superb facilities at surprisingly affordable prices, so we plan to book a spa day there soon.
Newmarket is the ancestral home of British horseracing and a unique town in Suffolk which is well worth a visit. The Bedford Lodge Hotel would be an ideal location to stay, and I’m more than happy to recommend Afternoon Tea at the award-winning Squires restaurant – which is open to non-residents.
Next time I visit I intend to try the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea which was a quirky twist on the traditional. Our Afternoon Tea was £18.95 per person which was exceptionally good value, and is served from 2.30 to 5.30pm, throughout the year. This stylish hotel is set in lovely grounds and there is ample parking.
I only have one minor quibble, and that is the tea was not loose-leaf which one would expect from a hotel of this quality, but a selection of teas were available (or coffee if preferred).
This week Steve and I dined at Cotto in it’s new home at The Gonville Hotel in Cambridge. The reopening of this highly acclaimed restaurant has been long-awaited and much anticipated, so after reading lots of ecstatic reviews we were very keen to see what has been a triumphant return for ourselves. Readers we weren’t disappointed – as the food, the service and the ambiance were all delightful. The perfectly cooked dishes were well-devised with interesting flavour combinations, and the presentation was nothing less than fine art on a plate. This is special occasion fine dining at it’s absolute best!
I chose ‘Chocolate Time‘ for my dessert – Papouasie Milk, Single Estates Dark and Milk Ice Cream.
The fine detail of this stunning dessert designed by Masterchef and chocolatier Hans Schweitzer was awesome. The plate was covered in a fine chocolate spiral which was so perfect I thought it was actually a design on the china !
Sublime, superb, and supreme are just three of the superlatives I could use to describe the Cotto dining experience. This is an inspirational partnership between The Gonville Hotel and the restaurant. Now in the perfect location overlooking Parker’s Piece with the welcome additions of the hotel’s bar and car park Cotto can only go from strength to strength. We loved the design of the new restaurant which has been purpose built and is light, bright and welcoming, with décor which oozes taste and class. The attention to detail is obvious and the service is exemplary from a young, well-trained team who are professional, friendly and attentive without being intrusive.
We started our evening with a Gin and Tonic at the hotel bar and with dinner Steve chose a dry white wine from Germany – Schloss Johannesburg Yellow Seal, and I drank Prosecco.
Booking in advance is essential and prices are £65 for three courses (minimum) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and £70 on Fridays and Saturdays. Expensive yes, but well worth it for a special dining experience which never disappoints.
Last week I had a lovely day out in London with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We started our day with a visit to The Switch House, – the new extension to the Tate Modern gallery in Southwark which opened to the public in June 2016.
Having skipped lunch we were looking forward to enjoying a full Afternoon Tea at our next destination The Wolseley, a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition located on Piccadilly, London.
In a classy and relaxed atmosphere we enjoyed The Wolseley’s full traditional Afternoon Tea, which had a lovely selection of finger sandwiches and small cakes, with freshly baked warm fruit scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a choice of loose-leaf teas. At £28.50 per person I considered this to be excellent value, as we were offered more sandwiches and a second pot of tea at no extra charge. Although this place is always busy the service is remarkably good because they have lots of staff. The ambiance is buzzing and it was a super place for people-watching! It’s good to know that their scones and pastries are made on the premises, with an ever-changing selection of cakes, which typically might include a Battenberg or Sachertorte. Everything was perfection, from the white linen napkins, the marble-topped tables, the silver cutlery and tableware, to the bespoke china. We felt that this Afternoon Tea provided a quality experience and it’s the perfect venue for a special occasion. Highly recommended if you are looking for somewhere to eat in London, but booking is advisable.
The sandwiches were freshly-made and especially tasty with fillings of Chicken and tarragon, Smoked Salmon, Celery and Tomato, Cream cheese and cucumber, and Egg and Watercress.
A full Afternoon Tea is served from 3.00pm (3.30pm at weekends).
First opened as a prestigious car showroom in 1921 for Wolseley Motors Limited, the venue became The Wolseley in 2003 and soon became the famous institution it is today.
The Bar at The Gilbert Scott offers flavour, ingredients and theatre and provides the ultimate cocktail experience in show-stopping 19th century surroundings. Guests are welcome for drinks on a drop-in basis, and although I thought it was expensive, it was well worth it for a special occasion.
Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. It’s Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. Based in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, and the new Switch House extension provides one of the best panoramic views over London free of charge, so it’s well worth a visit. As with the UK’s other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space.
Part 2 of our German road trip along the Middle Rhine area, including Koblenz and Cologne, and a mini-cruise on a boat which was part of the flotilla bound for the spectacular Rhine in Flames Festival at Oberwesel, (more firework pics follow later in this post.)
We continued our journey to Koblenz, one of Germany’s oldest and most beautiful cities, situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle.
One of our stops was at Rüdesheim on The Rhine, a romantic and picturesque winemaking town in the Rhine Gorge and thereby part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. We found it very busy in September and extremely popular with tourists.
I enjoyed another iced coffee and Steve had a *Rüdesheimer Kaffee, which he liked so much he brought home both the special cup and a bottle of Asbach brandy!
*Rüdesheimer Kaffee is an alcoholic coffee drink from Rudesheim am Rhein in Germany invented in 1957 by television chef, Hans Karl Adam. A delicious and popular drink in coffee houses, it’s made by adding Asbach Brandy and sugar cubes to a cup specially designed for this beverage. The brandy is flambéed and stirred for a minute until the sugar dissolves. Strong coffee is added, followed by a topping of thickly whipped cream sweetened with vanilla sugar, and finally chocolate flakes are sprinkled on top.
We couldn’t resist another spectacular cable-car ride to the world-famous Niederwald Denkmal monument topped by the iconic central statue of Germania, from which there is one of the most scenic views over The Rhine Valley.
On another day our travels took us to Beilstein, which must surely be one of the Moselle Valley’s most picturesque old towns, nestled on a beautiful stretch of the river.
Every nook, cranny and corner of Beilstein was visually charming, with it’s magical fairy-tale style architecture.
In the middle of our holiday came the highlight of our trip when we embarked on a mini-cruise from Koblenz to Oberwesel bound for The Rhine in Flames event.This firework extravaganza was really special, although it’s almost impossible to capture in photographs the magical atmosphere of being there and seeing the images live ….
As dusk fell we became aware that we were one amongst dozens of boats which were all headed for Oberwesel where the Rhine in Flames display took place.
Prominent buildings in Oberwesel were floodlit which added to the spectacle from our vantage point in a boat on the river. The display lasted a full 30 minutes and was accompanied by classical music. We both agreed it was the most impressive firework display we had seen anywhere, and The Rhine in Flames more than lived up to our expectations.
From Koblenz we moved onto the elegant city of Cologne for a few days before returning home…..
Cologne Cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. Currently it’s the tallest twin-spired church at 157 metres, which dominates the skyline. Cologne is the fourth-largest city in Germany, with more than ten million inhabitants. Steve and I had visited Cologne before for the Christmas markets, and liked it so much we had been keen to return in warmer weather.
We found a busy ‘holiday’ atmosphere along the Rhine embankment with lots of river excursions, stunning old town houses, hotels/restaurants galore and a vibrant nightlife.
A final beer and a final nightcap at the end of a memorable road trip! We will be returning to Germany in December to explore the Christmas markets of Hamburg.
Regular readers will know that it’s very rare for me to write a negative review about anywhere, but our date night last week started with a disappointment and ended with a delight from two very contrasting places in Cambridge. Steve and I tried The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill for dinner because he fancied a steak, and this restaurant had been recommended. Unfortunately it failed to live up to our expectations for several reasons, although the location is excellent as it overlooks Quayside and Magdalene College. The River Bar is one the restaurants of The Cambridge Varsity Hotel located in Thompson’s Lane. Stylish and contemporary it promised much, but the food and delivery could have been better.
The combination of flavours worked well in the frittata, but the problem was the egg continued to cook in the hot pan, so it became rubbery in texture.
Unfortunately the food looked better than it tasted, and we weren’t keen on the presentation. All the hot dishes on the menu were served in cast iron frying pans which didn’t work well with my egg-based dish. What’s wrong with plates!
This place is expensive and not good value for money in our opinion, as we paid £70 for three dishes and three drinks. From a high end restaurant we expect at least table linen, and complimentary bread. I asked for a jug of tap water and although our glasses were filled by waiting staff they were very reluctant to leave the water with me. The service was swift and overly attentive, so we felt rushed in and out. I understand that The River Bar focuses on wine and cocktails, but we were surprised that only bottled beer was available. (A small bottle cost an over-priced £4.90!) It is a hotel bar so we can’t be the only ones who would have expected to see at least one draught beer. Needless to say that overall we didn’t enjoy this dining experience, and wouldn’t recommend it as a destination restaurant.
However it was only 9pm and the night was still young when we left the restaurant, so determined to salvage the evening we intended to move onto a pub for more drinks. Walking around the corner from Quayside into Bridge Street we were attracted to the brightly lit Bridge Street Wine Bar, part of the Cambridge Wine Merchant group, which looked very inviting with the red glow of it’s tea-lights.
Cambridge Wine Merchants Bridge Street Wine Bar
We were greeted warmly on arrival and shown to a table where we found a lovely ambiance, knowledgeable staff and an interesting and eclectic drinks menu. I drank a local cider, Side-R Strawberryfrom Glebe Farm, Steve chose a glass of Les Sablières Cotes Du Rhone, and we tried a couple of the more obscure gins. I enjoyed a glass of Mason’s Yorkshire Tea Gin, and Steve sampled Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin from Germany, which he liked so much he ended up buying a bottle to take home!
The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and along with our drinks we shared a cheese plate (White Lady and Suffolk Blue from a selection) with red onion chutney and crackers. It’s table service and the staff are very happy to help with drink recommendations and answer any questions.
It was the perfect way to end the evening and we will definitely return to the Bridge Street Wine Bar for a drink next time we are in the area. It doesn’t surprise me that Cambridge Wine Merchants have been voted the UK’s no.1 Independent Drinks Retailer no less than three times, and they have other shops in Cambridge on Cherry Hinton Road, Mill Road and Kings Parade. It’s worth checking out their website for ‘tasting’ events too.
For one of my birthday treats this week my daughter took me for Afternoon Tea at Poets House, which is a charming hotel in the heart of historic Ely, in Cambridgeshire.
Originally consisting of three Grade II listed properties of the early 1900s, Poets House is a uniquely stylish hotel, restaurant and event venue. A blend of original charm with innovative contemporary interiors, this hotel combines luxury and comfort. We both felt that this would be a lovely hotel for tourists to stay in.
The Study is a light, airy, relaxing lounge and bar where we sank into the sofas and ate from low marble topped tables, whilst sampling the Poets House traditional afternoon tea. We chose a pot of tea each from an extensive range to accompany a selection of finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and jam, and mini-cakes and a dessert. Fresh pots of tea were available at no extra charge, and we drank copious amounts of iced water, as it was one of the hottest days of the year.
The finger sandwiches were filled with smoked salmon and lemon creme fraiche, cucumber with dill cream cheese, honey roast ham and mustard, and egg with peppery watercress. They were extremely fresh and obviously made to order as we had quite a wait before the food arrived. Likewise the scones were warm from the oven and freshly-baked, and probably tasted better than any other ‘afternoon tea scones’ we had eaten anywhere. The scone recipe was different and my daughter (who is a baker) described the texture as resembling a sponge. These melt in the mouth scones were accompanied by a very generous amount of Devonshire clotted cream, and a choice of preserve.
The top tier held a lovely-looking selection of sweet treats which were a disappointment upon tasting. The blackcurrant panna cotta dessert hadn’t set properly, (possibly due to the heat) and the macarons had a peanut butter filling, which we found quite an odd combination.
Service was on the slow side, but efficient and friendly. A nice leisurely way to spend an afternoon in elegant surroundings, and a birthday treat for me, complete with a greeting and candles!
I noticed that unusually a Childrens Afternoon Tea was available at £4.25.
This Afternoon Tea cost £15 a per person, and needs to be pre-booked