At the end of last week my sister and I had a rather civilised afternoon taking high tea at Stoke Rochford Hall near Grantham in Lincolnshire. The Hall, which is an old manor house close to where Sir Isaac Newton did his teacher training, is a beautiful traditional building in an expanse of gardens both formal and informal. I was given the opportunity to review the Afternoon Tea for Two experience by Asda Gifts.
The Hall and the setting were lovely. It was a proper old manor house with lots of history but having been renovated very recently following a fire in 2005 everything was clean and in good repair – no worn out carpet, peeling paint or wobbly bannisters. As good children of an ex-history teacher my sister and I sat and read the little booklet telling us all about the place before we ate – we found it interesting that the fire place was not sold along with the house in 1970s – the black and white marble fireplace in the Oak Room is still owned by the family. It was actually a very nice place for a walk, we did wander around a little but it was so cold and started to snow (and we were being chased by a chicken!) so we headed inside to wait for our booked time.
We found the staff really friendly. We checked in at reception and were collected by our waitress for the afternoon straight away (we were 15 minutes early) who took us to the Oak Room and our table. We were the only ones in there – it was very quiet, it could have done with some classical music in the background or something to break the silence. It was a really lovely location, the chairs were comfortable, and there was plenty of space at our table. The fire was lit which made the large room feel cosy. Our waitress brought us tea straight away (there was a simple choice of tea or coffee) and we sat and chatted whilst enjoying the views across the park through the massive windows.
The food arrived a few minutes later – a plate of sandwiches and a cake stand with scones, fruit tarts and cakes. The sandwiches were four each of crab, cucumber, and beef and horseradish on different types of medium sliced bread. They were cut into triangles, with the crusts on – this was a rustic easy going afternoon rather than silver service, which suited the surroundings and the price. They were all very nice; the crab was definitely our favourite, closely followed by the beef.
Next we moved on to the three tier cake stand. The fruit scones were slightly warm – we think they were home made but a little hard so probably frozen and defrosted in the oven. They were served with plenty of jam and clotted cream and were definitely a highlight of the afternoon tea.
The fruit tart, brownie and fruit cake were definitely full portions – again, rustic rather than dainty. Actually they were probably a bit too large; there was no way we could eat it all, it was like having three puddings! The tart was nice – a cream filling with fresh fruit on top, the brownie was totally chocolatey, and the fruit cake was moist and full of flavour. There was butter available on the table for the scones and fruit cake should we have wanted it.
We had four cups of tea each, although we could have easily drunk another couple each should we have been offered more. I’d say it was simply a case of the tea pot being far too small – only two cups of tea out of each pot meant we relied on our waitress to refill the pot each time we had a cup. It either needed a bigger pot, or we needed a pot of water alongside. It was actually a bit odd the waitress didn’t come back into the room after bringing the food and refilling the teapot for what was the last time – she didn’t come back to ask if the food was fine or check if we needed more drink. We even left unnoticed. The fact we weren’t bothered meant we could sit and chat to our heart’s content, but I couldn’t help thinking we were left to our own devices a little too much. I expect had there been other customers we’d have seen more of her and would have had our pot refilled more often. Or maybe four cups of tea was our limit!
Despite the fact we could have drunk a lot more tea we both really enjoyed our afternoon of civilised dining at Stoke Rochford Hall. We had our fill (more than our fill) of lovely sandwiches and cakes, and having grown up holidaying in Cornwall I am rather fond of a scone with jam and clotted cream. It was a really lovely afternoon chatting, eating and watching the world go by, and I am very happy to have ticked another thing off my Things To Do list.
We’d definitely do this again as paying customers, either at Stoke Rochford Hall or somewhere else; it would have cost us £35 for the Tea for Two voucher from Asda Gifts which allows you to choose from over 80 locations across the country.