The unmistakable crackle of an open fire, plush seats you can’t help but sink into overlooking weighty tomes of tales of yore set the scene for one of the region’s most regal afternoon teas.
The traditional English meal has undergone a renaissance of late, with most venues offering their own version of tiered treats. Some good, some bad, and some you wish really hadn’t bothered trying to jump on the bandwagon.
This one, served in the opulent setting of Lumley Castle’s library, gets tea right to a tee.
Six hundred years of history at this grand castle, which has seen royalty walk its winding stone corridors, makes for an atmospheric afternoon of grazing.
Time should be taken over afternoon tea and this is just the place to do it on a chilly autumn day where the setting is as warm as the piping hot scones.
Tea is served daily from 3pm to 5pm and there’s four options from which to choose: the classic grand afternoon tea, Pimms, sparkling and Champagne.
Prices are competitive for a hotel, where you can usually expect to pay a premium rate for teas, starting at £14.95 and peaking at £25.20.
My friend’s baby accompanied us and though diners with buggies in tow may be put off by the castle’s narrow passages and breakable artefacts, the staff were perfectly accommodating and we were able to perch the pram adjacent to our table.
I chose the sparkling option at £20.95 which comes with prosecco as well as tea and coffee. Service is swift and soon after ordering we were cooing over a pretty vintage cake stand.
It’s as traditional a tea as you can get: a base layer of fruit scones with lashings of butter, cream and jam, a middle layer of dainty finger sandwiches, which on this occasion included tuna, beef and cheese savoury, with a plate of sweet treats to top it off.
The latter was a smorgasbord of sinful treats including a zesty lemon drizzle, the ubiquitous macarons and a dinky panna cotta topped with swirls of cream and a mini shortbread.
As the wind howled outside, we felt no need to rush and spent two hours picking our way through the morsels to the background clink of bone china.
I’ve had pricier afternoon teas, I’ve had more adventurous teas, but this was traditional English tea in a setting fit for a king.