REVIEW: Edwardian afternoon tea, Beamish, County Durham

1900s town, Beamish Museum
1900s town, Beamish Museum
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Visitors to Beamish have long been able to walk in the footsteps of Edwardians, go to school like an Edwardian and even pretend to have their teeth pulled like one. And now you can take afternoon tea like one of your ancestors too.

Earlier this year everyone’s favourite outdoor museum (let’s face it, who doesn’t love Beamish) began serving the meal of the moment, afternoon tea.

Edwardian afternoon tea at Beamish

Edwardian afternoon tea at Beamish

Though the teas have undergone a renaissance of late, with contemporary versions popping up all over the shop, it seems fitting to enjoy this most traditional of English meals in the cobbled surroundings of the site’s Edwardian town.

We felt quite the ladies who lunch as we were seated in the Cookson Room, which forms part of the Tearooms, which is named, not after the famous author, but in honour of Tyneside industrialist Roland Cookson.

The room has more of a sense of occasion about it than the rest of the tearooms, with wooden booths made from old train seats that wouldn’t look out of place on the Orient Express. Meanwhile, the music, which though more 1950s dance hall than Edwardian, also helps to evoke a sense of yesteryear.

Afternoon teas are pre-booked so service is prompt once you’ve taken your pews.

Proceedings begin with a refreshing elderflower cordial, served in a Champagne flute so it’s almost like having a boozy afternoon tea - which would probably have been highly frowned upon in the age of temperance.

As you’d expect from Beamish, attention to detail is key. The teas have been devised by Sarah Gallagher, a catering assistant at the museum who spent months researching the foods which would have been available at the time.

Served on the kind of chintzy china which has become a hipster staple of late, there’s the traditional three tiers.

I’ve had pricier afternoon teas when sandwiches are skimped on but here you get eight fingers between you, filled with egg mayonnaise, cheese and chunky pickle, ham and tomato and cucumber and cream cheese. Anyone who’s eaten at the adjacent tearooms will know Beamish make cracking sandwiches and stotties.

Next up, plump scones which are just the right side of crumbly, while being sturdy enough to withstand the lashings of velvety clotted cream and jam.

Unlike sorry-looking shop-bought versions they were satisfyingly fresh, as you’d expect from baked goods which were whipped up at the Herron’s Bakery next door.

The cakes are also proper cakes, none of your highfalutin macaroons here. You get two of each to work your way through: a bite-size chocolate eclair, a light chocolate sponge topped with a splodge of cream, a soft and chewy flapjack and a pretty fruit tart.

It was a perfect pit-stop lunch for a mooch around Beamish. Good, honest grub, done well.

•Prices are £13.95 per person (£10.95 child) for Unlimited Pass holders or £23.95 (£16.95 child) for non-Pass holders which includes day admission. Gluten and dairy-free options also available.