Anyone for Afternoon Tea?
With eating out back ON, team Muddy Herts and Beds dutifully stepped up to the plate to try the al fresco Afternoon Tea at Sopwell House...
Who doesn’t love Afternoon Tea? Dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, bottomless tea from a proper china pot and basically an excuse to dress up and spend a couple of hours gossiping with the girls in a lovely setting. So when Muddy’s Jo and I were invited to Sopwell House to try theirs, we jumped at the chance to break out of the lockdown shackles. I mean, I think I almost ran there…
The boutique hotel on the outskirts of St Albans oozes class and sophistication with its Georgian facade and gorgeous gardens, so much so that I could almost physically feel my shoulders drop in relaxation the moment I stepped out of my car.
If you’re familiar with the hotel already you’ll notice the addition of a new marquee on the front lawn – erected to cater for the al fresco diners before the restrictions eased on indoor eating.
It’s certainly not the cumbersome white box that you might expect, but an elegant clear structure, with open sides, allowing guests to enjoy the lush surroundings, whilst cocooned from rogue showers. And given the bonkers weather of late – pouring with rain when I left home and gloriously sunny as we were handed our Champagne, thank you very much! – we were pretty relieved of the cover, and of the heaters, which kept out the Spring chill. It felt a bit like sitting under a giant skylight as the sunshine beamed down on us.
On the other tables were a group of glam girls celebrating a birthday, casual walk-in diners and Spa guests donning fluffy white robes and slippers. The staff were delightful and could not have been more attentive, without pestering – swooping in to refresh our tea and sandwiches at just the right moments. Crisp white tablecloths and colourful Missoni-esque cushions completed the elegant feel.
Naturally, there’s a brand new (hands-free, I might add) Terrace Menu to accompany the all-weather dining set-up, including everything from a Full English to a Club Sandwich and, of course, Afternoon Tea.
Along with our glasses of fizz we were offered a choice of loose leaf teas – I plumped for the Darjeeling and Jo for the English Breakfast – before we were presented with a gorgeous selection of sweet and savoury delicacies, sitting pretty on three tiers.
The sandwich fillings included smoked chicken and sun-blushed tomato mayo, cucumber and lemon cream cheese (which had a lovely fresh zing), smoked salmon and dill butter on beetroot bread and free range truffled egg and cress.
To follow (or not, depending on how you eat your Afternoon Tea!) were the fluffiest (and still slightly warm) plain and raisin scones, a pomegranate cheescake, chocolate ‘snicker’, blackberry opera cake (layers of black forest gateau-style delicious-ness), a strawberry éclair, the most beautiful sunshine-y yellow passionfruit macaroon, a pretty passionfruit and orange battenburg and my favourite, a lemon and raspberry marshmallow tart.
Being a veggie was no problem either, as mashed avo, roasted veg with houmous, and cheese and pickle sandwiches replaced chicken, smoked salmon and egg fillings, which definitely didn’t feel like sloppy substitutes, plus gelatine-free sweet alternatives were provided, too.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
A lovely Afternoon Tea, with all the trimmings, in gorgeous and calming surroundings (why not explore the grounds while you’re there). It would make a special experience for a birthday or celebration if you live locally and is worth the drive even if you don’t.
From £29.95 per person Monday-Friday (£34.95 on Saturdays and Sundays). Choose from a glass of Taittinger Brut Reserve NV Champagne or Pimm’s for an additional cost. Children’s Afternoon Tea is also available at £16 per head. Click here to book.