Sip while you shop at Annabel’s in Chislehurst

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Londoners who read the Property section of last Wednesday’s Evening Standard may have noticed a two page spread on Chislehurst (Kent), a town just up the road from me. The article highlighted all the perks of living in the area with a special mention and photo of Annabel’s – a shop come tea room. Annabel’s just happens to be one of my favourite local shops, where a good friend is both manager and buyer, so I thought I’d add some details behind the picture in the paper.

First and foremost, Annabel’s ticks all the boxes in my top tea room criteria. This includes: delicious cake, tasty scones, pretty china, tea leaves, little forks and tablecloths. What more could you ask for? We had the carrot and the orange cake followed by scones – ’tis the season to treat yourself after all!

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Secondly, Annabel’s stocks a range of wonderful luxury English gifts and household items from picture frames and teapots to scarves and handbags. Christmas is a great time to pop in and I left with a bag of gorgeous decorations trumping all those available at Christmas Markets I’ve recently visited.

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There are two Annabel’s stores in Chislehurst: a boutique in Royal Parade and the shop mentioned (including tea room) in the main high street. Personally I love the latter with the option of sipping while I shop. It also has this gorgeous window seat, with the design of the window itself adding to the English charm of the store, where you can look out over the pond.

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Top tips for hosting a traditional Afternoon Tea Party

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The thing I enjoy most about afternoon tea is how pretty and quaint it all is. It’s all about the visual when cake and tea turns into a par-tea! Here’s my top tips for making yours a success:

1) Tea pots and cups are a must…

…raised pinkie is optional! Whether they are a bone china matching set or a random mix you picked up from a boot fair, to host a truly English Tea Party a tea pot, cups and saucers must be out in full force. Don’t forget a milk jug!

2) Cake stands make the table

What better way to display your cakes?  If you have a three tier you can layer up with sandwiches, scones and cakes all in one place. Mini cakes are usually best here, and don’t forget to add some colour – fondant fancies and cupcakes are good for this!

3) Scones, jam and cream need to feature

If you’re hosting for a large group get a mix of fruit and plain for all those raisin haters, and lovers, out there…

4) Keep it cute

Cut your sandwiches into mini triangles or squares and opt for pretty, patterned serviettes. It’s all in the presentation.

5) Keep the food simple

Unless you know your guests’ food likes and dislikes well, I find it best to stick to the classics in terms of the cakes and sandwich fillings. E.g. cheese, ham, salmon and cucumber sandwiches. I made cream cheese bagels, with salmon, cucumber and chives, cut into quarters at this year’s event…they were gobbled up in minutes! For cakes, fondant fancies, victoria sponge, carrot and chocolate cake are usual top picks for my guests. Don’t forget to get some soft drinks in for when your guests have had enough tea. I like elder flower cordial and sparkling water.

I’d love to see any pictures from your Afternoon Tea Parties! Email me at laura@taketeawithme.co.uk or tag on Instagram @take.tea.with.me!

Vintage Tea in Totnes

Vintage Tea Totnes

On a wet week day in Devon, when my rain mac was leaving me feeling a little less than glamorous, I decided to ramp up the sophistication and go for a cream tea at Vintage Tea in Totnes. Those of you familiar with the town will know of its quirky cuteness – a well loved place that’s worth a visit for the high street alone.

Vintage Tea still has that valued local business feel that is so important to the area, using only local providers, but also offers something a little different. It was a soothing escape from the dreary Thursday afternoon outside; almost transporting us to another era with fine bone china, luxury linen table cloths and classic jazz music in its light and airy tea room. Bliss.

It’s not the cheapest of places for the area and is definitely more of an elegant treat, but what a treat it was. Too charming for words and their house blend (a mix of Earl Grey and Ceylon) is well worth a cup.

The Lavender House Café

Tea at Lavender House Cafe

If you’re in the Bromley area looking for a good cream tea, it’s well worth a trip to the Lavender House Cafe After my first visit last Saturday I’ve already decided this is going to be added to my little list of ‘regulars’ for both brunch and afternoon tea.

We visited on Halloween and, as a place that goes out of its way to give that little bit extra with various events such as Pilates, Mummy Mondays and Pottery and Crafts, it’s not surprising the Lavender House Cafe was neatly decorated with bats and pumpkin fairy lights for a Halloween themed day. The staff had also made the effort to dress up and offered face painting for both adults and children from 9am-4pm.

On entering through the main door you face quaint tables and chairs, a cushioned window seat, bunting, and a vintage cabinet filled with tempting treats. You make your orders at the counter, which freely displays all the cakes in glass cases. I don’t know about you, but I definitely like to eye up the cake selection before choosing and am a sucker for the aesthetics. As such, I opted for the hummingbird cake which was a fantastic slice of delicious moistness.

Hummingbird Cake at The Lavender House Cafe

One of the big perks of the Lavender House is it also has a garden, so as it was a warm, sunny day we opted to make the most of it on the patio. Despite having a climbing frame and many little skeletons, witches and princesses running around excited for the holiday the place somehow managed to become a perfect haven for both adults and children. Both my friend and I are single and childless and as such usually notice when we’re relaxing right next to a playground, but everything blended perfectly well here. The house also has a kid’s lunch menu, including a brightly coloured card board lunch box that the (rather adorable) ‘little monsters’ 😉 could unpack at their leisure.Eggs Royale Lavender House Cafe

In addition to cake the Lavender House Café also offers a brunch and lunch menu, including a daily specials board to keep things varied with changing soups and other popular dishes. Despite being mainly bread based with classics such as eggs royale (my choice), benedict and your more hangover friendly sausage sandwiches, the menu had a lot of choice and also included the popular American style pancakes. Gluten free bread was readily available, as were ‘skinny’ versions of hot chocolate and coffee which still proved delicious and beckoned second servings.

Skinny but scrummy Hot Chocolate!
Skinny but scrummy Hot Chocolate!

For the cream tea itself The Lavender House café offers a variety for taste and budget (please check website for latest prices):

  • A very reasonably priced simple cream tea
  • A luxury cream tea with strawberry press and strawberries
  • OR…you can go all out and throw in sandwiches, macaroons and a slice of cake on a three tier stand for £10.00.

It’s no surprise the place is very popular so visiting, and booking a table to avoid disappointment, is highly recommended!

Afternoon Tea and a Film at the Charlotte Street Hotel

Charlotte-Stree-Hotel-Afternoon-TeaI have visited the Charlotte Street Hotel four times in the last 2 years. Why? It’s easy, affordable and that perfect middle ground between fancy and informal. I’ve visited for a 1940s themed birthday party before heading to the Blitz Party, with my mum, a friend and even on a first date. It was the perfect setting for all occasions.

The hotel is part of the Firmdale hotel group and I’ve heard good things about all of them, but something always draws me back here. Maybe it’s the brightly coloured Oscar bar and restaurant, the social design of the tables with round and corner seats, the friendly staff, delicious cake and cream teas or the fact they serve afternoon tea until 6pm. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll be going again!
The tea itself offers all you would expect from a top restaurant, a varied list of tea leaves, delicate china, neat sandwiches with a regularly updated menu, fruit and plain scones and a mix of classic and modern cakes all served on pretty three tier cake stands. Staff are more than happy to top you up with whatever you need and my favourite finishing touch is the little mini ice-cream cone they offer when you pay your bill. Refreshing passion fruit sorbet anyone?

Guests can opt for just the afternoon tea at £23.50 per person, or tea and the ‘film club’ (also available as a set menu dinner and a film) for £35.00 per person (please check hotel page for latest prices.) The latter is quite special. After enjoying your meal in the restaurant you grab a bag of popcorn and a drink (included), make your way through to the hotel’s private cinema room and take your pick from a comfy arm chair at the side or large seat in the rows in the centre. In terms of showings they offer a real variety, including many current releases and themed showings around Halloween and Christmas which book up quickly. With the price of just a film thesedays it’s no wonder many people opt to pay that little bit extra and cinema in style with the Firmdale group.

Check out what’s currently showing at the Film Club!

 

Traditional Tea at The Milestone Hotel

Afternoon Tea at The Milestone HotelFor my birthday this year I wanted to try somewhere new, somewhere special, somewhere I could be truly spoiled for the day.  Sceptical, but with growing optimism due to glowing trip advisor reviews, I put full faith in a Guardian ranking and visited their number one traditional tea at  The Milestone Hotel, Kensington (priced at £38 per person at time of visit – please check hotel page for the latest price). A place I had never heard of, and yet it was simply the best tea I have had to date. Quite the statement I know, but let me tell you why…

First and foremost, let’s talk about the setting. If you’re in the mood for noise, crowds and rushing this is not the place for you. I recommend booking tea in the Park Lounge – an exquisite, cosy room with limited spaces. You feel as though you have gone back in time with traditional decor, lounging on large arm chairs and sofas, with fire glowing as delightful staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome and well fed. If you’re lucky, as we were, you can also catch glimpses of Kensington palace from the window. Due to the quaint, exclusive feel of the lounge, I’d recommend visiting only in smaller groups.

Valeport In Action Photo and Video CompetitionThe unrivaled customer service is clear the moment the doorman welcomes you inside. For tea itself you can choose a Traditional, Gentleman’s and even Little Prince and Princess tea for those visiting with children. Everyone is catered for here. The sitting itself is 1.5 hours, which worried me as someone known to spend four in the right company, but we had ample time.

For the blend I chose the Apple and Elderflower,  venturing away from the safe English Breakfast. Needless to say, it was delicious and went down perfectly with a wonderful glass of champagne.

Now for the really important stuff – the food. For sandwiches, I was blown away by the Milestone’s signature cucumber, greek yoghurt and chicken sandwich – round in shape and rolled in almonds, I’m yet to try anything like it since. The waiter also offered a charming story of how it came to be, but you’ll have to go yourself to hear it 😉

For cake, personally not a fan of over-emphasis on fancy pastries, I was very impressed by their varied cake selection. Meringues, macaroons, cheesecake, tarts, cupcakes…you name it, they had it – and plenty of it too. My favourite was the carrot cake with pistachio icing. Pure genius!

For the icing on the birthday cake, let me summarise: a complimentary glass of champagne, my very own celebration cake, candle and song from staff, constant offerings of re-fills on tea, a take-away box with my favourites and a patient waiter happy to take all the photos you want (while of course being courteous to other guests). With all this in mind, and London prices, the experience proved good value for money and I thoroughly recommend it for any special occasion.

Visited: Feb 2015