Off the beaten track this quirky tea room is worth tiptoeing past the chickens for
Today’s #AfternoonTeaWeek visit is to ARTea Tea Rooms at Wakefield Country Courtyard in Potterspury.
Although ARTea is in Northants, it’s not at all far from Milton Keynes and is very easy to find just off the A5.
Made up of three rooms including a beautiful loft room, ARTea is a vintage lover’s delight.
It’s not just a tea room/café. It’s a space for Art. A gallery where Artists can display their work and customers can buy. It’s a kitsch collection of paintings, drawings, arts and crafts goodies that make your eyes jump from place to place as you try and take it all in. It seems the perfect relationship.
Mismatched vintage teacups and saucers were already laid at the table when I sat down. I love vintage tea ware! Pretty floral patterns on delicate china cups and saucers. Whilst I ordered my English Breakfast tea I noticed the relaxing tones of 50’s classics quietly playing and felt myself relaxing into this cosy warm place.
Teapots of loose leaf tea wearing cute knitted tea cosies on their bodies proudly like winter jumpers were presented to the table (with strainers already inside – how convenient!)
Then immediately after a two tiered vintage cake stand filled with sandwiches appeared to join them.
Sandwiches were rustic and of various mismatched triangle shapes and kept their crusts on. White bread was used along with chunky granary/seeded bread. Feeling perfectly in keeping with the shabby chic vintage feel of the tea room.
The sandwiches were served with three different fillings:
Cheese and pickle
Ham and tomato
So, different from elegant slender finger sandwiches but quite satisfying all the same. Ham was a great quality, egg mayonnaise had that definite homemade taste to it and my favourite, the cheese and pickle was lip smackingly tasty.
Whilst I was tucking into the sandwiches a platter plate was brought to the table. A beautiful arrangement of scones, cakes, sweets and even fresh fruit was up next.
First scones. Two fruit scones for one happy girl. The scones were warm and clearly had come straight from the oven. You couldn’t have asked for fresher.Crisp exterior and warm, soft interior that is one of the best I’ve tasted this week.
Pots of clotted cream and jam were of a large generous size so there was no fear of running out. Strawberry jam was particularly fruity and yum.
Cakes/sweets came in three offerings:
Mini Victoria Sandwich
All the cakes are made in-house. The Victoria Sandwich was very moreish and reminded me of my star baker’s cakes (my mum). The lemon posset was a standout winner. Light, dreamy lemon flavours danced on my tongue with just the right amount of sweetness. I’d eat another, oh and another…
On the same platter as the scones and cakes, fresh fruit was arranged. Strawberries, grapes and kiwi fruit were a pleasant and refreshing way to end the meal. A unique touch from the other teas I’ve had this week but it works.
The Afternoon Tea at ARTea is for a minimum of two and costs £12.00 per person. It does require booking in advance. There is a luxury Afternoon Tea available where a glass of sparkling wine is added for only £3 more. Mmm.
Date of visit: 11.08.16
Wakefield Country Courtyard
01327 810 245
Afternoon Tea in the City (Centre)
Browns in The Hub is a Brasserie & Bar that exudes style and refinement. A place where even the staff look the part in stylish suits and serving outfits.
Just past the knicker aisle then turn right at the gentleman’s slacks and you’ll find a place for tea
I am being completely serious. M&S are renowned for many things including tasty premade sandwiches and good quality food products. So if you happen to be in the throes of an intense shopping spree and acquire a craving for Afternoon Tea, then an M&S Café is sure to be something worth considering.
Arriving in the café it was easy to see the poster advertising the Afternoon Tea. Giving it a quick glance over and then heading straight to the till and ordering. “Plain or cheese scone?” I was asked and also “Classic or vegetarian sandwich selection?”
Questions answered, I was given a hot pot of tea with cup, saucer and milk jug to take with me immediately and also a table number to display when I choose where to sit.
Sugars, cutlery and napkins are something you have to pick up yourself but hey, it’s no biggie really, is it?
When the tea stand arrived (which it did promptly) it was perfectly pretty and elegant to look at. Sandwiches on the top tier, scones in the middle and cakes on the bottom.
Sandwich selection came in four varieties:
Egg and cress
Beef and horseradish
Ham and cheese
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Although they looked different in shape from the classic triangle M&S sandwiches you pick up in the lunch section of the food hall, they were undoubtedly M&S sandwiches. Fresh, tasty enough and very pleasant chunky oblongs to eat.
For the scones I chose plain. I am not a huge cheese scone lover and not sure if it’s something I’ve ever seen on an Afternoon Tea menu before, but worth noting that M&S offer those if that tickles your fancy (and they’ve run out of fruit).
With the scones came an individual mini jar of M&S strawberry jam and a pot of clotted cream. I’m not sure if it’s the regular way of presenting the clotted cream but my cream pot was still in a cling film wrap with a food dating sticker on it. Not that it took much effort to unpeel but it did look a bit unappetising and made me feel like I was unwrapping airplane food.
Aside from that though, the portion of cream and jam was generous for the scone and made for a very extravagant affair. Scone was nice, a little crumbly but still buttery and definitely no nasty surprises. The M&S strawberry jam was lovely.
The cake selection came as a selection of three minis:
These could have been (and probably were) just unpacked from the M&S food hall. In fact I recognised all three as things I’ve eaten before at home. That’s not a slight though. M&S produce great food for a great price. The Strawberry macaron was lovely as was the super moist mini cupcake. The profiterole was just that. Neither wow nor disappointment, just a lovely single profiterole filled with cream.
So there’s no frills, fancy table linens or famous chefs behind the scenes but there’s a casual café ease that you could visit in any given mood and feel comfortable. The kind of place you could take your Mum or Nan and earn sure fire brownie points with very little legwork or purse damage.
Something to note. As most eateries require at least 24 hour notice for an Afternoon Tea booking, perhaps M&S café has got itself the perfect niche. You can walk in on any given day and order an Afternoon Tea at the till which will be presented to your table within minutes, pretty three tiered tea stand and all. Fast, efficient and for £12.95 for two, that’s brilliant value for the savvy tea lover.
M&S CAFÉ Afternoon Tea is £6.95 per person or £12.95 for two.
Date of visit: 08.08.16
M&S Café Stadium MK
Unit A Retail Development
01908 368 545
What better way to spend a relaxed Sunday afternoon than surrounded by tea and cake.
To kick off #AfternoonTeaWeek I travelled into Bedfordshire.
Woburn Brasserie situated in the heart of the pretty Georgian town of Woburn which is only a short hop away from the bustle of Milton Keynes.
HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR TEA? With one lump or two? You put the what in first!?!
Tea to us Brits is as much of a lifeline as water. We love it. It’s hot, easy to make, soul enriching goodness that suits every season and occasion. Whether we are celebrating at the end of a feast, need a heart to heart or just what we do when we arrive home. Tea is always there in its many forms.
Afternoon Tea is as much of a British Institution as the drink itself, but you might be forgiven for thinking it’s been around since the early centuries. It was first introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840 (yes, we MK folk can have a claim to being near the birthplace of Afternoon Tea).
Afternoon Tea was created when the Duchess would get hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. With the evening meal being served at around eight o’clock, the long stretch between lunchtime and dinner was just a bit too long for her to tolerate. The Duchess asked for a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake to be brought to her in the late afternoon as a stopgap until dinner. This started to become a firm habit and the Duchess started asking friends to join her and here we have the birth of Afternoon Tea.
These days Afternoon Tea is available around the world in many different ways but it will always be fondly and unapologetically British.
Traditional Afternoon Tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and cakes and pastries. Some real traditionalists will say one of the sandwich flavours will need to be thinly sliced cucumber but as long as they are small and delicate I don’t mind seeing more adventurous flavours on Tea Menus.
American author Alice Walker speaking on Afternoon Tea said “Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors” and I totally understand why she thinks this. With Britain infamous for struggling with our picnic weather, the aristocrats who created taking tea in afternoon prominent in history with their porcelain china skin from choosing to avoid the outdoor sun. It really is a posh indoor picnic with none of the plastic tableware.
There is a whole week dedicated to celebrating Afternoon Tea and it’s happening this coming week 8 August – 14 August 2016 so join me as I scour to find the best Afternoon Tea in Milton Keynes or if you can’t bear to leave the house, dust off your teapot, invite your friends over and do what we do best, eat cake, drink tea and be fabulous.