It’s high time we had tea, mother
At Christmas, I was stuck to know what to get my Sister for a gift because, as adults, we have the money to buy whatever it is we want (within reason of course; Johnny Depp isn’t for sale) and, as well-brought-up ladies, we know the immaterial nature of material items.
So it was like a Christmas thunderbolt when I walked past a café serving afternoon tea – beautiful little cakes and sandwiches served on beautiful China to beautifully dressed up ladies – and an idea struck me. My mum could go with her and they could have a surprise girly afternoon to remember. Better yet, having just moved to Norfolk, neither of them was familiar with the County so it would be a nice introduction. “Sis, mum, meet Norfolk,” (etc).
Since their lovely trip to Harriet’s Tea Rooms on in December (“the cakes were so beautiful, I didn’t want to eat them; there was so much food, we’ve brought some home”), I’ve become something of an afternoon tea advocate. I mean, what’s not to love about fancy, tiny cakes and crustless sandwiches served on silver tiers with pots of Darjeeling and, if you want to upgrade, a glass of fizz? Indeed.
And there’s no better time to pull an ‘afternoon tea-er’ (don’t worry, it’s a phrase!) than on Mother’s Day! After all, women love chocolate and pretty things, and getting dressed up in pretty things to eat chocolate and, and, and (win, win, win).
The good news is that Norfolk is jam-packed with cute cafes, country manors and fancy hotels serving afternoon tea to sigh for, you just need to know where to go. Follow me, Muddy readers:
Folly Tearoom, Holt
Folly Tearoom is a North Norfolk institution that’s particularly popular in the sunshine when the garden – which is as cute as a button – fills up with tea lovers from all over the County and beyond. Vintage romance is the theme, with afternoon teas served on cream three-tier stands adorned with butterflies, while cotton doilies grace the tables. With 39 teas on the menu – including curious blends such as gin and elderflower and liquorice, blueberry and nettle – guests have a decision to make before they can even think about cake. Then, there are three afternoon teas to choose from: The Traditional Folly (cucumber sandwiches and scones with jam and clotted cream), The Pink Folly (as per traditional but with a glass of sparkling pink bubbles) and The Gentleman’s Folly (a heartier choice including sausages rolls, quiche and homemade chutney).
Hopper’s Yard, Bull Street, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 6LN. Tel: 01263 713569. follytearoom.co.uk
Biddy’s Tearoom, Aylsham
Named after the owner’s dog, Biddy, this Victorian-inspired tea room has a sister branch in Norwich and is all about old fashioned decadence. Vinyl record players sit next to tall, tassled lampshades, while Union Jack bunting hangs from the ceiling. But it’s the window displays that lure people in – meringues as big as your head, chocolate brownies to salivate over and fruit scones the way your nan would have made them. Afternoon tea here is more bespoke, with diners choosing their own blend of tea, their own sandwiches, their own cake and their own scones (you can even choose cheese if you want to go ‘off piste’). They aren’t licensed but, with 60 loose leaf teas to choose from, who needs booze.
The Market Place, Aylsham, Norfolk, NR11 6EH. biddystearoom.com
Harriet’s Tearoom, Norwich
What Harriet’s is to chain, it is also very much to charm, with branches all over the Country not diluting its post-war theme. Afternoon tea vouchers come in a faux ration book, while waitresses dress in 1920s style, with black smocks, frilly white aprons and black shoes. Everything at Harriet’s is traditional: tier stands are silver, cream is clotted and chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Harriet’s even make their own jam. Splash out on the Celebration tea and you’ll also be treated to a glass of Champagne and some colourful macaroons.
38 London Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1LD. Tel: 01603 614848. harrietscafetearooms.co.uk
Congham Hall Hotel, Grimston
As settings go, Congham Hall has ‘treat’ written all over it – from the country manor building to the sprawling grounds, and from the manicured lawns to the long gravel driveway. Once inside, afternoon tea-ers will be greeted to a roaring fire and a menu that’s both traditional and bold, with the addition of shiny chocolate eclairs, tartlets and mini puddings that actually require you to pick up a spoon (the Duchess of Bedford would turn in her grave). Walk off the calories in the herb garden and orchard, a delightful way to wile away a Sunday afternoon.
Grimston, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE32 1AH. Tel: 01485 60052. conghamhallhotel.co.uk
Barnham Broom Hotel, Barnham Broom
Rural lovers will fall for this hotel hook, line and sinker. Nestled in 300 acres of countryside, the setting is as delicious as the three-tier, traditional afternoon teas. A word of warning: clear your afternoon (and possibly even bring your hubby), for this hotel also has not one but two golf courses, a renowned spa and a restaurant. Golf and drink by the fire for hubby; spa treatment and afternoon tea for mum. Sexist? Who cares – sounds good to me.
Honingham Road, Barnham Broom, Norfolk, NR9 4DD. Tel: 01603 759393. barnham-broom.co.uk
*Psst: whichever you choose, we won’t count the calories on your special day – mum’s the word