Afternoon tea seemed to become popular when I was out of the country. I went away for two years, and returned to tales from my friends describing the hotels they’d visited and the experiences they’d had. Three years later, Phil and I were treated to High Tea as a birthday gift… and I instantly saw the attraction. The excitement of getting dressed up, the novelty of eating food in the afternoon, and the decadence of devouring far too many cakes! When my Mum turned 60 this year, I decided to take her to afternoon tea as one of her 60 presents!
Having lots of time on my hands, I was able to read and compare reviews to ensure we went to the top spot in Oxfordshire. The Old Parsonage Hotel in Oxford is in a beautiful 17th century building, trailed in ivy. And the modern interior is similar to the colour we are currently decorating our living room, so I was able to preview what my lounge will be like when it is eventually finished! (Though mine will not have as many old paintings on the walls!) When I last visited, 18 months ago, I couldn’t walk as far so had to use my mobility scooter. With wonky floors and stone steps, the building is not very accessible. The waiters couldn’t work out a way for me to scoot to my table, so in the end I had to enter the dining room via the fire exit! They gave us champagne to apologise! 🙂 Luckily, as my walking has improved recently, I was able to forgo the scooter and walk in the front door this time!
Sometimes it is nice to spend the afternoon in an elegant environment, treating yourself, doing things differently. Instead of mugs of builders tea and biscuits from the packet, we had shiny tea pots and homemade treats. Sparkling silver cutlery, heavy china plates, tall modern cake stands, gleaming decorative tea pots. Fellow diners were also dressed up; toasting celebrations and taking photographs. Polite waiters attentively kept us topped up with piping hot drinks. Caffeine makes my heart beat like a racing drum, and my body jiggle and twitch! However as most of the exciting teas on offer were not decaffeinated, I settled on freshly picked mint tea. The sandwiches were sliced in to crust-less fingers. We weren’t impressed by the traditional cucumber sandwich, but luckily there was a variety of much tastier ones. Most of our fellow diners appeared to be leaving the bread and concentrating on the sweet treats, but as we ate all of ours, the waiter offered us a whole plate of extra sandwiches! We couldn’t say no!
Baking is not my forte, so we watch The Great British Bake Off in awe- their cakes rise, look fluffy and the icing stays on the top. The best we can muster is microwave cake-in-a mug! We sit watching the program with our mouths watering, wishing we had a patisserie in our little village. Therefore the sweet treats were the highlight of high tea for me. Tangy berry macaroons, fluffy Victoria sponge, creamy coffee eclairs, mouthwatering rocky road slices and spicy egg custards. And my favourite: warm scones coated with lashings of jam then cream.. or cream then jam! Since getting ill, I can no longer eat until I am bursting. Booo! My breathing starts to struggle if I consume more than normal. So as I couldn’t manage such a decadent amount of food, I had to chop my cakes in half. I could still try them all, without making myself ill. Luckily the birthday girl came to the rescue, and finished off the other halves of my cakes! 😉 After chatting, eating and drinking solidly for two hours, we eventually rolled ourselves out.
Yesterday we sat watching GBBO, our mouths watering at the fruit topped Savarin and sweet fondant fancies… whilst eating microwave cake! I’m unlikely to become the next Mary Berry, or have a patisserie open in the village, so we’re going to have to satisfy our sweet treat cravings with another afternoon tea session. I’ve already booked a date in my diary!