Afternoon Tea and a stroll anyone?
Caroline Bingham visited Doddington Hall where the popularity of their Tea Room & Secret Garden has been an inspired antidote to the pandemic.
For the best part of two centuries, Afternoon Tea has been a ritual whose origins lie in the country homes of the British upper and middle classes. In those households the evening meal was served fashionably late – but how to stave off hunger between lunch and dinner? Especially if you had been enjoying fresh air and country pursuits.
This was my third Afternoon Tea since the easing of lockdown (and I am sure there are many readers who can top my tally). Eat Out to Help Out in August certainly helped to build confidence in customers visiting establishments where socially distanced and safe protocols are in place.
The requirement of more distanced placing of tables, with al fresco choices too, led the hospitality team at Doddington Hall to come up with the inspired idea of using the Coach House wedding venue as a Tea Room. The light and elegant room, with its charming garden, which has been a previously hidden revelation for many, has been a phenomenal success. Rather than packing away the cake stands, the Doddington Tea Room & Secret Garden will now remain open until Christmas with an even wider choice of Afternoon Teas to suit all tastes, dietary requirements, age groups and occasions.
I visited with a friend on an especially busy Saturday at the Hall. The Sculpture Exhibition had been extended, due to demand, for an additional week and we too grabbed the chance to take a last look after our tea. Booking is essential, not only to secure your time and table but also to register your contact details. A neat, small marquee has been added to the entrance to shelter anyone queueing and reduce the through breeze when the garden doors are opened.
The menu options are presented on a clipboard and may leave you spoilt for choice. We were both having Traditional Afternoon Tea but there is a menu of additional items, if you have the appetite. (There is also a boxing service for those who want to take some of their tea home to enjoy later). A recent addition is the Savoury Afternoon Tea, perfect for those with a less sweet tooth and perhaps paired with a bottle of Doddington Celebration Ale? Choices served include Hambleton’s pork pie, Wild Boar pâté and sourdough crisp, Cumberland Scotch egg, Doddington game sausage roll, Lincolnshire Poacher cheese and micro salad, piccalilli and red onion chutney – with sweets to follow. There are delicious options on the Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten and Diary Free Afternoon Tea choices too. For younger customers the new Children’s Afternoon Tea will tempt with a choice of sandwiches, cookies and cupcakes, crudités and crisps.
The Tea Menu at Doddington Hall has been devised by The Lincoln Tea & Coffee Company with popular favourites such as Lincolnshire Tea and Darjeeling but also more intriguing blends such as Turmeric Chai and my favourite, White Tea with Mango. Our Afternoon Tea was presented on a three-tier cake stand. Delicate brown and white bread finger sandwiches, filled with egg mayonnaise and cress, English honey roast ham with farmhouse pickle, tuna mayonnaise, lemon and dill and cucumber with cream cheese were on the bottom level with a salad garnish.
The middle plate of cakes was prettily decorated with edible flowers and berries. Homemade flapjack, Bakewell slice, chocolate brownie and macaron were amongst the choices. Topping the stand were two generously sized fruit scones with a pot of jam and clotted cream. We had been chatting as we grazed but both asked for a box to take our scones home for later. We had reached an elegant sufficiency with the sandwiches and cake! We had been the first to arrive and be seated but we were soon joined by many other tea takers, keeping the waiting staff on their toes. There were also small celebrations, so some were also enjoying a glass of something from the bar to make it an extra special occasion.
The menus at Doddington Hall include produce which has been grown and reared on the estate, cutting food miles, and ensuring the best and freshest ingredients are presented to customers: free range eggs, home reared beef, pork and game as well as an abundance of seasonal fruit and vegetables.
The enduring appeal of Afternoon Tea is that it does always feel like a treat without the heaviness of eating a large meal in the evening. We were going to grab the chance of a walk around the garden to make us feel virtuous after our tea, but equally there were some visitors arriving by bike and walkers calling in for a coffee in the Café courtyard. As the autumn progresses, Doddington will be holding their Pumpkin Festival and in a few weeks their Secret Garden themed Christmas spectacular. The Doddington Tea Room will be open throughout to make your visit even more memorable.
For further details of opening times, menus and to book visit: www.doddingtonhall.com