Newcastle-upon-Tyne presides over north-east England from a perch astride the mighty River Tyne. Victorian façades dominate the cityscape of this former industrial powerhouse whose many factories and warehouses buildings are being redeveloped, or creatively transformed, into contemporary cultural and retail spaces. Newcastle has a big student population and is known for an exuberant and lively night-life offering many bars, late night cafés and nightclubs where you can party into the night. Against the backdrop of Newcastle’s historical and cultural heritage, a new wave of sophisticated urban energy is making itself apparent, not least in the stylish food scene that boasts some exceptional restaurants and many fine options for luxurious and memorable afternoon teas.
Jesmond Dean House
Against a backdrop of lovely green woodlands Jesmond Dean House is a 19th century Arts and Crafts building housing a luxury hotel that is justifiably famous for its afternoon teas. You can have your cake and eat it here but the challenge lies in deciding where to have it. In winter you would be wise to choose the cosy dining room or the slick bar with its roaring fire, while in summer who can resist the patio with a view over the spacious grounds? For an establishment so exclusive it is surprisingly friendly and the overall feel is relaxed modernity. The table settings are thoughtfully refined, just right for a tea menu that is superbly presented and refreshingly unique. The sandwich fillings show a highly creative dash of local flair─ you’ll be hard pressed to choose a favourite among combinations like gammon with mustard and pease pudding, or hot smoked salmon and avocado. The scones are offered in plain, fruit and cheese varieties – all of them good, and the seasonal selection of home-made cakes is even better. Lovely fruit tarts, delectable macaroons, amazing sundaes in exciting flavours and wondrous forms of chocolate and caramel crown a truly outstanding afternoon tea.
The Vermont Hotel
“There is no more quintessential English ritual than the ceremony and serving of Afternoon Tea,” according to the Vermont Hotel. Combining 1930s grandeur with contemporary elegance and four-star luxury, the Vermont offers a secluded space to savour a great afternoon tea. The spacious and fashionably modern lounge, decorated in lustrous silver and cream tones with dramatic splashes of black, has great views of the Castle Keep. Service is discreet, allowing you all time you need to indulge in the sumptuous spread. The traditional menu comes with your choice of Rington’s teas or coffee but you can also upgrade to champagne or a champagne cocktail. You’ll enjoy freshly prepared finger sandwiches and traditional scones, as well as a pastry, chocolate and fruit delicacies. A favourite among these is a sinful chocolate mousse with its own chocolate spoon and chocolate straws. If you don’t have a sweet tooth the Gentleman’s version is a generously portioned ploughman’s spread that includes a scotch egg, burger, pork pie and a pint of ale.
When you take tea at Wynard Hall you follow in the footsteps of many illustrious historical figures, including members of the royal family. Wynard Hall Country House hotel and spa is situated in 150 acres of historic parkland in the Tees Valley, less than an hour from Newcastle. The hall is a handsome mix of marble, Spanish mahogany, local stone and stained glass and its award-winning kitchen does a masterful afternoon tea using fine British ingredients. Friendly staff will seat you in the grand gilded dining hall, or a cosy lounge with huge paintings, or the stylish terrace (weather permitting). You can choose a cleverly reworked traditional tea menu with champagne , prosecco, or whisky (in the case of the gentleman’s version). The traditional three tiers contain modern gastronomy in the form of bagels and wraps, artful cakes and fanciful desserts like the “Boiled Egg & Soldier” – a real egg shell containing coconut mousse with a mango purée ‘”yolk” served with shortbread fingers. This is an afternoon tea worthy of a special celebration delivering very fine food in a swanky setting.
In a city known for great night-life, Bonbar is one of Newcastle’s best and most stylish eateries, set in the iconic Assembly Rooms building a short skip from Central Station. Their opulent afternoon tea is set to dazzle from the moment a tray of Tea Forte pyramid infusers arrives at your black leather booth for your selection. The pyramids slot neatly into a teapot and the tea is served in modern hand-blown glass. The setting is glamorous – high white ceilings, low-key lighting and a three tier tea menu that will live up to the sophisticated allure of the surroundings. The traditional finger sandwiches are served by attentive staff who will go out of their way to honour any special requests. The home-made scones are studded with blueberries and served with home-made raspberry jam and cream. The sweet bite-sized morsels on the cake stand decorated with chocolate dipped strawberries include wonders like lime and basil macaroons, mini raspberry pavlova and a truly delightful red velvet cake. Add a cocktail from the bar or a glass of bubbles and you are in afternoon tea heaven.
The Great British Cupcakery
High Tea at the Great British Cupcakery is hugely popular so book in advance to secure your place at this much-loved Quayside spot. You should also approach with a healthy appetite as there is nothing dainty about the portions. The owners are passionate about their traditional High Tea served on quirky vintage china and pull out all the stops to make it memorable. The Cupcakery is quirky and cute, decorated with shabby chic furniture in pastel colours. The counter is crowded with enormous colourful cakes in all kinds of cheerful flavours and it’s a good thing you can take leftovers home, as almost everyone is defeated by the afternoon tea. The excellent sandwiches stick to the classic combinations but there is a Geordie twist in the ham and pease pudding filling. The huge scones come to your table stuffed with jam and cream and the cakes are as generously portioned and as plentiful as you would expect in a cake-lover’s paradise. The icing on the cupcake is the warm service that makes this a great afternoon to spend with friends in a unique and whimsical setting.