Oxford is a world-famous university city that is steeped in history and remarkable architecture. Visitors enjoy exploring the cobbled lanes full of honey coloured buildings, and Oxford is one English city that you can explore easily on foot. Oxford has a young feel – thanks to the large students population Jericho, in the north-west, is the artsy end of town, with chic bars, restaurants and an art-house cinema, while East Oxford is a vibrant, ethnically diverse area full of cheap places to eat and drink. The food scene has evolved from one where there was little room to manoeuvre between a few up-scale restaurants and many student dives. Now there are many new and exciting eateries, giving those in search of a memorable afternoon tea, more choice and more quality than ever before.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Dining at chef Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is a rare treat. Blanc has two Michelin stars and Le Manoir is one the top hotels in Britain. Partaking of their champagne afternoon tea (calling ahead for a booking is essential) allows you to sample the famous excellence that Le Manoir is known for. The food is served in the honey-coloured stone house with its thick-carpeted, softly lit dining room, or if weather permits, in the charming garden. Serviced is relaxed but they give an air of occasion with both warmth and efficiency. The menu includes champagne along with freshly brewed teas or coffee and a range of special open sandwiches that include rare beef fillet and celeriac, smoked salmon and caviar, crab and grapefruit and Brie with apricot and hazelnut. The fluffy fruit scones are served with jam, butter and clotted cream and your afternoon tea is crowned with the likes of macaroons, a tart tatin, pear and almond cake, a rich chocolate raspberry delice and choux pastries filled with salted butterscotch sauce and topped with sesame brittle. All in all a sumptuous feast worthy of a special celebration.
Afternoon tea at the home of the 11th Duke of Marlborough, set in 2100 acres of beautiful parkland, is a sumptuous way to indulge in tradition. The birthplace of Winston Churchill is beautifully decorated with intricate carvings, hand painted ceilings and amazing tapestries, paintings and porcelain collections. After touring the magnificent palace and gardens, you can sit down for tea in the Indian Room which overlooks the stunning water terraces and Fountains. The Indian room is decorated with elaborate Indian-themed murals, and the tea service is discreet and polite. Tea includes a selection of mini pastries and home-made cakes, sultana scones with strawberry preserve and clotted Cornish cream, a selection of finger sandwiches: smoked salmon with cream cheese, finely sliced cucumber, egg mayonnaise and mustard cress, Wiltshire ham and grain mustard, a glass of Champagne each and a selection of teas or coffee. The signature dish is a decadent Champagne Afternoon Tea and when you’re at Britain’s Greatest Palace, why not treat yourself to a little luxury?
The Old Parsonage
The Old Parsonage ( dating from 1660) with its stone floors, cosy fires and a snug farmhouse atmosphere, is a cosy haven on the northern edge of the city centre. Afternoon tea is served in the Old Parsonage Restaurant among an elitist and decidedly bookish clientèle. The stylish restaurant and bar is designed to feel like a gentlemen’s club. The walls are densely covered with paintings and prints, there are black resin topped tables and bucket chairs standing on herringbone carpet in shades of grey. You can sit in front of the log fire, or on sunny days you can enjoy your tea in the lovely al fresco terrace. You can choose from a light tea, a very high tea or champagne tea, but whatever your choice, the menu is a very English affair with home-made scones, jam and clotted cream and traditional sandwiches (ham with mustard, smoked salmon with black pepper, cucumber, egg with watercress and coronation chicken). The cake selection features macaroons, dainty fruit tarts and other traditional teatime treats that are all freshly baked and very delicious.
The Randolph Hotel
The Macdonald Randolph Hotel in Oxford was built in 1864 and is situated directly opposite the world-famous Ashmolean Museum. This hotel has played host to world presidents and prime ministers and it oozes charm and elegance, boasting beautiful architecture and a historic setting. The modern European restaurant at this five-star has just won its second AA rosette for the contemporary cuisine. The Drawing Room is the epitome of English style and charm and is the perfect setting for their famous afternoon tea. The décor features warm autumnal colours, and plush seating, and the kind of warmth and luxury that afternoon tea demands. The Celebration Afternoon Tea includes a glass of Moutard Champagne, fresh scones with strawberry jam and Devon clotted cream,a selection of sandwiches on farmhouse bread, afternoon pastries and fruit cake all served with your choice of leaf tea. In terms of cakes the Randolph sticks close to tradition and you can expect well-made versions of lemon and poppy seed, sultana and Madeira cakes or their buttery and delicious shortbread.
The Grand Café
The Grand is something of an institution in Oxford and there is no better place for afternoon tea if you want to immerse yourself in the atmospheric city. The marble-pillared, gold-leafed interior is perfectly suited for afternoon tea, and during the day the Grand (said to be the first coffee house in England) is a haven of peace and quiet – by night it’s a different story. The efficient, cheerful service and the gilt Art-Deco veneer make afternoon tea a most enjoyable experience. Huge mirrors on the walls add to the atmosphere and amiable bustle, and there are strange embellishments such as gilt arms protruding from the walls. The Grand High Tea features tasty finger sandwiches filled with free-range egg mayonnaise and smoked salmon with cream cheese fillings, two scones, served with strawberry jam and clotted cream and handmade chocolates served with your choice of fine loose leaf teas or coffee and a glass of champagne. When it comes to cakes, The Grand specialises in creamy gateaux in many flavours, generously decorated with fresh fruits.