London commuters know Surrey’s trains and highways all too well, but there is much more to the region that lies immediately to the south of London. For one, Surrey’s iconic landscapes feature in the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen. The region is packed full of modern facilities and ancient wonders and if culture is your thing then Farnham, in the the south west, is a great place for the arts. Surrey has a great many places to eat and drink in fine fashion, from global snacks to the finest dining. Local produce is used with enthusiasm and respect in many of our top choices for the most decadent and delicious afternoon tea menus. There is nothing more indulgent than a the ritual involving cucumber sandwiches, cakes, scones and perhaps a glass of champagne, and Surrey boasts a pick of elegant venues that are among the best in the land.
The Bingham (Richmond-upon-Thames)
Is it a restaurant with bedrooms or a boutique hotel with a glamorous eatery? What really matters is that afternoon tea offered at the Bingham is one of the those selected for an award of excellence by the UK Tea Guild – the equivalent of a Michelin star in the afternoon tea world. Next to the river in Richmond-upon-Thames, the ultra-chic Bingham is housed in a fabulous Georgian town house that delights both foodies and fashionistas. The setting is great (clearly stated elegance in champagne shades), the food is superb and the tea (or coffee or organic fair trade hot chocolate) is thoughtfully poured into delicate bespoke blue-flowered china by staff who actually care. The smoked salmon and dill bread sandwiches are just one of the reasons we’ll be back. Others include the most attractive scones in England and those cakes… You might be spoiled with a balsamic and strawberry Victoria sponge or a salted caramel chocolate cup, but whatever you find on the top tier is bound to be a new modern classic.
Great Fosters (Egham)
Afternoon tea at Great Fosters is an experience deemed excellent by the UK tea Guild and we agree that it is great. This well-preserved, Grade 1 listed building is surrounded by 50 acres of gardens and parkland, not that far from Heathrow. The building dates back to the 16 century when it was built as a royal hunting lodge. Many many authentic details remain from that period, including mullioned windows, historical tapestries, Jacobean fireplaces and an impressive oakwell staircase. Tea can be taken on the terraces in the warmer months or next to the open fires in the bar, main hall or the Anne Boleyn room. You can add Pimms or champagne to a traditional tea menu (gluten free options can be catered for) and you get to choose your own sandwiches from a varied and tasty selection of fillings in different kinds of bread. The cake stand is dedicated to cakes, the bottom tier holds traditional fruit loaves and cakes, the middle has plain and raisin scones kept warm in a linen napkin and the top has a collection of the prettiest mini-desserts.
Nutfield Priory (Redhill)
Nutfield Priory has only ever been a priory in name. The neo-gothic mansion was was built in the 19th century as as a private home modelled on the Palace of Westminster. Don’t let that spoil the incredible view you get while enjoying afternoon tea with rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Now operating as a four-star hotel and spa with a highly rated restaurant, this venue does a sleek rendition of afternoon tea served among chandeliers. carved wood and velvet chairs in comforting shades of grey and green. We liked the airy library setting with its red walls and old books but you can also go for the white table cloths and stiffer service in the Cloisters restaurant. As you’d expect in a library, the tea menus are named after writers. the Wordsworth has chocolate chip scones and the Keats is a true classic while other variations experiment with interesting sandwich fillings. The very good traditional scones are bursting with fruit and served with lashings of jam and cream.
Pennyhill Park Hotel (Bagshot)
The five-star Pennyhill Park hotel and spa is surrounded by beautiful Surrey countryside in Bagshot. With all the luxury amenities it feels more like a resort than a hotel, and it has a delightful terrace where afternoon tea and sunshine combine splendidly. Whether you opt for the traditional, champagne or celebration Ascot, afternoon tea is an event of some importance here. No one has to miss out, as they cater for children under 12-years-old and -with enough notice – special dietary requirements. The elegantly presented tea service is also available in the Ascot bar with its country mansion décor and bright modern, plush lounge chairs. On weekends a subtle pianist accompanies a classic sandwich collection, crumbly scones with jam and clotted cream and artfully assembled cakes, tarts and macaroons. The view from the terrace over the 120-acre grounds and the great service make this a rewarding way to while away an indulgent afternoon. The friendly staff don’t seem to mind how you linger in the comfortable chairs drinking all of it in.
The 19th century Manor Lounge at Foxhills was recently refurbished with a new bar and luxurious touches, making it a very elegant setting for an intimate afternoon tea. Foxhills is an elegant and understated resort hotel, health spa, golf destination and members club just 20 minutes from Heathrow. The manor lounge is a calm sea of luxury decorated in neutral shades that compliment the natural light and the gleaming natural wood surfaces. We enjoyed the comfortable couches and the lively warmth from the ornate fireplace. The staff are reserved but super-swift and very resourceful when tasked with unusual requests. Their traditional afternoon tea is served on the finest china, with great to detail shown in preparation and presentation of an extensive range of home-made cakes and pastries. Dainty and most delectable finger sandwiches feature the hotels’ delicious home smoked salmon and other seasonal favourites alongside a selection of Twinning Teas. We advise adding some sparkle to the afternoon with a glass of fine champagne from the excellent wine list.