A couple of weeks ago I was feeling pretty damn frazzled. Six months without any baby free time will do that to you. My brain needed a couple of hours off…urgently. So after a bit of whinging to the bestie (who was also sorely in need of a break having had her gorgeous girl six weeks after me) we decided that a swanky afternoon tea (with obligatory bubbly) was just what we needed to re-boot our brains and feel a little more like ourselves again.
We settled on Buxted Park Hotel which is only a ten minute walk from my house (though we drove in the end for fear of fullness/sweaty faces ruining our excuse to dress up and look like humans with real make up on and everything). I was even treated to a new hairdo courtesy of the bestie for the occasion (she curled it and it’s now my new favorite hair style; not that I can do it myself!)
I must admit I was a tad disappointed when we arrived. Although the grounds and house are gorgeous and have some beautiful rooms and views there was a wedding taking place so rather than having our tea in the conservatory, set up in all its splendor, we were relegated to the bar area. We had a nice spot by the window but sadly the wedding was having its drinks reception right outside of spoiling any view (though it did mean we could snoop at all of the lovely, and not-so-lovely outfits!). It also meant that we had a constant stream of guests bustling past and queuing right next to our table for the bar. Definitely minus points for that as we were really after a luxury feel for our only afternoon off in months. When the wedding did clear it was a lovely spot though.
We started off with a glass of bubbly and got to have a sniff of the various teas on offer that we could each choose a pot of. I went for the assam and bestie selected the decaff English breakfast (breastfeeding + caffeine = shitty nights sleep!) and we nattered about various crap, as best friends do.
And then our tea arrived. I will admit now that I was a little disappointed with the size of it for the price we were paying (I’ll come on to that later) but I have a sneaky suspicion that all first time afternoon tea patrons probably feel the same and that, like us, they are probably bloody stuffed by the end of it! We totally misjudged how much was actually there – it was more than enough!
We decided that although we were gagging to jump on the cakes we would start, as civilised people do, with the sandwhiches. There was a selection that included beef and horseradish, egg mayonnaise, smoked salmon and cream cheese and ham and mustard and these were lovely, despite the bread being a bit dry (I have a sneaking suspicion that these were made a few hours in advance and covered – though I appreciate that’s probably the same everywhere). We then moved on to the scones and bestie scoffed at my love of lemon curd (I literally cannot fathom how we have been friends for nearly 13 years and I’ve never known that she hates lemon desserts when these are my absolute favorite – Almost grounds for a friend divorce?). Finally it was time to hit the cake layer. And this is where I began to feel a little disappointed again. We started with a cheesecake shot (though it can’t be drunk as a shot would – bestie tried) which was…OK. Nothing amazingly special, just OK.
We then moved on to macaroons. Now we were both pretty excited as neither of us had ever tried a macaroon before – we shouldn’t have been as to be totally honest they were gross. I can honestly say that I am in no way inclined to try these again (and that’s saying something coming from me!) though we might have just had bad ones. These sadly just tasted a bit like bland, stale cake. Boo.
Next was some sort of raspberry topped tart. I’m not sure what was inside it (possibly custard?) but it also wasn’t great and we actually left most of them. So far we were feeling that the cake just wasn’t living up to our expectations.
Lastly we had a bit of chocolate brownie (I think) which WAS nice but sadly I couldn’t finish mine as by this point I was absolutely stuffed and feeling slightly sicky from the macaroon/tart combo.
All in all the food was a mixture of lovely and just OK with a tony bit of YUK thrown in. Service was also just OK – I sort of envisaged a little better given the “luxury” marketing of the hotel. I wasn’t like our server was rude, not by any stretch, but it felt more like a trip to a local cafe at times. Maybe I just had unrealistic expectations of a hunky waiter wearing pristine white gloves and doting on our every whim. Either way I really enjoyed it and overall it was a lovely place to indulge ourselves for the afternoon – particularly as Buxted Park Hotel is set in such gorgeous scenery.
Now for the price – Afternoon tea was just shy of £20, the glass of champagne was £9 (ouch – but to be expected I guess). I think considering the setting we were in (near the busy bar) and the lackluster cakes it was a little overpriced but I may have felt differently if we’d been seated in the conservatory as it didn’t quite match my expectations in that sense. Don’t get me wrong though we had a wonderful time and if you’re in the area and fancy a treat then a Buxted Park hotel afternoon tea is a fab choice (particularly mid-week I imagine) – I just set my sights too high based on what everyone locally says about the hotel.
What was the most lovely part though was spending an afternoon off with my bestie. It was so nice to let our hair down (literally – Oscar’s always yanking on mine if it’s not up) and just talk like we used to before we were interrupted by crying/whinging/nappy changes/feeds. It has also started something of a new afternoon tea club where we will be travelling around local hotels and eateries and sampling every high tea the south east has to offer! I’d love any recommendations!
(p.s. the menu is here!)