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English Breakfast or Darjeeling? Warm scone or slice of lemon drizzle? Readers recommend the places that do best what Brits do best – tea and cake.
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Winning tip: The Fourteas, Stratford-upon-Avon
Where better to take tea in the jubilee year than this establishment, decked out in union flags and bunting? The 1940s is brought to life by waitresses in delightful period dresses and headscarves. Lovely details include green crockery and newspapers from the 1940s. The menu is designed as a wartime ration book. Fortunately the food reflects modern tastes – carrot cake and iced cupcakes are the order of the day.
2 Union Street, thefourteas.co.uk
North of England
Greystoke Cycle Cafe, Penrith, Cumbria
The most delicious cake and welcome cup of tea on a cool and wet day at Annie’s kitchen table will bring a smile to anyone’s face. Set up as a cycle cafe (you can park in the village if you really need too), it has a garden for those rare non-rainy Cumbrian days. Annie hosts a great range of “Quirky Workshops” – we loved the spoon carving course – but it’s the lunches that stick in my mind. Whether you’re doing the Coast-to-Coast cycle route or travelling up the M6, you must drop in.
Jumping Jenny, Coniston, Cumbria
Jumping Jenny doesn’t just claim to be the best; it is. As every cake mouthful melts you instantly have to have more. Be it a cool or warm day, a cup of tea in proper china hones the tastebuds for more delicious cake – oh, if you insist. All supped and enjoyed while watching the vapour trails from the National Trust’s steam yacht Gondola at the jetty below – they dissipate to reveal the most fantastic view of Coniston and the Lake District mountains.
015394 41715, jumpingjenny.net
Parkhead Station Tearoom, Stanhope Moor, Cumbria
This converted station offers a warm welcome, and not just to cyclists. It’s at the point of the C2C cycle route where you begin the downhill swoop to Consett. It’s a haven for those who want to rest sore muscles. They serve excellent homemade cake – or broth, if it’s cold and you have cycled more uphill miles than you planned.
01388 526434, parkheadstation.co.uk
Gillam’s tearooms, Ulverston, Cumbria
Ulverston is a pretty market town at the southern tip of the Cumbria Way in the south Lakes – but it’s not so charming on a cold, wet, gloomy Sunday. Thank goodness, then, for Gillam’s Tea Rooms in Market Street, a sanctuary for the damp and disorientated. Warm, steamy (on a wet day) and always welcoming, Gillam’s serves the best selection of afternoon teas and the most indulgent Welsh rarebit you can imagine. But best of all is the children’s afternoon tea, served on its own tray with a small-person-sized tea set.
01229 587564, gillams-tearoom.co.uk
Baldry’s tearoom, Grasmere, Cumbria
After a day spent being a literary tourist tracing Wordsworth’s footsteps, I thoroughly recommend a visit here. I can understand why its lemon meringue pie is world famous: it is a glutton’s dream.My companion’s Victoria sponge (also delicious) came served on a vintage bone china tea plate, and my lemon meringue pie was so huge it had a cake plate all to itself.
Red Lion Square, 01539 435301
Tea and cake at Barter Books, Alnwick, Northumberland
Only three weeks ago I sat by a roaring fire on a miserable day, enjoying the biggest, moistest slab of carrot cake I’ve ever rejoiced at. I was at Barter Books in Alnwick, one of Britain’s largest secondhand book shops, in a restored Victorian railway station. After a prolonged browsing session, the old buffet and waiting rooms are the cosiest place imaginable for a light lunch or comprehensive tea. I was torn between scones, cupcakes, traybake, and various homemade cakes (from £1.90) including fruitcake (£2.80) made to a secret family recipe. My friend and I shared the carrot cake. Cake and books – a sublime duo.
Alnwick Station, barterbooks.co.uk
Lulabelle’s catering, based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Rather than going somewhere for tea and cakes, why not have Lulabelle come to you? She is a pink 1959 VW camper van, which, with the help of her owner, will bring delicious tea and cakes to you with a real vintage feel and flair. We spotted her last week at Malton Food Festival, where her delicious cakes, such as chocolate and Guinness, drew in the foodies.
Falling Foss tea garden, near Whitby, North Yorkshire
A tea garden located in a forest by a waterfall, Falling Foss is one of the most enchanting settings you could experience. Ginger cake, carrot cake and old-fashioned fairy cakes line the counter, all freshly baked by co-owner Steph and served by “tea boy” Jack (Steph’s husband). The baking is so consistently good that the only problem I have when I go now is whether to have a scone or a slice of luscious ginger cake.
Midge Hall, Sneaton Forest, 07723 477929, fallingfossteagarden.co.uk
Francis Tearooms, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Francis Tea Rooms are redolent of a more elegant era, when women wore lace gloves and indulged in afternoon fancies. On a quiet back street behind Scarborough’s Esplanade you will find 1930s wood-panelled booths (the tea room was once a barber’s), vintage mismatched china and embroidered lawn tablecloths. A full range of Taylor’s teas are served by the pot with lemon or milk, and there are savoury dishes and home-baked cakes to tempt the taste buds. The rarebit is particularly good, but my all-time favourites have to be the lemon meringue and the cream teas.
7 South Street, 01723 350550
The Midland Hotel, Morecambe, Lancashire
Restored to its former art deco glory, the Midland Hotel is a stunning place for a really special afternoon tea, served in the sun room, which overlooks Morecambe Bay. The Champagne Afternoon Tea (£22.50) includes freshly made finger sandwiches, a scone with jam and clotted cream, chocolate éclairs, strawberries (or fruit tart) and cake, as well as a glass of champagne and pot of high-quality tea – all to be savoured along with the magnificent view. Booking is advisable at the weekend.
Marine Road West, 0845 850 1240
Jodrell Bank Observatory Cafe, Macclesfield, Cheshire
The cafe at Jodrell Bank is used not only by those who’ve gone to explore the Observatory but also as a pitstop for passing cyclists. The decor includes clocks telling you what the time is on Mars, Venus or in a black hole. It has an appetising array of cakes, with lots of gluten-free options. They serve you a huge pot of tea with whole milk from the local farm and, even better, the waiter came over and offered to top up the hot water for us – absolute bliss!
Rocke Cottage Tearoom, Clungunford, near Ludlow, Shropshire
This deliciously quaint tearoom is in a delightful cottage garden – a wonderful place to pause on a summer’s day. Should the weather be less clement, the inside of the tea room is every bit as lovely, with plenty of art nouveau oddities and old games to examine. The decor is matched with unobtrusive 1920s and 1930s music. They’ve won awards from the British Tea Guild for the selection and quality of their teas, but my favourites things are the scones, and a mouth-watering rhubarb cake.
01588 660631, rockecottagetearoom.co.uk
David Mellor Design Cafe, Hathersage, Derbyshire
This cafe is a quintessentially British place for a cup of tea and cake, just don’t expect it to be served in a floral cup and saucer. As one of the key British designers of the 20th century, the cafe epitomises David Mellor – simple, modern and stylish. The food – soups, sandwiches and cakes – come in delicious combinations of flavours. The white chocolate and cranberry scones are a particular favourite. On your way out don’t miss the working (David Mellor-designed) traffic lights in the gardens!
The Round Building, 01433 650220, davidmellordesign.com/visitorCentre/cafe.php
South of England
Fanny’s Farm Shop, Merstham, Surrey
Yummy sandwiches, cakes and scones up in a treehouse – what more do I need to say? Fanny’s Farm Shop has several quirky tea sheds and a delightful treehouse (which has to be booked) for birthday treats or a lazy Sunday afternoon. The pretty gardens are rather cluttered with signs but the huge slices of Victoria sponge and the thrill of high dining between the branches make it worth the trip. At the shop, you can buy farmhouse treats, including marmalade sausages.
Markedge Lane, 01737 554444, fannysfarm.com
The Dwelling House, Fowey, Cornwall
With eclectic decor, wonderful service and fantastic food, The Dwelling House is a little slice of bygone Britain. The amazing array of cakes and scones are freshly cooked in the homely kitchen and served on vintage crockery in the quirky tearooms. The hardest part is deciding what to choose – but in the year of the jubilee, it’d have to be the scrumptious Victoria sponge.
6 Fore Street, thedwellinghouse.co.uk
The Bridge Tearooms, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
A beautiful Victorian tea room set in a building dating back to 1675 and serving wonderful traditional afternoon tea on three-tier stands. The choice of tea is fantastic, all loose leaf and served in beautiful bone china. From the china and the paintings to the Victorian costumes the staff wear, it really does feel like you’ve stepped back in time. They also serve delicious homemade cakes, pastries and sandwiches.
24a Bridge Street, 01225 865537, thebridgeatbradford.co.uk
Touching Souls Tearoom, Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire
This tearoom is run by volunteers from the parish and wider community as part of their Benedictine Hospitality. They serve homemade cakes and scones, as well as delicious homemade soup and baked potatoes. On Sunday, between 1.30 and 4pm you might find local Girl Guides serving the teas.
Hudson and Bridges, Brighton, East Sussex
This delightful corner cafe is off the beaten track, just off the seafront in Kemp Town. It’s possibly named after Mr Hudson and Mrs Bridges of Upstairs, Downstairs and indeed it has a little “upstairs” perch complete with vintage decor. The foodie treats greet you as you walk in. Wonderful French macaroons, delicious cakes of all types, tarts, lots for choc-lovers and gluten-free slices, all presented beautifully. Tea is served in pretty china, and there’s lots of choice. Our favourite corner is a mirrored, kitsch, silk-cushioned, 1950s-inspired alcove. They open the big long windows at the front in the summer for an alfresco feel – it’s a gem.
237 Eastern Rd, 01273 606138
Wimborne St Giles Village Hall, Wimborne, Dorset
Forget the county’s twee teashops – this is the real thing. The afternoon tea is loving prepared by the ladies of Wimborne St Giles, each Sunday raising money for a different charity. Enjoy freshly made petite sandwiches and homemade cakes at a surprisingly low price. My only worry is that I have let the cat out of the bag and I won’t get a table tomorrow!
The Tenth Hole tearooms, Southsea, Hampshire
Opened in 1914 this place has great breakfasts and a stunning and mouthwatering range of cakes large and small. High chairs for kids, biscuits and drinks for dogs, plenty of outdoor seating – they even provide blankets and hot water bottles for those sunny but chilly days – and great staff make the Tenth Hole a Southsea institution.
Eastern Parade, 02392 830009, thetenthhole.co.uk
The Station House, Holmsley, Hampshire
While on a walk in the New Forest I came across this delight. To see a sympathetically restored train station in use as a tea room is something I could not just pass by. I sat outside on the restored platform looking over the beautiful forest while enjoying a delectable millionaire’s shortcake. Treats ranged from a healthy lunch menu to the irresistable afternoon tea and cake selection. There is also a delightful-looking supper menu.
01425 402468, newforesttearooms.co.uk
Llyn Crafant Lakeside Cafe, Snowdonia
Park next to Llyn Geirionydd, and take a walk across Mynydd Deulyn – mountain of the two lakes – into the beautiful Crafnant Valley. Follow the easily accessible path around Llyn Crafnant, and then before you head back, stumble across this unassuming cafe, tucked away on the banks of the lake (tablecloths pegged down just in case!). Take in the unspoilt scenery, with a proper cup of tea and a very generous slice of delicious homemade cake. We sit and daydream, before finally heading back over the mountain.
Tea by the Sea (Dal Na Mara), Ullapool, Highland
This delightful ex-fisherman’s cottage overlooks the pier with sweeping views beyond up Loch Broom. Gill and Bob serve delicious Scottish cream tea and homemade cakes but it was the sound of Gill’s laughter that initially attracted us. Take advantage of the cosy interior on a windy day and watch the fishing boats and Calmac ferries on their way to and from Stornoway. Brill!
17 Shore St, 01854 613346
The Potting Shed Tearoom, Kingussie, Highland
After a good walk or cycle we feel we deserve some cake and coffee. In Scotland this can be more difficult than you’d think – sometimes the cake or scone is good and the coffee awful, othertimes the coffee is good and the scone or cake is stale or, worse, heated up in the microwave. But this tea room is excellent for both – cakes to die for and coffee to revive you, all made and served with TLC by Philip Borrowman. Try it, you wont be disappointed.
84 Kingussie High Street, 01540 651287, inshriachnursery.co.uk
An Clachan Café, Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow
Set in a (previously unloved) section of this beautiful park, An Clachan has really lovely homemade cakes (the best chocolate chip cupcakes I’ve had), hot and cold food (again, homemade), good coffee, great welcoming staff and healthy snacks and drinks for children. It’s even near a small play park.
07846 463614, kelvingroveparkcafe.co.uk