I have been very lucky and have had the opportunity of enjoying afternoon tea in some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the world, ranging from the Orient Express owned Reids Palace in Madeira where most of the crowned heads of Europe and Churchill have been regulars, to the wonderful library at the Chester Grosvenor or the relaxed country house style of the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey. When it comes to a good tea, I’m your man.
Picture the scene, driving down the winding country lanes on a spring afternoon in the South Lakes, over Newby Bridge we soon would fall upon our target for the afternoon. The Lakeside Hotel on Lake Windermere.
We pulled up on the pay & display car park and drifted in, you can only drift around when you get here, any urgency and stress leaves you when leave junction 36 of the motorway. This is leisure time now and nothing, I hope, is going to spoil it.
We drifted into the conservatory after having a look though the door of the restaurant and a good look at the menu – nice I thought, traditional, fine dining a sense of luxury and occasion, pretty expensive but so far looking good.
Continuing the drift, we landed in the conservatory. My initial thought was that they obviously hadn’t got to refurbishing this part of the hotel, it looked a bit like we had gone into a next door nursing home. NHS style old lady chairs with a bit of wicker thrown about and plenty of pot plants on the windowsills. Keep smiling I thought, I don’t want to upset him indoors.
Finding a spare table we sat down ready for action. I did want to start moving all the furniture about, but managed to restrain myself, sitting on the two seater sofa which was positioned facing the inside of the room so that you had your back to the wonderful garden and lake view. My view was seeing all the trays and doilies stuffed down the side of a dumb waiter. Typical I thought. Keep smiling.
We ordered, and watched the routine of checking in guests being shown to their rooms by the receptionists, they were coming in droves, that offer in the Sunday’s is obviously working I said, mind you, the people it was attracting left a little bit to be desired, a clear heavy discounting policy was in full throw.
Tea arrives. Great I’m ready for this I thought, after a lot of shifting stuff around and getting us organised I poured the tea and eyed up what I was going to start with.
I could only conclude that the tea must have been made by a group of builders in the kitchen, I was temped to ask for a knife and fork. This needed closer inspection, after getting third degree burns from messing with the pot I noticed that there must have been 10 tea bags in that pot, Mr H could see that I was starting to raise up and quickly shot me one of those glances that said hold your horses. Quickly and successfully he attempted to divert my attention to a slice of cake. I kept smiling and kept it shut.
This wasn’t panning out as I had hoped, the tea was like mud, the scones completely disintegrated when you tried to do anything with them, fruit cake, I hate fruit cake, looked like it had been taken out of a little clear packet – the type you see on plane in with all the other bits of rubbish. This wasn’t going to win any awards.
We finished the tea and asked if anyone could show us around, we had made all this effort driven 60 miles for afternoon tea, we thought we may as well get to see everything that they had.
The pool areas looked great, the informal restaurant provided a great alternative to the fine dining restaurant, ideal if staying for 3 or more nights, a good use of space and very well set up to take advantage of the conference and business market.
As we left, the doorman who must have been 90 if a day, packed us off. I left not quite knowing what I thought of the place, its identity seemed somewhat confused, it must have been that tea, they say it haggles the brain.