In case you hadn’t quite gotten the memo from my more recent blog posts, I really like afternoon tea. Like, really. So when I was searching for the ideal gift for my mama for Mother’s Day, I couldn’t think of a gift that I would enjoy giving more than an afternoon tea for the two of us! I definitely take after my mum in being a huge cake fan, and I knew she’d love to do something a bit special, for the first Mother’s Day that I’ve been able to spend with her in five years. And with that in mind, I knew it had to be just perfect.
I trawled the internet for a week or so in preparation for making a booking, and while I toyed with taking her to The Halkin, I thought it might be nicer to stay a bit closer to home this time. I was wracking my brains for ideas, when Chiddingstone Castle popped into my head. Five miles from my parents’ house, and one of their favourite places to visit, Chiddingstone is a gloriously old-fashioned, teeny-tiny village tucked away in the Kent countryside, which also happens to boast a stunning Tudor castle. Seriously, this place is my dream future wedding venue. Utter perfection.
By a stroke of luck, the team at Chiddingstone were arranging a Mother’s Day afternoon tea, so I eagerly booked us in for a sitting in the very prettily-named White Rose Drawing Room. It was kept a secret from my mum right up until the last moment, and her little face was so surprised when we pulled up to the magnificent driveway, just before teatime. She was delighted! We scurried into the castle and were led into the White Rose room, which was just wonderful. Inspired by Victorian glamour in a typically Tudor setting, the room had wonderful high panelled ceilings, painted minty green and white. The walls were covered in Tudor paintings, and there was a stunning chandelier too. We were so blown away by the beautiful surroundings, and even more so by the views of the Weald stretching out ahead of the castle. Again, just perfection.
We were served steaming tea in a vintage teapot, and then we got down to business. All of the food was of such high quality! We started with finger sandwiches, including ham and mustard, egg, salmon and cream cheese, and cheese with beetroot, all of which tasted great. Then we moved onto a pile of mini scones, which we smothered in locally-made raspberry jam and clotted cream – probably our favourite part of the experience. Lord knows we both love a cream tea! We had two scones each but we could have happily eaten a couple more given the size of them.
To finish up, we served a platter of miniature cakes. I was quite disappointed with these, to be honest. Every other table was served their cakes on a beautiful cake stand, whereas ours were on a standard plate, which made it feel a bit less special for us. It would have felt a lot nicer to have them served on the cake stands, especially when everybody else had them. Also, I was quite disappointed that we were only served one piece of each cake to share. Given my past experiences of afternoon tea, the norm is to receive a piece each of each kind, so it was a bit disappointing to have to split these very small slices into even smaller ones, just so we could both have a taste! Also, there were charges for extra cakes and sandwiches – something which didn’t happen at The Halkin, where extra servings were all complimentary. All of the cakes were delicious; we had a chocolate sponge that was unbelievably light, a creamy coffee cake, a zingy lemon and blueberry slice and a wonderful miniature Victoria sponge, but it would have been even lovelier to have a piece each.
Despite these little issues, we both had a wonderful time together. The staff were attentive, and we had plenty of time to enjoy our tea at leisure, luxuriating and enjoying lots of gossip! By the time we were ready to leave, we’d had our fill of tea and cake and my mum was delighted with her afternoon. We finished off with a stroll around the absolutely gorgeous grounds of the castle, before making our way to the local pub for a cheeky drink and a cosy seat by the fire!