It was the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, who started the fashion of afternoon tea – all the way back in 1840. Always feeling hungry in the long stretch between lunch and dinner, she started munching her way through a tray of bread, butter and cake – accompanied by a cup of tea – at around four o’clock in the afternoon.
This habit quickly escalated and was later served in the drawing room so the Duchess could invite some friends to join her, who started dressing up for the occasion.
And the rest is history.
Afternoon tea during the festive season offers the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and family over a menu that takes a Christmassy twist on the age-old tradition.
Our festive afternoon tea begins with a glass of A. Robert Rose Champagne – a must whatever the time of year in our opinion – or a sparkling elderflower and mint presse.
Next up, our delicate finger sandwiches have the ultimate seasonal twist. This includes turkey with chestnut and sage stuffing. Eating turkey at Christmas is a tradition that was apparently started by King Henry VIII. Nowadays, 87% of Brits agree that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without turkey. And neither would our festive afternoon tea!
Another festive finger sandwich we’ll be serving is our Wensleydale and cranberry cheese sandwich with red onion chutney. Cranberries were first introduced at Thanksgiving turkey dinners by the first Pilgrim Fathers, and were later introduced at Christmas as well. Recent science has found that cranberries have health super powers too – packed full of everything from vitamin C to potassium – and are brilliant for heart health and the immune system.
We’ll also be serving a range of other delectable finger sandwiches, from smoked salmon and dill cream cheese, to cucumber, cracked pepper and cress varieties.
And onwards to the sweet part of proceedings! As well as traditional scones, we’ll be serving more cranberries in our cranberry financier with candied orange chiboust, plus a chocolate and cherry mousse with spiced shortbread. You’ll also taste some of our homemade stollen – the traditional sweet German bread served throughout the festive season since the 1500s. We’ll also be crafting our very special apple and mincemeat streusel tart with Chantilly cream. Mince filled pastries – originally filled with actual meat – were something of a status symbol in Georgian times. We personally prefer ours as being a meat-free affair!
We all know that Christmas is best loved by children, so why not include them in the afternoon tea festivities too? Our children’s afternoon tea menu is served with a babycino, hot chocolate or soft drink, and includes festive turkey and cranberry finger sandwiches as well as plain cheese, ham or egg mayo options. Sweet treats include jam tarts, jelly and iced gingerbread men. Ginger in cooking has a long history, but it became associated with the festive season because ginger was thought to warm you up in the colder weather. It was Queen Elizabeth I who helped create the tradition of gingerbread men in the 16th century. She even had a gingerbread chef on her staff, who she asked to shape gingerbread into human figures to represent the people in her court!
Come and enjoy our afternoon tea that is brimming with festive traditions this Christmas season!
Following the latest government announcement, we are delighted to share the news that we will be re-opening the hotel including our restaurants, lounge and riverside terraces from Monday 17th May. The Spa will re-open to members and non-residents from Monday 12th April.