Afternoon tea, the most quintessential of English customs, is a relatively new tradition, introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in the year 1840.
The Duchess became hungry midafternoon and asked for a tray of tea, bread, butter and cake to be brought to her room, (sometime earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread). This pause for tea became a fashionable social event.
I was fortunate enough to be able to indulge in the best of the afternoon tea tradition in a trip to Wood Hall: a four-star, 44 room country house hotel with an AA two-rosette restaurant, about a mile from the village of Linton. This grand country house, originally built for the Scott family as a retreat, dates back further than the tradition I came to sample, as it was built in about 1750.
The long, sweeping drive up to the hotel is awe-inspiring, as the luxury spa hotel sits high on top of a hill overlooking picture postcard countryside and perfectly preened gardens. There are so many spectacular walks to enjoy that it is no surprise the hotel is dog friendly. Their afternoon tea can be enjoyed alfresco while soaking up these views, but it was a sunny, yet chilly March afternoon, so we enjoyed ours in The Georgian Restaurant.
It is advisable to book your afternoon tea in advance, which can be done on their website or by giving them a call. We booked in advance and the hotel receptionist immediately welcomed us and showed us to our table by one of the large windows. With a table like that, there is no need to make small talk with your dining partner, just soak up the views of the valley sweeping down to the river Wharfe.
Victoria, our server, was delightful and never without a smile. After bringing us our choice of tea, she served the afternoon tea in two courses. First up, a selection of delicate finger sandwiches, roast beef and horseradish, smoked salmon and dill crème fraiche, egg mayonnaise and watercress and ham and grain mustard mayonnaise. These were accompanied by a mini bacon and garden peas quiche, and our absolute favourite; a delicious black pudding sausage roll.
Once all that had been devoured, Victoria brought out a beautifully presented stand containing the second course. No afternoon tea would be complete without scones, and there were two each, wrapped in a thick cotton napkin to keep them warm; a plain and a fruit scone along with thick clotted cream and fresh strawberry jam.
This set off the time old debate of jam or cream first. Well, did you know, the standing order book of English etiquette states that if the scone is warm you put the jam on first? Apparently this is the way the Queen did it, which is good enough for me. The sweet treats were truly works of art and tasted equally divine. All made in-house by their talented pastry chef, Nadine. We enjoyed strawberry and rose white chocolate pavlova, black forest petit gateau, citrus honey éclair and matcha double cheesecake. I tried so desperately hard to finish all the cakes as it seemed a sin to leave them but didn’t quite manage it. I promise you will not leave hungry.
So, a few things I want to mention. If you do come with your four-legged friend, you will be warmly welcomed and can enjoy the same experience in the lounge or bar. They also have special rooms available if you wish to stay overnight with the canine members of your family. For a special occasion, you can upgrade to a glass of perfectly chilled Champagne or for that extra special treat, they have a ‘Pure Indulgence Afternoon Tea Spa Day’. If you are not sure which way to go then they also offer gift vouchers.
Wood Hall serves afternoon tea 12.00pm-4.00pm, at £35 per adult. They also welcome children with afternoon tea especially for them, priced at just £12.50. The kids’ menu looked great and extremely reasonably priced for what’s included.
Trip Lane, Linton,
Wetherby LS22 4JA
Tel. 01937 587271