January has been a bit of a dull month so far. After all the hubbub of Christmas there doesn’t seem much to look forward too and spring still seems so far away. I felt like a needed a bit of cheering up, a bit of romance, a bit of luxury! So I was thrilled when I was invited to have afternoon tea at Hanbury Manor, A Marriott Hotel &Country Club. This gorgeous Jacobean country house hotel is set in 200 acres of scenic Hertfordshire countryside, just outside of Ware. I have to admit that although I had heard of it I had always thought of it as a business centre and was surprised to find that it actually has a lovely spa and restaurant too!
The first thing that struck me about Hanbury Manor as we drove up to the hotel was how friendly the staff were. We were given a cheerful wave by some of the gardeners as we made our way up to the Manor House, and the good service continued as we were cheerfully directed by the gentleman on reception into the Oak Hall where the afternoon tea was served. I think that sometimes it is easy to feel rather intimidated when you go somewhere so smart but we were instantly made to feel welcomed and put at ease.
Entering into the Oak Hall where we were to have our afternoon tea was a real “wow” moment. It really was glorious with a roaring log fire, authentic wood panels and tapestries lining the walls. The whole atmosphere was relaxed and cosy and we were led over to our comfy chairs and served with a very welcome glass of champagne.
We then had a chance to look at the extensive tea menu. I admit I am a bit of a creature of habit but I forced myself to eschew my usual Earl Grey for something more exciting and chose the exotically named Lovers Leap Ceylon. My husband was even more adventurous and went for a Japanese tea. As we sipped our Moët, we had a chance to sit back and soak up the atmosphere. Hanbury Manor has had a romantic history as it was originally built as a wedding present by Edmund Hanbury for his new wife. It then went through various incarnations (including becoming a convent school) before being becoming the hotel we visited today in 1990.
Hanbury has a timeless and relaxed feel to it and soon it was time for the main event – our afternoon tea! Well, it definitely lived up to our expectations in both looks and taste. It arrived on a tasteful stand with some delicious looking sandwiches, freshly baked scones and the prettiest selection of cakes I have ever seen. Yum – time to tuck in! I loved all the sandwiches but I think the cucumber and cream cheese with pesto bread was my favourite with the delicate egg mayonnaise coming a close second. It did make me wonder why the sandwiches I make at home never taste as good, maybe my daughter would be keener to finish her packed lunch if they were.
We then moved on to the scones which were light and fluffy, and tasted perfect laden with Devonshire clotted cream and jam. Sipping our cups of tea me and my husband pondered on how luxurious it all felt and decided that we would like (in our dreams) to make this a weekly occurrence. Although we love our children to bits it was nice to be in sophisticated adult surroundings and have a bit of time and quiet to just chat.
We already felt quite full but I have never yet been defeated by a cream tea so it was on to the cakes! They really did look too good to eat and there was a great selection from coffee cream to little fruit loaf squares and fruit tarts.
We were really enjoying our afternoon tea experience and so after we had finished we decided to walk off our tea with a stroll around the grounds and had a lovely walk around the walled garden.
It was back to reality with a bump when we got home with homework to do and floors to hoover but our experience of the luxury of Hanbury Manor is one that will always stay with us.
If you fancy a little bit of affordable luxury why not try the Valentines Afternoon Tea or celebrate a birthday or wedding anniversary. You can follow Hanbury Manor on Twitter or Facebook too!