Afternoon Tea at Denstone Hall Farm Shop and Café

A nice afternoon tea from somewhere which came highly recommended to us.


This lunchtime we went to Denstone Hall for afternoon tea. The café here had been recommended to us by Anneka's parents - and they know how high my standards are - so we thought we'd give it a try. We really are quite fond of afternoon tea, and we had heard it gets quite busy here, so we booked ahead. We were told that they didn't serve afternoon tea until 2pm (which is the same as a lot of places) but they'd make an exception for us, as we couldn't come any later. We explained that we are vegetarians and got the impression that it's not something they've encountered before, but they suggested some suitable options - more for them to be certain they got it right, we think. As a side note, our experience here gave me a chance to test out the new rating stars. Visually, they're no different to the previous stars, but the archaic HTML code I previously used didn't allow for half ratings. The new code does.

When we arrived it was actually fairly quiet. We put this down to the snow we've had recently. Although the roads are perfectly clear - as they get ploughed (when necessary) and gritted in these parts - everywhere was quiet. We barely saw another vehicle both on the way to Denstone and on the way back! We were greeted by a friendly lady and shown to our table. After a brief wait, Anneka's tea and my customary lemonade arrived. I'd chosen Luscombe Sicilian Lemonade, which is organic and made in Devon. It is a still lemonade, which makes sense as carbonated (fizzy) lemonade didn't exist until the 1800's - non-fizzy lemonade has been around for over a thousand years. For some reason, this one has vanilla extract in it. I couldn't taste the vanilla, so I don't know that it adds anything to the experience. The lemon flavour was a little weak for my liking, but it was pleasant nonetheless. I found it to be very refreshing, and a nice palette cleanser between courses.

Very shortly after our drinks arrived, the afternoon tea followed. It arrived, as one would expect, with separate serving plates along with a knife and fork, on a three tier stand:

The sandwiches were cheese; cream cheese and cucumber; and egg mayonnaise. The bread was very soft and the cheese was strong enough, but not overpowering. The cream cheese and cucumber was delicious and nicely balanced. The egg mayonnaise was nice also - I'm not a huge fan of eggs or mayonnaise, but this was ok! The selection of cakes - or rather mini-deserts as there was only one actual cake - were mostly very nice. By far the best was the plum frangipane - it was absolutely delicious! So good in fact, that we nearly bought a couple of slices to take with us (we ended up buying beer instead!)

The plum frangipane
After this we had what we though was a chocolate brownie. The brownie itself was lovely, but the chocolate chunks in it were very bitter. This spoiled it and is such a shame, as with less bitter chunks it would have been perfect. We later learnt that it was meant to be a salted caramel brownie... There was no hint of salted caramel at all, so either the salted caramel brownie is poor or someone made a mistake when assembling the plate. Then came the raspberry macaroon. You know those moments on The Great British Bake Off where something tastes better than it looks? Well, it was like that! Unfortunately the filling had run out and therefore it looked a mess. However, it was very nice. The raspberry filling was tangy - which a lot of raspberry things don't manage - and the shell was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. If the presentation had been better, it too would have been perfect.

The raspberry macaroon
After our tasty mini-deserts came the scones. Though the scones had obviously been warmed up, they'd been left flat on the plate. Most places place them at an angle on the inner rim of the plate (the part where there is a bit of a dip.) This helps steam escape from underneath the warm scone, so you don't end up with a soggy bottom. Sadly, this hadn't been done and we'd not seen this to correct it, so when we got to the scones the bottom was a little soggy. Additionally, if you choose the cream tea you have a choice between a plain scone or a fruit scone. This wasn't offered with the afternoon tea and so we both had a plain scone - we prefer fruit ones. The strawberry jam was ok, but lacked any real depth of flavour. The clotted cream came from Daltons, which is a dairy about ten minutes away from the farm. It was very nice, but was presented in the packaging from the farm. It would have been better from an experience perspective to have transferred this into a small pot to match the jam. It's a minor detail yes, but an important one. The scone (ignoring the soggy bottom) was firm on the outside yet soft with the right density on the inside. The only issue we had was that there were no spoons for the cream and jam - which there should be when serving an afternoon tea. Sadly, there was nobody around at the time whom we could ask for these, so we ended up using the knives.

The scone, with clotted cream and a decent amount of jam
The clotted cream, in the pot it was presented
in with the afternoon tea

On the way out, we had a wander around the shop. We bought some beers and mead, and we also saw these...

I was very unhappy about this. For those who aren't aware of the furore around driven grouse shooting, have a read of this. If you look at this Twitter account, you'll find lots of useful information and a link to a petition.

We also saw some teabags. Well, this particular company call them 'temples'. What a load of pretentious nonsense. (For those wondering what on earth a 'tea temple' is, it's basically a pyramid teabag made of some sort of mesh. It's the kind of ridiculous marketing rubbish that you'd expect from the kind of people who call themselves a "tea evangelist" and an "experienced tea taster"... So what? I'm an experienced beer connoisseur - that is to say I drink beer sometimes and have been doing since before I was legally old enough! At least PG Tips, though apparently not the best tea in the world, manage to call a spade a spade.) It's just a tea bag. Nothing more.

We quite enjoyed our afternoon tea, and it has achieved the highest rating I've ever given anywhere. A couple of things lost it half a star, which is a pity because it could have managed four! However, we expect that at some stage we'll dine here again.

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