18 of the best afternoon teas in Suffolk & Cambs
Raise that pinky finger! Here's our round-up of the best places to scoff scones, mini puddings and crustless sandwiches in Suffolk & Cambridgeshire.
It’s that time of year when we celebrate one of the greatest and most quintessential of all the British traditions – the classic afternoon tea. National Afternoon Tea Week runs from 9-15 Aug and we make it an annual Muddy mission to get involved. Like, really involved.
So let’s unite in gorging ourselves silly on doll-sized cakes, crustless sarnies and load bearing scones in this round-up of the best places to enjoy afternoon tea across Suffolk & Cambs. Have we missed off your favourite? Let us know in the comments box below!
Elsie May’s Electric Lounge, St Neots
The name alone should be enough to get you across the threshold of this St Neot’s cafe and bar. Elsie May was the current owner’s grandmother, and she always dreamt of owning a tearoom. Well, voilà, Elsie May would be proud because it’s a cracker. Afternoon tea is one of the specialities and it’s a beautiful space to enjoy it in. On the menu you’ve got all the things you could hope for: perfectly soft sandwiches, melt-in-the-mouth scones and cute-as-a-button cakes. Plus, you can take those weirdos who don’t like sweet stuff as there’s a savoury version too.
Parker’s Tavern at the University Arms, Cambridge
Parker’s Tavern inside The University Arms has a delightfully traditional-yet-quirky take on afternoon tea courtesy of chef Tristan Welch. Starting with the savouries, I love the cucumber and mint sandwiches, crayfish pastry boats and truffle sausages rolls. This is followed by an assortment of scones and the sweet treats, including rhubarb and custard cheesecake, Eton mess and Ferrero Rocher – ooo he’s really spoiling us.
Flock Cafe, Burwash Manor, Barton
This café is set up in the artisan quarter of Burwash Manor – a collection of shops housed in converted farm buildings in the peaceful Cambridgeshire countryside. Flock Cafe’s open seven days a week and serves brunches, lunches and delicious freshly baked cakes, scones and meringues accompanied by a pot of afternoon tea. It’s not a huge cafe but there’s a courtyard area that you can spill out onto when the sun decides to make an appearance this summer.
SIX Brasserie at The Varsity Hotel, Cambridge
Cambridge settings don’t get much more spectacular than the rooftop at SIX restaurant with panoramic views across those dreaming spires (yes, yes I know that’s Oxford, but I’m using a bit of poetic licence!). You can see for miles as you devour tea and cakes here and pick out all the famous city landmarks. A great choice for anyone with dietary requirements but still keen to get involved, as there’s vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free and veggie options. Following afternoon tea in the restaurant, get on the hard stuff and enjoy cocktail hour on the stunning roof terrace.
Houghton Tea Room, Houghton
Muddy came across this teeny tiny cute-to-the-max brew house after a walk at Houghton Mill and what a find. It’s worth a visit, if only to watch your children dribbling at the cake counter – all homemade by owner Linda Prentice who clearly knows a thing or two about making a sponge rise. There’s also a small gallery attached if you still have any energy left to mooch. It’s open Wed – Sat (10.30am-4pm) – if you’re after lavish afternoon tea you’ll need to book ahead but if a slice of delicious cake and a cup of tea is what you’re after just pitch up.
Peacocks Tearoom, Ely
This quirky tearoom was set up in the owners home around 15 years ago. It has now spread to take up much of the ground floor and you really do feel as if you have been invited to tea in someone’s house. As well as a lunch menu they have a huge selection of home made cakes and they offer tea from every continent bar Antartica! They don’t take bookings for afternoon tea and if you want to make a weekend of it they have two suites upstairs that are run on a B&B basis.
The Orchard Tea Garden, Grantchester
Another tea option based in the historic setting of Grantchester, but when a village is this pretty it’s hardly surprising that there are several watering holes. Just a short stroll, cycle ride, punt or drive from the bustle of Cambridge you’ll find The Orchard Tea Garden; a corner of England where time stands still as the hectic world hurtles by. The Orchard has been serving tea for nearly 120 years (so they’ve really nailed it by now) and is renowned for the plethora of famous bods who’ve enjoyed its genteel setting, including Rupert Brooke and his Bloomsbury set friends Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes and Ernest Rutherford to name but a few. Relax in a deck chair under the shade of an apple tree, enjoy the riverside setting and soak up the atmosphere of a bygone era as you scoff a scone or three.
Carriages Tea Rooms, Fen Drayton
Had more afternoon teas than birthdays and fancy something a little bit different this year? Well, Cambridgeshire is home to one of the most fabulous and unusual places for tea and scones – Carriages in Fen Drayton, where, as the name suggests, you in dine decadent style on board a 1920s Pullman style carriage. The attention to detail at this historic station (originally Oakham station) is incredible and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the hey day of afternoon tea and luxury travel. The food is absolutely first class too, with much of it coming from the onsite Victorian Kitchen Garden.
You’ve gotta love a wild card and if you just can’t be bothered to go and find your afternoon delight then why not grab a bunch of your bezzies and have afternoon tea delivered to you. This genuine Thomson Mini Glen caravan has been lovingly restored to her former glory, with the help of a little Cath Kidston. The Nanny McPhee of the tea wold – she gets out and about travelling to tea parties and events where you might need her help. Give Betty Crocker the afternoon off and get Tilly to pitch up with afternoon tea, ice creams and a host of homemade cakes and cookies.
Clayton Hotel, Cambridge
The Clayton Hotel (you might remember it as The Tamburlaine) has a good rep for afternoon tea in the city. Plenty of options, from jam and scones to the full works; finger sandwiches, pastries, the sweetest mini meringues, chocolate pops and an impressive choice of what to wash it down with including loose-leaf Newby teas, fruit infusion teas and (shock) artisan coffees. Walk it all off in the Botanical Gardens next door.
The Swan, Lavenham
Period features, galore, smart crisp white table cloths and a hushed atmosphere of refined dining. Afternoon tea doesn’t get smarter than at The Swan in Lavenham. Everything is perfectly sized and absolutely delectable and there’s the chance to pair up your experience with a spa treatment at the hotel’s Weavers Spa. Heaven!
You can’t move for good scones and itsy-bitsy sandwiches in Lavenham and our second suggestion of places to enjoy a three-tiered confection is Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms. This a more relaxed affair than The Swan, but no less scrummy. If you’re looking for something to serve at home (or a picnic), the tea rooms are running a very successful afternoon tea in a box service which you need to pre-order. Or you can eat in and enjoy the delicious homemade goodies in the pretty garden or traditionally decorated front room.
Winner of the Muddy Awards 2021 best boutique hotel, so you’d expect its afternoon tea to be pretty spesh and it doesn’t disappoint. Not only are you by the coast, which is always a good idea, you’ll also get to scoff down three tiers of delights: a selection of sandwiches, buttermilk scones with clotted cream and jam and a mesmerising variety of pastries and cakes. Add on a cheeky glass of Adnams Champagne or an Adnams Copper House G&T, a great way to ‘support local’ (hic).
Salthouse Harbour Hotel, Ipswich
If you haven’t been to this boutique beauty on Ipswich’s waterfront then you need to pronto. It’s a really cool offering in a county full of thatched cottages and beamed beauties and feels like you’re on holiday somewhere fancy (maybe not quite St Tropez, but you get the idea!). Afternoon tea here includes all the usual treats, plus there’s the option to upgrade to a champagne tea or bring the little ones for a kids tea.
Seckford Hall Hotel, near Woodbridge
Enjoy a classic afternoon tea in the sprawling gardens with the glorious hall as your backdrop. This is your quintessential afternoon tea – no messing with the classic flavours and elements we all know and love. Tempting to add on some Champagne or Prosecco and pair with a visit to the hotel’s spa or go all out and book a romantic stay.
Hintlesham Hall, near Ipswich
If you like to make a grand arrival to afternoon tea, this is the place to come, with its long sweeping drive and stately appearance. You can choose to eat in the elegant wood-panelled lounges or enjoy your cakes and scones al fresco in the pretty gardens.
Milsoms Kesgrave Hall, near Ipswich
Served every afternoon between 3-5pm, afternoon tea here is an institution and there were celebrations when it returned post-lockdown. I recommend eating it on the terrace with views over the sweeping lawns. There’s a Champagne option, which is mighty tempting, though Kesgrave has a great spa so if you’re tempted to indulge in a massage while you’re there you might want to leave the scones and bubbly until afterwards! If you want to treat someone, there are afternoon tea gift vouchers (hint, hint).
The Ickworth Hotel, Bury St Edmunds
The Ickworth Hotel’s Orangery is always an idyllic place to have afternoon tea, but this summer they’ve upped the ante with this super cute Wind in the Willows-inspired tea that adults and children will love – a selection of finger sandwiches, truffled cheddar and ham scotch egg with pickles, freshly made savoury and sweet scones, and desserts including Ratty’s lemonade posset and Badger’s chocolate and berry Swiss roll. Once you’ve had your fill, you can burn off those cake calories with a stroll around the beautiful gardens and grounds of the Ickworth Estate.