20 best afternoon teas in Suffolk and Cambs
It's National Afternoon Tea week and to celebrate here's our round-up of the best places to scoff scones in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk
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 (of course there’s a week to celebrate it!) runs this year from Mon 10 – Sun 16 Aug.
So let’s get our pinky fingers out and gorge 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 and 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 Neots 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. Elsie May’s Electric Tearoom, Ground Floor, 58 Market Square, St Neots, PE19 2AA, elsiemays.co.uk
Parker’s Tavern at The University Arms, Cambridge
Parker’s Tavern inside The University Arms has a delightful take on afternoon tea from Chef Tristan Welch’s – he was inspired by Cambridge and the long list of legendary academics that have made their mark in the city. So every little dish on the menu has an interesting story behind it, or pays homage to an exciting moment in the history of Cambridge – so you might want to take a minute to reflect on all this greatness before inhaling it!
We’re talking about a trio of sandwiches inspired by the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who studied at Trinity College; then there’s Crayfish Pastry Boats, inspired by the Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race; Parker’s Football Truffles, celebrating the fact that the rules of football were invented on Parker’s Piece, as well as a delicious glazed apple mousse with a compote centre named Sir Isaac Newton’s Apple. We could go on and on…but that’s your history lesson for the day, now it’s time to dig in! Parker’s Tavern, The University Arms, 52-42 Regent St, Cambridge CB2 1AD, parkerstavern.com
The Rupert Brooke, Grantchester
One of our favourites for all occasions, this Grantchester-based brasserie only entered the arena of spoonfuls of lemon curd and doll sized pastries in 2017, but have firmly put themselves on the afternoon tea map. It’s a nice classic take and you can add a glass of G&T from neighbouring The Cambridge Gin Distillery for a fiver.
The Rupert Brooke, 2-4 Broadway, Grantchester, Cambridge, CB3 9NQ, therupertbrooke.com
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 is 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 Covid-restrictions-friendly courtyard area that you can spill out onto when the sun is out.
Flock Cafe, Burwash Manor, Cambridge, CB23 7EY, flockcafe.co.uk
SIX Brasserie at The Varsity Hotel, Cambridge
Cambridge settings don’t get much more spectacular than the rooftop 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. After afternoon tea in the restaurant, get on the hard stuff and enjoy cocktail hour on the stunning roof terrace.
SIX Brasserie, The Varsity Hotel, 24 Thompson’s Lane, Cambridge CB5 8AQ, thevarsityhotel.co.uk
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 home made 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 – Sun (12 noon-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.
Houghton Tea Rooms, Mill Street, Houghton, Huntingdon PE29 2AZ.
The DoubleTree Hilton, Cambridge
The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in the centre of Cambridge doesn’t look massively exciting from the front but bear with… Inside the décor is your kind of normal formal hotel style – Jonathan Adler isn’t going to get the shakes but it’s smartly done. The USP at this place is the amazing view of the River Cam – you could dip your toes in the water if you so desired. If the weather’s looking good it’s a perfect spot for catching a few rays in the sheltered garden whilst punt-watching. Afternoon tea is always beautifully presented and there’s heaps of space both inside and out – no-one seems to get too precious about kids, so the pressure’s off there. On a practical note there’s ample parking – in a traffic-chocked city that’s a winner in my book.
The DoubleTree Hilton, Granta Place, Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RT, doubletree3.hilton.com
Peacocks Tearoom, Ely
This quirky tearoom was set up in the owners home 14years 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.
Peacocks Tearoom, 65 Waterside, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4AU, peacockstearoom.co.uk
The Cafe at Gog Magog Farmshop
The cafe at the award winning Gog Magog farmshop has a relaxed and warm feel about it as well as serving some seriously good tea and cake. There’s a busy vibe and if you’re feeling sociable you can gather around the central long farm house table or pick a quieter spot to catch up with a mate. Word of warning: the scones are enormous and there’s a huge array of cakes. With a farmshop, butchers and deli on site you’ll leave with a boot full of goodies to enjoy.
The Gog Magog Hills Farmshop, Heath Farm, Babraham Rd, Stapleford, Cambridge CB22 3AD, thegog.com
The Orchard Tea Gardens, Grantchester
Another tea option based in the historic setting of Grantchester, but when a villages 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.
The Orchard Tea Gardens, 47 Mill Way, Grantchester, Cambridge CB3 9ND, theorchardteagarden.co.uk
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 1920s 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.
Tilly the Travelling Tea Room
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. tillythetravellingtearoom.co.uk
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!
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 Beatrix Potter-inspired tea that adults and children will love. Plus, 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.
You can’t move for good scones and itsy-bitsy sandwiches in Lavenham and our second choice 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 delivery still, the tea rooms are running a very successful afternoon tea in a box service. Or you can eat in and enjoy the delicious homemade goodies in the pretty garden or traditionally decorated front room.
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
No worries about social distancing at Seckford Hall, where you can 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. Pair with a visit to the hotel’s spa or go all out and book a romantic stay.
Maison Talbooth, Dedham
Maison Talbooth is an absolutely heavenly place to enjoy afternoon tea – take my word for it, I’ve booked tea here on a few special occasions and it has never let me down. The gardens are serene and so quiet, and you can happily while away a sunny afternoon scoffing scones and washing them down with gallons of tea or bubbles.
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.
This one comes as another top personal recommendation – we chose gorgeous Kesgrave as the venue for our post-wedding party and it was wonderful. I’d also really recommend it for afternoon tea on the terrace with views over the sweeping lawns. 2020 saw the brand new spa open too, so don’t eat too many scones as you’ll probably want to book an afternoon here too.