The full afternoon tea is something quintessentially British; no other country does it as well as we do. If you are a visitor to this country, you can do no better than visiting a private tea room in someone's house. In Britain, we have a tradition of the best food emerging from houses rather than restaurants. The supper club movement and its offshoot, secret tea parties continues this tradition of brilliant home cookery and baking. Gwyneth Brock runs a secret tea party in Manchester called Vintage Afternoon Teas. Her house, garden, kitchen, crockery and collection of tea pots are a sigh-inducing pleasure. As well as really tasty sandwiches with unusual fillings, you'll get scones and cakes that are as beautiful to look at as they are good to eat. Gwyneth is a superb baker: I include one of her guest recipes in my book MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea party, out on Thursday. In the back of the book is a list of secret tea party tea rooms around the country, including Gwyneths.
Teapots of every shape and size
Gwyneth combines tea with crafting and sewing workshops called the 'crafternoon tea party' that she does with Jo Johnston of French Knots Craft Studio. I really enjoyed this, conversation and concentrating in a sewing circle, very therapeutic.
I made a little lavender cushion in the shape of a house. Yeah I know the stitching isn't that neat but I got there late and had to hurry to catch up. Otherwise it would have looked professional, of course ;)
Mini bakewells and cucumber and strawberry cupcakes
Light scones and clotted cream. Ladies, paint your nails and dress up for afternoon tea. Wear a satiny tea gown in the style of japonaiserie, wear your hair in a chignon, adorn yourself with silk flowers, don gloves and lace, relax in your femininity, drink tea and gossip.
Sitting back after a great spread
A well dressed tea table has flowers amongst the buttery crumbs
A glittering shiny collection of teapots.
Gwyneth's kitchen, all cream and bunting.
And at the end, the washing up....
Visit Gwyneth Brock's Vintage Afternoon Teas in Manchester.
Book through her site: vintageafternoonteas.co.uk