Review: Gin cocktail afternoon tea
Afternoon tea with artisan Surrey gin cocktails in a sumptuous manor house garden setting? Who's in?
Fun fact: Afternoon tea became a thing when a grumpy Duchess, and close friend of Queen Victoria, couldn’t make it from lunch to supper without an afternoon snack. What started initially as tea with bread and butter, soon became tea with cakes and sandwiches.
But I must say, the most recent afternoon tea I’ve had the pleasure to indulge in also involved gin cocktails. Who knew that gin paired so well with sweet treats?
Barnett Hill Hotel is a gorgeous Queen Anne style mansion house in the Surrey Hills at Wonersh, just a few miles out of Guildford. The setting is everything. Long sweeping driveway and beautiful manicured gardens which flow down into woodland. The estate is on 26 acres, perched atop a hill, and there’s a real feeling of being miles from anywhere.
This is a cool country mansion house that’s in recent years has been primped and polished as part of a multi-million-pound renovation. And while the interiors are gorgeously traditional and ornate – think dark timber panelled dining room, lavish hand painted wall papers and ornate cornices and ceiling roses – it’s far from stuffy and staid.
There’s a busy and buzzy vibe to the place – even with Covid restrictions in place. It was one of those ‘it may rain’ kind of days when I visited, so we dined in The Library. Almost all of the tables in the library were taken. But there were also a two or three tables of people staunchly taking their afternoon tea outside on the terrace.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The combination of Silent Pool gin cocktails and afternoon tea is utterly brilliant – and I may never be able to go back to a simple Champagne or Prosecco afternoon tea again. Well okay, that might be step too far… but the gin was certainly a brilliant addition.
The first cocktail was a classic gin and tonic, served with a twist of orange peel. It paired very well with the sandwiches – cucumber and cream cheese, poached salmon with lemon and parsley, ham and mustard and egg mayo and cress – all served on flavoured and crustless soft bread. There were also some dainty pea and mint quiches, in a vivid green that looked great and tasted fresh and zesty.
Moving onto our second cocktail – a Silent Pool rose expression gin and tonic – another refreshing long drink. The rose is delicate and subtle, and the cocktail was lovely sipped against the richness of scones piled high with raspberry jam and clotted cream.
The long drinks force you to take things slowly, which is lovely. When faced with plates of gorgeously presented sweet bites, it can be tempting to just keep popping them in your mouth. (Or is that just me?)
But we finally moved onto the final drink, and between slow sips of the Silent Pool Blackberry Fizz we enjoyed the cardamom and lemon madeleines, blueberry and raspberry tart, peach macaron and – my favourite – the mojito choux. All dainty, sweet and delicious.
Well kids and gin generally don’t mix. But having said that, I don’t see any reason kids wouldn’t love to scoff some of the cakes and scones.
OUT & ABOUT
The gardens at Barnett Hill Hotel are lovely, and they flow down into the woodslands where there are marked walks.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: This is a lovely way to catch up with the girls, great for multi-generational get-togethers, and also couples.
Not for: If you’re not a fan of gin, go for the Champagne afternoon tea instead!
The damage: £50 per person.
Barnett Hill Hotel, Blackheath Lane, Wonersh, Guildford GU5 0RFalexanderhotels.co.uk