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Tea for two

Who doesn't love a fully laden cake stand? And at Hartsfield Manor it comes piled high with delicious savoury and sweet treats.

THE LOCATION

Leafy, super-pretty part of Surrey about three miles east of Dorking and west of Reigate in the beautiful hamlet of Betchworth with its river and rolling hills. More English-country-cottage-per-metre than anywhere else in the UK (verified by the *cough* Muddy Book of Records), it’s a very pretty drive to reach the hotel, with its sweeping driveway.

THE VIBE

The Victorian manor house dates back to the 1860s when it was built a private residence, until the Second World War when it became a hotel and training centre. Set in 16 acres of Surrey countryside, with views out over Box Hill, the setting is undeniably peaceful and beautiful.

There’s an off-the-beaten-track feel to the place – and a sense that it’s been left alone by time, although that’s not to say the interiors are at all dated. A recent Cinderella-style makeover has shows the manor house at its elegant and graceful best.

The hotel is mainly used as a wedding and conference venue, but it’s also open for afternoon teas in the Lounge and dinner in the Terrace Restaurant. The fabric of the building is itself lovely with its wide sweeping wooden staircase and huge stained glass window, multiple chimneys and arched doorways.

Outside the hotel, it’s a breath of fresh air – literally. Fields and greenery as far as the eye can see – and the big windows and terrace seating also makes the most of this.

SCOFF & QUAFF

I went for a midweek afternoon tea with one of my lovely NCT friends – so amid the scoffing of scones and cakes we were trading notes on life with our our teenage boys!

Afternoon tea was served in the Lounge, and as we were the only ones there I did slip rather easily into role of Lady of the Manor. We were seated in cosy wingback chairs by the open fireplace which had a lovely little fire crackling away. The huge bay windows have views out over the gardens and Box Hill. I could get used to this.

First came the fizz. And then came the food. To say the afternoon tea for two was generously portioned is the understatement of the century – a selection of finger sandwiches, miniature quiches, cakes, slices, pastries, and scones was on offer – there was enough to feed my entire family for supper, including the teenage son.

I started with the savouries – delightful mini quiches and a finger sandwich or seven. These came in trios: cheese and pickle, salmon and ham. There’s something rather decadent about eating a sandwich as an adult that has the crusts removed.

One should never fill up on the savouries. No! Not when the sweet treats await – and so we moved on to the baked delights that looked as good as they tasted – cupcakes, chocolate mud cake, apple slice, some kind of custard-filled pastry, lemon drizzle cake, and home baked scones with jam and clotted cream.

It’s true I exercised zero self-restraint and waddled out of the Hartsfield Manor a couple of hours later, waist band stretched to the max and gloriously stuffed to the gills.

KID-FRIENDLY?

There’s certainly enough for a family with five kids – but I’d be tempted to leave them at home. The stately elegance of Hartsfield Manor seems more fitting of a scene that doesn’t include children. Although, if yours are well behaved I’m certain they’d be welcome. The summer months are a different story though, with those extensive gardens, afternoon tea on the terrace with your kids – perhaps after a walk – sounds quite delightful.

OUT & ABOUT

The grounds are the obvious place to start to walk off the cake, and if you’re after something a bit more strenuous Box Hill only a few minutes drive. The National Trust’s Polesden Lacey is 20 minutes away in the car, and Denbies Wine Estate is about 10 minutes away. Dorking is only a few miles away, and worth a wander around, especially if you like antiques.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Girly get-togethers, mums and daughters, anyone who loves lots of cake.

Not for: Those who are looking for a something lively. Hartfield Manor is sedate and serene.

The damage: Afternoon tea for two, with fizz, is £49.99.

Hartsfield Manor, Sandy Lane, Betchworth, RH3 7AA. Tel: 01737 845300. hartsfieldmanor.co.uk

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Surrey