22nd Feb, 2020

Heaven on a plate: Afternoon tea at the Southcrest Manor is sheer delight

Correspondent 14th Feb, 2020

REDDITCH’S Southcrest Manor Hotel has been undergoing a full refurbishment and the Standard’s Claire Bullivant was invited along to experience the grand English tradition of afternoon tea in their new Laura Ashley Tea Room.

Apparently the tradition of afternoon tea started in the 1840s when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford complained of hunger during the late afternoon… something I can definitely relate to.

So it was a delight to be invited along to the Southcrest Manor for afternoon tea on a work day… for ‘research!’

I grew up in Redditch, so have spent the last 30 years or so having family Sunday lunches at the Southcrest and have fond memories of my father’s 40th birthday there, my grandfather’s 70th and various celebrations in between.

My parents even used to be friends with the old owners back in the 90s – the glamorous Roy and Kay Devrill, so my brother and I could cause havoc exploring the corridors of the 98-year-old manor house and it’s beautiful gardens – and normally get away with it.

Since then I’ve been living in America for a few years so am quite the English afternoon tea connoisseur.

It’s been a link to ‘home’ and as all the best American hotels offer English afternoon tea – I’ve sampled them all.

I’ve complained that my Earl Grey isn’t quite hot enough in San Diego, instructed the Los Angelinos that more clotted cream is needed and suggested the scones could do with a few more minutes in the oven in San Francisco – all in a terribly polite British way of course!

So Southcrest Manor owner Simon Chopra and his team had quite the challenge on their hands when they invited me to tea. I was to experience my first proper English afternoon tea in a while, in a proper English tea room. They needn’t have worried.

Every detail was exquisite. Traditional finger sandwiches were given modern twists on super soft bread. They were accompanied with delectable smoked salmon and cream cheese blinis that melted in your mouth.

There was a selection of to-die-for handmade cakes including a pistachio and raspberry gateau, a Victoria sponge, a blackberry cheesecake and a chocolate shot which I still keep dreaming about.

Then, the final jewel in the English afternoon tea crown was the best scones I’ve had in this lifetime.

Light, warm and buttery to perfection, served with a healthy dollop of thick clotted cream, lemon curd and zingy strawberry jam. The scones were fluffy and flakey with golden tops and held well together for the accompaniments.

All this with Champagne and hot loose leaf tea overlooking the Southcrest’s majestic gardens. Perfect.

The new Laura Ashley tea room is simply gorgeous as well. It’s been decorated in that graceful signature Laura Ashley style with floral prints in muted lemon and gray complementing the soft furnishings and decorative items. It’s a really elegant space – perfect for indulging in that most British of pastimes.

If Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford could come back to life and see what she started all those years ago… I’d take her to the Southcrest Manor and get her to try one of those scones… heaven!

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