Swapping spirit fuelled shenanigans for tea time treats
By Katie Garner
With the March social clearly defined by the tropical vibrant fun of pina coladas and the popping of birthday Prosecco, I thought it would be nice to try something a little bit different for our April social. With a penchant for cream coiffed and crumbling cakes, I decided to steer Wychelmers away from the pub and instead head for the black beamed 13th century building of the Marygreen Manor, based in Brentwood, for an elegant afternoon tea, which costs only £15.50 per person.
After a pre-drink in the historical reception area, our group of ten dessert desirers were led into the regal yet small conservatory to a large, round table for our afternoon tea at 2.30pm. Mum and daughter combo of Kay and Nicola looked lovely in floral dresses, whilst Mike F and Helen chinked teacups across the other side of the table. Injured Martin and Noel were both here to experience their first ever afternoon teas (I know, I couldn’t believe it either), whilst treasurer Nick brought along his lovely wife Sandra. With a spare spot for grabs, I was also able to bring my mum Tina along to enjoy éclairs and badminton banter.
An elaborate black plate stand with staggered storeys sat in the centre of the table, and we were all anticipation for it to be stacked with our lovely lunch, which would include finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. We started by ordering our drinks, choosing from a range of teas available as well as coffee. I stuck to traditional breakfast tea along with our unadventurous eater Mike F, while Nicola and Kay went for the more perfumed Earl Grey. Noel went all healthy unfortunately with green tea but Nick, Sandra and Tina opted for the caffeine hit with posh coffee. Helen and Martin both went for strangely named teas which I think were stronger than the norm. Once all of our hot drinks had been delivered and delicately poured into our plain white teacups sat snugly on their little white saucers, it was time for the food to be brought out.
The finger sandwiches were a mix of white and wholemeal bread, soft and squidgy with the crusts thoughtfully cut off, instantly transporting us back to our childhood lunches. The fillings were lovely with a nice variety – we could choose from egg mayonnaise, ham and cucumber, cheese and tomato or the unpopular smoked salmon, which mostly remained untouched. After a decent dig at the savoury stuff, we wholeheartedly delved into what is undoubtedly the best bit – the scones. Offering both plain and sultana studded versions, dusted daintily with flour; the wonderful sweet scones were still warm from the oven. They were served with dishes of smooth strawberry jam and thick clotted cream; we even had to ask for more condiments as we actually run out with three scones still remaining! They were absolutely perfect and I could have quite happily eaten them all day.
After the scones, it was time to tackle the top layer of the afternoon tea pyramid – the cakes and pastries. Again, there was a good mix to pick from. I started by sampling the small shortcrust pastry custard tarts, topped with segments of juicy strawberries – anyone who knows me will know my feelings about custard and will therefore appreciate how I feel about these little beauties. I also enjoyed the mini éclairs, which were filled with a light yet luxurious chocolate cream which oozed dangerously out of one end when you bit into the other. For classic cake lovers, there was also a simple sponge with a vague hint of lemon I think, that was topped with a dusting of coconut. However, the star of the show for me was the decadent chocolate tiffin – the thick and sludgy chocolate and biscuit stack, topped with a chocolate ganache with a hazelnut perilously balanced on top. Totally opulent and rich yet oddly moreish, these really hit the sweet spot. Funnily enough we had to explain the etiquette of finger food to Martin as he attempted to eat the tiffin with his knife and fork – rookie error!
After annihilating as much of the food as possible, we all sort of entered a delightfully relaxed food coma. The conservatory was a real sun trap, so we were able to bask in the warmth coming through, with lovely views of the surrounding gardens, whilst sipping on our refillable tea and coffee. We ended up staying until about 4.30pm when we decided that we had better waddle out since we had eaten and drunk as much as we possible could.
Thank you to everyone who came along – it really was a lovely, peaceful afternoon with lots of great conversations and some seriously snack-tastic food. The scones in particular were idyllic yet all of the food was really delicious and beautifully presented, so really worth every penny, especially as the hotel itself is also gorgeous, so you couldn’t ask for a better place to lounge around with your cake.
The May social is dinner out at Oh My Cod restaurant in Hornchurch on Sunday 11th May. Spaces are filling up quickly, so please make sure that you speak to me if you would like one so I can get you on the list.
Thanks again guys!