A good Afternoon Tea is a thing of great beauty and a sublime pleasure. Such a simple thing and yet so wonderfully opulent and indulgent. And Afternoon Tea at Ashdown Park Hotel hits all the right notes!
Any which way you arrive at Ashdown Park Hotel involves a drive across Ashdown Forest – home to Winnie the Pooh, a windmill, and 6,500 acres of heather and heathlands, wooded paths and fantastic views across to the South Downs. You won’t be the first to explore here as pre-historic man walked this way, followed by the Romans (with their charcoalers) and even Henry VIII who was known to hunt here often. There are plenty of walks on the forest (and about 40 car parks), and a hearty walk is an excellent excuse for an even heartier afternoon tea when you arrive at the hotel. We arrived from the west, via Horsted Keynes and the autumn colours were magnificent against a steely grey sky. It was worth the drive, just for that.
There is no warmer welcome than a roaring fire in the hearth and large, soft armchairs plump with pillows. The stresses and strains of the world ease away as you get down to the serious business: are you going to go for the Traditional Afternoon Tea, the Champagne Afternoon Tea, the Sussex Afternoon Tea, or the Winnie the Pooh Afternoon Tea? There is also a gluten-free option.
Of course, it was never going to be anything other than a Sussex Afternoon Tea for us which involves a glass of Ridgeview’s Bloomsbury sparkling wine and some chocolate truffles as an aperitif. From that moment on, you’re at peace with the world as you tuck into a selection of sandwiches, warm, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and an assortment of cakes and patisseries. I don’t want to make you hungry (yes I do) but think little treacle tarts, lemon macarons, berry brownies, and pistachio and chocolate orange choux! Oh, and some of the best sausage rolls on the planet!
They also cater for vegetarians and vegans here and we tried the vegetarian sandwiches (we did a lot of eating) which included roasted pepper, guacamole and houmous, all washed down with lashings of tea (or coffee). I’m not a big tea fan but even I was impressed with the choice.
Our waitress could not have been more attentive and put us in touch with the concierge. I grew up in this part of the world and spent many a muddy hour of my youth on the forest, but I learnt more about Ashdown Park and its history in an hour with the concierge than in a lifetime of attending weddings here (they do a fabulous wedding!). And ask him to show you the windows in the chapel!
As we sunk slowly into the armchairs replete with cake, we didn’t want to leave. On a cold November day, Ashdown Park Hotel wraps its arms around you and cocoons you from the wilds of winter. I’ll definitely be back.
The Sussex Afternoon Tea is available Monday to Friday (£44.50 pp or £85 / couple) and at weekends (£46 / pp or £88 / couple). From 5th of December to the 23rd of December, you can also indulge in a Festive Afternoon Tea.
If you like this post about Afternoon Tea at Ashdown Park Hotel, you may also like: