Sunny Sunday afternoon tea at Bletchley Park
July 24, 2018
World-famous Bletchley Park was, until the mid-1970s, Milton Keynes' best kept secret, but is now one of the region's most visited attractions.
Taking a walk around the 'Home of the Codebreakers' gives you an opportunity to step back in time, and is a real insight into the efforts that went into bringing to an end six years of war. It is place with an atmosphere of grit and determination, but also hope and wonder. So what better place to enjoy afternoon tea?
Tea is served in the main mansion house that was formerly the home of Sir Herbert Leon, but now contains the restaurant and tea room, and an exhibition space.
While you are waiting to be seated, you can read all about the history of the house which was bought by the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Hugh Sinclair, in 1938 for £6,000 along with the surrounding 581 acres of land. Perfect for a top-secret decryption base, no?
The tea room has plenty of seating but isn't so crammed in that you have little room to move, with a lovely view out onto the lawn where you can watch the swans go for a meander.
Proper vintage china cups, saucers and plates, fashionably mismatched, take up their rightful positions on the tablecloth-covered tables while sunlight streams through the windows, making for a highly pleasant and restful atmosphere. Don't underestimate the importance of having the right ambience for stuffing one's face with tea, cake, sandwiches and scones in a most inelegant fashion. I do so love an afternoon tea.
Despite being a busy afternoon, we didn't have to wait long for our pots of beige elixir although coffee drinkers only receive one cup of coffee at a time and have to put their hand up if they want any more. Giving coffee drinkers a two-to-three-cup cafetiere would have been a better idea.
The cake stand, featuring an assortment of sandwiches, single-bite cakes, and scones, swiftly arrived. The sandwich selection included egg and cress, cucumber, smoked salmon, and ham and cheese, while the cakes included macaroons, eclairs and other bite-sized morsels.
It was good to see the cakes really were bite-sized. Places that serve afternoon tea sometimes make the mistake of serving cakes that are too big, leaving you too full to finish.
The sandwiches were also rather tasty and fresh - no dry edges - and I liked the simple choice of fillings that please most palates.
A nice touch I would have liked to see would have been the use of loose leaf tea, instead of tea bags, and, as already mentioned, the use of cafetieres for coffee, which would have the added advantage of not requiring already busy waiting staff to have to serve tables so often.
A plain scone option would have also been appreciated, speaking as someone who doesn't like currants and sultanas. At least I provided amusement for TG, while I sat there picking out the fruit and leaving it at the side of my plate like a pile of squashed flies. Yes, I know it's anti-social - I imagined my mum hissing, 'Just eat it!' in my head as I did so - but I am really picky about my dried fruit.
If you want to enjoy afternoon tea at Bletchley Park, book as soon as you can as it is so popular that you have to wait months for a table. The price is £36.50 per person, including entry to Bletchley Park. Well worth it for a detailed lesson on our country's secret wartime history and some tasty refreshments.