Cole Manor Tea Rooms, nr Bruton
Do your bit to support National Afternoon Tea Week by stuffing yourself silly with tea and cake as often as possible from now until next Sunday. I started supporting our Great British institution early by taking the Muddy Ma for afternoon tea in the stunning gardens of the Cole Manor Tea Rooms at the weekend. It was one of those gloriously sunny days when there is no better place to live than Somerset.
Cole Manor, in the village of Cole which lies between Bruton and Castle Cary, has five acres of grounds. There are manicured lawns, a sunken garden, impressive borders, shady trees, a Victorian mill wheel (up until the 1950s it was a working flour mill) and a little bridge over the river Pit leading to some photogenic cows peering in though a wrought-iron gate.
You can sit in the dappled sunlight under trees, bask in the sun, have a get together under a metal gazebo or find a quiet corner away from everyone else.
Some people had brought their own picnic rugs and were sunning themselves by the river. Others were chatting, reading or playing cards. Time passes by as lazily as the river Pit flowing past the bottom of the garden.
So onto the afternoon tea itself. Muddy Ma had the Cole Manor Cream Tea with two scones, huge dollops of locally made, organic blackcurrant jam and thick, thick cream. You can have just one scone, plain, fruit or gluten-free scones, strawberry jam, a choice of speciality teas (from Assam to Zingy Purple Berries), coffee or hot choc as part of the Cream Tea. In between mouthfuls of the still-warm scones, MM (no mean baker herself) said they were light, delicious and filled with plump sultanas.
They also serve light lunches, which are all homemade and include a soup of the day, Ploughman’s with local cheese and ham, cheese scones and chutneys, sandwiches and toasties (like mozzarella, tomato and pesto, brie and cranberry) and a choice of quiche. Here’s my blue cheese and walnut quiche, which was wonderful (smooth creamy filling with a deliciously crunchy top).
It was difficult to choose between the many home made cakes – lemon drizzle, orange and almond, chocolate fudge, sticky ginger (shall I go on?) – but here’s the coconut and lime, shortly before the last few mouthfuls hit the Muddy tum…
They don’t serve booze but you can bring your own and pay corkage of £3/bottle for wine; £1/bottle for beer or cider. You can book ahead (24 hours notice) for a Posh Cream Tea (assorted finger sandwiches, scones and cake); Saturday brunch (fresh fruit salad with yoghurt, full English, toast/croisssant, juice, tea/coffee); if you’d like a specific dish or vegetarian/gluten-free option; and for a Sunday roast.
We could easily have stayed here for the whole afternoon – perhaps next time we will. The tearooms are open Tuesday-Sun, 10am-5pm. Lunches are served 11.45am-3.30pm.
Good for: tea or lunch with a friend, for groups of girlfriends (there are lots of big tables hidden away to sit and have a good natter), ladies who lunch, scone-lovers on a gluten-free diet, families with well-behaved kids for Saturday brunch or Sunday lunch – or come here with your mum
Not for: those with unruly children – here’s plenty of green space but it’s quite genteel with a peaceful atmosphere (although there’s a space to one side of the main gardens which perhaps could be used to run around in); there are a couple of places in the grounds, including the river, which could be dangerous for unsupervised younger children.
£££. Reasonable. Cream tea with two scones £6.55-£7.65. Cake around £3. Light lunches: £6.50-£8.25. Sandwiches £6.75. Posh cream tea £17. Saturday brunch £17. Sunday roast from £18 (children under 12 £11.50).
Cole Manor Tea Rooms, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0PJ. Tel 01749 813 676 colemanortearooms.co.uk