My friends and I have become National Trust (NT) members this year. It's an amazing excuse to go out "Trusting" - our new verb - with your friends and explore places that you may otherwise never know existed. My membership came into its own this weekend.
After an hour of unpleasant mountain biking in the (post-two weeks' solid rain) quagmire of Hambledon, we felt like we deserved a cream tea! I did my research beforehand and identified that it would be a short car ride to Greys Court, a NT property near Henley-on-Thames. Crucially, the NT guidebook stated that it had a tea room.
When we arrived in the early afternoon the car park was overflowing. Could all these people be there for the cream teas? More importantly, what if they ran out of cream teas?! As you can imagine, the situation was touch and go. (We found out later that there was a flower spectacular on this weekend.)
We had to queue for five minutes to enter the tea room, but the wait was well worth it. The imposing room is panelled in wood, complete with a huge hearth and reed-like ceiling. There were some amazing looking cakes on display. Please don't think less of me readers, but I was came very close to forgetting my Cream Tea Queen responsibilities and tucking into a carrot cake instead.
We were given the choice of plain and fruit scones. To ensure that my reviewing is fair, I went for one of each. They were supplied with a miniature pot of excellent strawberry jam: Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree, Essex. Amazingly, they also came with a petite tub of quality clotted cream: Rodda's of Cornwall.
The sit-down area was next door in a marquee, looking out onto the mansion and gardens. We weren't able to find a seat in the marquee but not to fear, there were a few garden chairs outside from where we soaked up the surrounds and enjoyed the cream tea.
We sat back and poured out our tea (bags, not loose leaf). I have turned into somewhat of a mug snob over the last few months, preferring to drink from slender-rimmed mugs. I have no idea what's brought about this transformation in my personal taste, but readers of a similar disposition should note that the mugs were not the fine bone china that I now hanker to drink out of. My Welsh friends, however, will be pleased to hear that an extra pot of hot water was supplied when requested. As a result we pushed the tea bags to their limit and enjoyed every minute of it!
The scones themselves were delicious. Although they weren't straight out-of-the-oven warm, they were clearly recently baked. After I'd cut them open I gave them my, now signature, prod in the middle. A nice bounce, not dry. They were, what I'd consider to be, the perfect size; neither verging on the width of a £2 coin, nor so large that they could be considered daunting. Lovers of evenly dissipated fruit in their fruit scones should, however, note that the fruit clung to the edge of the scones.
So, all in all a top-notch cream tea; the tea was in copious supply, the scones were bouncy and delicious, the jam and cream were high-quality, and the setting was stunning. To top it off, all of this came for only £4.90! The Cream Tea Queen therefore gives Greys Court a fantastic 9/10, the highest score yet!
As if that wasn't enough, after the excitement of a delicious cream tea we then got to enjoy the grounds of Greys Court itself. On this occasion, pictures speak louder than words:
Thank you Greys Court for a truly delightful afternoon. I now have even more of a reason to visit you and your fellow NT tea rooms in the near future.
Happy scone eating,
The Cream Tea Queen