I’ve made it safely back to the UK and nothing says home quite like a good cuppa and a cream scone. So a few hours after landing, I headed to Gravetye Manor for some afternoon tea.
Yes, once again I’ve left New York – but today was another example of finally appreciating things right on my doorstep (albeit the one in West Sussex). I have a vague memory of once traveling up the long driveway to the historic manor – which is about a mile from my family’s home – but I’ve never eaten from its menu or had a look around its gorgeous rooms or vibrant gardens. So I grabbed Mel and we went there for a gluttonous gossip.
The manor house, which was built in 1598 (yes, 1598), is now a hotel and restaurant. We were seated in a rustic room filled with plush sofas and a massive fireplace and were served a large pot of English Breakfast tea. Then came the plates of finger sandwiches, scones and mini cakes. While I’ve enjoyed some modern takes on afternoon tea in the past (like this one at The Berkeley in London last year), it’s been years since I’ve had the more traditional kind. We tucked in.
The sandwiches – cheese, egg, cucumber and pesto for me (the veggie), and smoked salmon, ham, cucumber and a sausage roll for Mel – were tasty, but the scones took first prize. How could you not love dollops of clotted cream and sticky, sweet raspberry jam on a fruit scone? I love you England.
By the time we got to the cakes, we were pretty full, but I managed to squeeze in most of the coffee eclair and the wee fruit tart, which was filled with a vanilla cream.
This treat was enjoyed in very comfortable surroundings, and the polite staff commanded just the right balance between checking on us and leaving us to our chat. We must have gone through two pots of tea before we decided to have a wander, and the whole time we never felt pressured to move on. This is what holidays are all about.
We decided to burn off a few of the calories with a wander through the ground floor of the manor and around the extensive gardens before walking through the woods to get home.
The gardens were so beautiful. In 1884, the manor was bought by William Robinson, a gardener who transformed the 1,000 acres on which it stands. He got to work creating the English natural garden, which has inspired gardens across the globe ever since. (He was also responsible for paneling the interior of the house with wood.) If I’m honest, the tea was tasty, but I think the gardens were the highlight of the day – so many beautiful flowers seemingly running wild against the backdrop of the stunning house.
First we wandered the flower garden and azalea bank behind the manor.
Then we left the house and headed to the kitchen garden – where we spied more flowers, massive cabbages, rhubarb, peas, raspberries and clucking chickens.
New York, you’re the greatest city in the world. But with cakes and views like these, you can’t blame me for escaping every now and then.