Just over six miles or twenty minutes’ drive east of Coventry city centre is the Coombe Abbey Hotel set in 500 acres of parkland & formal gardens surrounded by the beautiful Warwickshire countryside. Designed by Capability Brown, Coombe Abbey Park is home to a variety of wildlife inside a conservation area which includes a historic woodland & mature lake which covers over 80 acres.

Coombe Abbey Hotel long before it had become the special hotel it is today was once the largest, most influential & richest monastery in Warwickshire, known as the ‘Abbey of Cumbe’. It opened its doors as a hotel in 1995. Guests arriving at the Hotel, get their first glimpse of the hotels grandeur, as they approach this spectacular building down a long driveway through open parkland & mature trees. The exterior facade of the hotel is absolutely stunning with a collection of slender chimney towers pointing skywards complemented by large classic stone & timber dormer windows. As I walked across the small, cobbled stone bridge spanning an impressive water moat I understood fully why it is referred to as, ‘no ordinary hotel! The beautiful entrance courtyard containing a formal garden sculpture, flower borders & circular pond is a welcoming sight for visitors.

Having heaved open some very heavy entrance doors I entered into the main reception area and once my eyes had adjusted to the low light I could see how much character, history & extravagance the Hotel contained. It was like taking a step back in time! I could see a high ornate pulpit from which proceedings below could be observed, large wooden armchairs, confession boxes, several large open fireplaces, an assortment of wooden relics and what looked like genuine oil paintings on the walls! Visitors can stay over in one of the hotels 121 rooms ranging from Grand Feature Bedchambers, rooms for families, couples, romantic weekends, business as well as a select number of ancient cottages in the city of Coventry, but I was there to sample their new afternoon tea menu!

Is there anything more quintessential of English customs than the classic afternoon or high tea? What better way to spend  a couple of hours in the day than to sit down and enjoy an assortment of well prepared, tasty sandwiches followed by warm homemade sultana scones covered with thick Clotted Cream and Strawberry or Raspberry Jam? Add several dainties, delicate homemade cakes, washed down with lashings of hot tea and suddenly all is at peace in the world!

During the early nineteenth century, the evening meal or dinner was served at around eight o clock, so there was a long break between the mid-day meal or lunch and dinner in the evening. Anna Maria, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford, is credited with the invention of afternoon tea in 1840s. She is said to have experienced what she called a ‘sinking feeling’ in the middle of the afternoon due to the long gap between lunch and her evening meal. To relieve her hunger pangs she asked her footman to bring her a little light refreshment, a pot of tea & some bread & butter with some cake in the late afternoon. She enjoyed it so much that she began inviting her friends over for tea & to gossip! The ritual caught on & the afternoon tea was born. It became a fashionable social event with upper-class society women wearing long gowns, gloves & hats for their afternoon tea, usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.The Earl of Sandwich had earlier had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread, hence the sandwich!

After enjoying a short walk & tour of the Abbey grounds, I then got to enjoy a delicious Classic Afternoon Tea with my wife. The setting is a vitally important element and the elegant Garden Room Restaurant is a simply delightful setting, a large & bright ornate conservatory with ceiling to floor windows & glass roof creating a very light & airy atmosphere with lots of natural light flooding in on some tasteful décor. We were seated in one of two white iron gazebos or `bird cages` at each end of the restaurant. Subtle unobtrusive music purred away in the background mixed with the chatter of happy diners. The afternoon tea is a wonderful English institution.

There were three different afternoon teas to choose from: Abbots, Monks & Knights.

The Abbots is the traditional Afternoon tea for those with a sweet tooth. Freshly brewed loose-leaf tea of your choice, a selection of four delicate finger sandwiches & four simply mouth-watering cakes plus the essential freshly baked scone with whipped Cornish clotted cream & strawberry jam. Arguments continue to rage over the order in which the cream and Jam should be placed on the sliced scone. In Devon it is cream on the scone then the Jam; in Cornwall, the Jam is spread first followed by the cream! It is really just a matter of preference – for me it’s the Cornish method, cream on top of Jam. Superb!

We shared a selection of dainty finger sandwiches with delicious fillings, which included Flaked Ham Shank & Wholegrain Mustard Mayonnaise, Severn & Wye Oak Smoked Salmon with Cucumber & Black Pepper & Croxton Manor Cheddar & Tomato Chutney. All of the finger sandwiches tasted superb and were beautifully presented. The delicate Black Sesame Seed Wafer Cone with an Egg & Cress Mayonnaise a particular favourite, being particularly outstanding for its taste and quality.

The Knights offers an alternative twist, a savoury & sweet afternoon tea which I loved! A selection of British favourites including Malt Kiln Farm Pork Pie, a Buttermilk Chicken Lollipop, Pork, Ginger & Spring Onion Sausage Roll & Ox Cheek Bon Bon! Wow! Add a little bowl of Whipped Parsley Butter & Flat, sweet Italian pearl Borettana Onions & Piccalilli with a freshly baked mature cheddar scone and my day was complete!

The Monks offers a sweet & savoury afternoon tea for the smaller appetite! A smaller quantity option for a lighter bite including scones, cheeses, chutneys, grapes, jam & clotted cream. The white chocolate Plant Pot containing forced rhubarb & white chocolate mousse was a tour de force. My wife & I both absolutely loved it.

Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea!

Agatha Christie

All of this was then washed down with lashings of speciality teas poured from dainty tea pots into delicate bone China cups & saucers. We were offered a choice of twelve loose leaf tea, chocolate, or a choice of five Grand Cru coffees, one of which was decaffeinated. My wife chose the classic English Breakfast Tea: A blend of Ceylon and Assam tea, infused to perfection. Full-bodied with a coppery-coloured brightness. I chose one of the world’s most popular teas Earl Grey: This black tea is an elegant blend of the finest, rich black tea leaves scented with a delicate citrus bergamot twist. Earl Grey tea has become a traditional staple of British tea drinking. I love it!

The serving staff were all very friendly and answered our questions about the choice of tea which were available & describes all of the treats on our cake & sandwich stands. The conservatory is very spacious, so guests are not crowded together. My wife & I decided to opt for tea, but you could choose to include Prosecco or Champagne bubbles for that special treat, if you wanted to.

The air was hot, so the manager kindly turned on the ornate paddle fans on the ceiling to allow a much appreciated cool breeze to keep us cool. If you have any food allergies, are dairy intolerant, wheat, yeast, and eggs or Gluten Free let the waiting staff know and they will look after your individual needs!

Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.

Henry James

Abbots Afternoon Tea – A Sweet selection

Finger Sandwiches

Flaked Ham Shank, Wholegrain Mustard Mayonnaise – White Bread  An excellent filling, a wholesome bite of ham.

Croxton Manor Cheddar & Tomato Chutney – White Bread

Severn & Wye Oak Smoked Salmon, Cucumber & Black Pepper – Wholemeal Bread

Black Sesame Seed Wafer Cone – Egg & Cress Mayonnaise Light & fresh. A delightful little cone.

Selection of Cakes

Plant Pot – Forced Rhubarb & White Chocolate Mousse Very good quality chocolate. Simply delightful!

Belgian Chocolate & Mango Tart

Vanilla Cupcake – Co­ffee & Walnut Buttercream

Passion Fruit & Shortbread Sandwich

Freshly Baked Scone

Whipped Cornish Clotted Cream

Strawberry Jam

Knights Afternoon Tea – A Savoury Selection

More savoury, less sweet!

Malt Kiln Farm Pork Pie

Buttermilk Chicken Lollipop

Pork, Ginger & Spring Onion Sausage Roll – House Brown Sauce

Mini “Fish & Chips” – Salt & Vinegar Powder Seasoning – small cone of chips supported by a lovely chunky piece of fish.

Ox Cheek Bon Bon – Oxford Sauce – a very tasty, shredded piece of ox- cheek & spicy red currant jelly Oxford sauce.

Flat Borettana Sweet Balsamic Onions Piccalilli

Freshly Baked Farmhouse Mature Cheddar Scone Beautifully baked cheese scone. Delicious!

Whipped Parsley Butter Delicate taste. Perfect!

Sweet Selection

Plant Pot – Forced Rhubarb & White Chocolate Mousse

Passion Fruit & Shortbread Sandwich

Our afternoon tea at Coombe Abbey Hotel was simply delightful. This is how tea should always be served! There was no need for us to eat again for the rest of the day! If you are looking to enjoy an afternoon tea for that special occasion, why not call in to the Garden Room Restaurant at Coombe Abbey Hotel, Coventry. I would rate the afternoon tea at Coombe Abbey as one of the best I have ever experienced & enjoyed.

I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Coombe Abbey Hotel, Brinklow Road, Binley, Warwickshire, CV3 2AB.

Disclosure: My stay was courtesy of Coombe Abbey Hotel

The views and comments expressed are as usual my own

If you decide to visit Coombe Abbey Hotel as a result of reading this blog/review please mention The Travel Locker.