Afternoon Tea at Hardwicke Hall Manor Hotel

Afternoon Tea at Hardwicke Hall Manor Hotel
Hardwicke Hall Manor Hotel sits in it’s very own attractive rural setting with lovely grounds. As you pull up the drive you are presented with an attractive grade II listed building that looks splendid! It is situated on the road from Castle Eden to Blackhall Rocks.
What brought Mordue’s here!? Christine received the gift of afternoon tea for two at Hardwicke Hall for her birthday…. so she took me along! Well I am her husband! We’d been before, a couple of years back, so we were excited to return because last time we had been very impressed!
We arrived early and were warmly welcomed by staff who directed us to the bar where the staff were lovely and chatty. This gave the hotel a very homely and relaxed feeling. We took our drinks to one of the comfortable lounge areas and settled down for a chat. At the appointed time we were asked to move to our table and found we were in a different room to last time, just left off the reception area. We’d ben in the main dining room last time and we found the room this time much more intimate and more fitting with afternoon tea.
We got our glass of prosecco and found it to be nice on the palette, soft and sweet. And then came the selection of sandwiches and cakes and, as last time, we were impressed. The sandwiches were fresh and tasty filled with egg, tuna, ham, or cheese savoury and were lovely delicate fingers of either brown bread or white. The bread was soft and delicious (I would have preferred all brown bread but a minor detail)
We then had a very serious discussion about the order of the afternoon tea. The approach seems to be work up from the bottom. So that would have been sandwiches first,  then lemon drizzle cake and scone, then meringue, profiterole, and a little cheesecake type desert in a glass. But (!) we both feel the finale should always be the scone! What do you think!?
The highlight for me was the lemon drizzle cake – lovely and moist – and the chocolate flavoured meringue. Although the rest was lovely as well. Having had other afternoon teas I thought the scone was maybe a little on the small side but still it was a very good scone.
Historic UK tell us that Henry James said “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” And he was so right! The ceremony and the service is everything. And the service at Hardwicke Hall does the job. The sandwiches and cakes are well presented and the staff attentive to your requirements for tea or coffee. It was nice to see people had got dressed up for the occasion. I’d even gone as far as a waistcoat! Well it’s nice to get dressed up! Don’t be one of these people who turns up for such a unique part of British Heritage in sports gear, or trainers…. it’s just not on! It’s a event for goodness sake with it’s origins in the 18oo’s where women would don long dresses, hats and gloves and retire to the drawing room for dainty sandwiches and cakes served in the best china from silver tea pots.
The story goes that Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford introduced the idea of afternoon tea to England when fuelled by hunger and dinner being served late at eight o’clock she requested a tray of tea, bread and butter. A habit developed and she invited friends along turning something very simple into what we know today. Us British are good at turning simple things into something quite grand don’t you think!?
In a world of so many places offering an afternoon tea experience what I love about Hardwicke Hall is that it feels like the right sort of place to go for afternoon tea. Personally I’d avoid going to a garden centre for any food (that’s not to say it’s probably not good… it’s just it’s a garden centre!) and would prefer to go to a place more appropriate to the drama of the eating experience. As we know it’s all about the experience. I don’t want to walk past someone buying their pansies or marigolds or a comedy gnome when I go for afternoon tea – I want to go to a building befitting of the occasion and Hardwicke Hall externally and internally does that job!
Try it out!
Hardwicke Hall is on:
Hesleden Rd, Blackhall Colliery, Hartlepool TS27 4PA
Contact them on:
TEL: +44 (0) 1429836326