Highbullen Hotel’s fabulous new venture combines two classically British institutions…
As we entered Highbullen Hotel’s brand new Laura Ashley Tea Rooms, we stepped out of a grey autumn afternoon and into a beautiful relaxed space, complete with lofty ceilings and a gentle fire. The hotel’s newest addition offers a little taste of luxury in distinctive Laura Ashley style; serving everything from homemade cream teas to afternoon tea and even all-day brunch in sumptuous surroundings.
The Highbullen Hotel in Umberleigh, North Devon, has done an outstanding job renovating what used to be a swimming pool into a fabulous new tea room. The new building is spacious-yet-comfortable and the views outside are absolutely stunning (you can see miles of rolling North Devon countryside). Meanwhile, upstairs there’s even a purpose-built Laura Ashley shop to browse while you wait for your tea.
The Afternoon Tea
Who doesn’t love the theatre of an afternoon tea? Finger sandwiches, scones, sweet pastries and loose leaf tea are just a few of the elements that we enjoy as part of this very British pastime. But sometimes, we find that these treats can be a touch too sweet for our taste. That’s why we were impressed to discover that The Laura Ashley Tea Rooms offer not one, but four takes on afternoon tea!
During our visit we could opt for a Full Afternoon Tea (£20pp), A Traditional Devon Cream Tea (£8.50pp), A Savoury Afternoon Tea (£24.50pp) or a Children’s Afternoon Tea (£15pp). We opted for the Savoury Afternoon Tea, as we weren’t sure we could tackle two whole layers of decadent sweet pastries and cake. But if you’re curious to find out what’s in each of the other options, you can read their menu online.
Our Savoury Afternoon Tea was presented to us in three layers. The top layer contained the warmer elements; including hot fish goujons with tartare sauce and a homemade warm duck and quail scotch egg. The scotch eggs were served with a mild curried chutney and the goujons were presented in charming little newspaper cones.
The middle layer was a stunning selection of handmade cakes that consisted of a crisp pastry tartlet filled with passionfruit curd and topped with fresh fruit; a delicate macaron; and a duo of buttermilk scones, one plain and one baked with golden raisins. The scones are served with Devon clotted cream and your choice of a preserve. We opted for lemon curd to buck the trend of strawberry jam.
The bottom layer consisted of a selection of finger sandwiches, thinly cut without the crusts and with fillings of egg mayonnaise, ham & mustard, cucumber & smoked salmon, and plain cream cheese. There was also an open smoked salmon crostini and a lovely little Mediterranean savoury tart.
We were mighty impressed with every layer and we couldn’t believe it when we were told that everything except the macarons had been made fresh in Highbullen’s kitchens (and this was only because they knew a fabulous macaron supplier). All of the pastry was exceptionally made – particularly the scones and the little passion fruit tartlets – and the attention to detail was brilliant. Even the fresh strawberries that were served alongside the middle layer were some of the juiciest we’ve had in a long time.
If the tea itself is important to you, then you can select your variety from a myriad of different leaves, and there’s also the option to upgrade your Savoury Afternoon Tea to a Prosecco Savoury Tea (£31pp) or A Pol Roger Champagne Savoury Tea (£34pp) should you wish to make it extra special.
Our Thoughts on The Laura Ashley Tea Rooms
If you’re thinking of booking afternoon tea to celebrate an occasion or just to treat someone special, we absolutely recommend The Laura Ashley Tea Rooms at Highbullen Hotel in North Devon. The staff are all incredibly polite and attentive; leaving you alone to enjoy your treat but also being on hand to top up teapots and provide additional plates and cutlery when needed. The ambience is warm and surprisingly unpretentious, considering Laura Ashley is such a beautiful and refined brand. The tea itself is frankly some of the best we’ve ever tried and the views of the surrounding countryside take some beating. Need we say any more?
To book your own afternoon Tea, visit www.highbullen.co.uk/dining/laura-ashley-the-tea-room