The post festival blues kicked in this weekend and there were only two things capable of curing it……Tea & Cake of course! My other half & I headed to the historic market town of Berkhamsted, or “Berko” as it’s known locally. It is a must visit for any history buffs and culture vultures, boasting the remains of a Norman Castle which you can explore and soak up the historical surroundings. The High Street is a patchwork of buildings, from Anglo-Saxon to Art Deco. The local cinema called “The Rex” is the latter, a stunning Theatre which has been converted but has kept many original features. You can sit in comfy chairs at tables and enjoy a class of wine from the bar during the movie. OK, there’s no 3D iMAX experience here but I’m happy to trade that for comfort any day!
There are several places to choose for an afternoon pick-me-up but we settled on the House of High Tea.
It’s at the far end of the High Street and easy to miss if you’re out perusing the shops. The tea room is not large but as you enter the high ceiling and chandelier give the feeling of space and elegance. We sat at the window table just by the front door to watch the world go by, there is a second room but it seemed a little dark with just one small window. The decor is luxuriously Victorian, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing my Corset & Bustle, my partner his Top Hat & Tails! Heavy fringed drapes frame the windows and the walls are adorned with large mirrors and silhouette portraits framed by ornate gold gilding. Mahogany tables draped in crisp white linen are surrounded by mismatched chairs, and not just on the floor!
The counter was brimming with a selection of cakes, all of which looked divine; chunky carrot cake, delicate pistachio and lime and fruit laden chocolate and almond. With one glance I knew what my other half would have, the dark and delicious looking Chocolate Jaffa cake.
Two layers of cocoa sponge with an orange jelly centre, smothered in smooth chocolate icing and topped with candied peel. I have to say I was tempted myself but I perused the menu and decided it was a Scone kind of day. I ordered the familiar option of sweet scones, jam and clotted cream, but alternatively you can opt for savoury cheese scones with butter and onion relish.
The loose tea selection is extensive, from Assam to Jasmine, Ceylon to Lady Grey. Being nearly 3pm there seemed like only one logical option, English Afternoon Tea. This is a delicate blend of Keenum and Darjeeling with just a touch of Lapsang Souchong. I have not tried all of these individually so was not sure what to expect. The waitress kindly assisted me with my choice and advised me this was lighter that the traditional English Breakfast blend. In fact is was so fragrant and light I chose to drink it without milk.
The chocolate cake was rich and filthy, it should probably be consumed alone, in a dark room, with a guilty look on your face; the ultimate Jaffa cake experience! As my partner sat opposite me growing devil horns and a euphoric grin I tucked into my angelic scones. Served warm and each topped with a golden halo. Soft to the the touch they fell open willingly, barely grazed by the knife.
Then commenced my internal debate, cream and then jam? or jam and then cream? Not being from the west country nor having any affiliation with Devon or Cornwall I went with my gut instinct. I slathered on a generous helping of clotted cream and dolloped the jam on top frivorously.
The scones melted in my mouth, the cream was not too sweet, finished off with the sugary hit of strawberries. Each bite did not last long enough so on to the next, and the next, and the next. Cleansing my palate between mouthfuls with a sip of refreshing tea. When I saw there were two scones per serving I was not sure I would manage it. Although I had to sacrifice some to the dark lord sat opposite me I had no issues clearing my plate.
This husband and wife run operation is friendly and welcoming, and all the goodies are home made. They offer brunch, sandwiches, cakes and afternoon tea with the savouries looking just as tempting as the sweets (homemade sausage rolls the size of your arm!)*. You can soak up some history and step back in time to this Victorian Tea room which has been voted the best in the Chilterns, you can’t argue with that!!
House of High Tea, 61 High Street, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire TEL: 01442 871905
*This may be a slight exaggeration and it really depends on the size of your arm!!