Muddy reviews: Tea at Chewton Glen
The Grand Dame of the New Forest has a unveiled a new format for its afternoon tea. Will it cut the (English) mustard with discerning diners? Muddy hightailed it over to find out.
BIG news from the New Forest. Chewton Glen, the luxe, 5-star Relais & Châteaux country house Hotel and Spa has switched-up its quintessential afternoon tea and given it something of a modern makeover (cue deep intakes of breath and teacups clattering loudly into saucers).
Afternoon tea in The Dining Room here is, of course, an institution. So of course, even the most subtle update is likely to be heavily scrutinised. And if any changes are deemed too drastic, it’ll be more than just the tea bags landing in hot water…
Despite living literally just around the corner and having it on my foodie bucket list, I’ve actually never been for afternoon tea at Chewton Glen. So a first-look for Muddy seemed like the perfect opportunity to tick it off and enjoy an overdue catch up with my friend Shelley (who instantly found a window to join me without actually pausing to check her diary). Napkins on laps ladies, we’re going in…
A master of careful reinvention, Chewton Glen effortlessly combines its traditional, 18th Century country house, fronted by sweeping croquet lawns, with bags of contemporary and creature comforts. Think modern spa, celeb and influencer-worthy luxury Treehouses and relaxed, dining restaurant headed-up by celeb chef James Martin.
We’re here on the launch day for the new menu and The Dining Room is running at full capacity. Despite that, there’s a wonderfully calm, relaxed atmosphere and restaurant manager Richard has everything well under control.
Sitting alongside us are families of varying generations, couples and mixed groups eager to try out the new offer. I don’t spy any younger kids but frankly, between the spillage risk, grown-up fare and notoriously low attention spans, it’s the very last place I’d bring my youngest, although it would make a lovely treat for a gastro-loving older child who appreciates the occasion of afternoon tea.
SCOFF & QUAFF
First point of order in our Chewton Glen tea is drinks. The sparkling options are an always very quaffable glass of Laurent Perrier pink champagne or an elegant, Nyetimber English sparkling wine. We opt for one of each, the fine bubbles setting us up perfectly for the refined tea to follow.
One of the new tea choices is a glass of Nàdar Gin. Never heard of it? Neither had we. We discover it’s ‘the world’s first climate positive spirit’, distilled in Arbroath, Scotland and made, surprisingly, from peas! Next time…
The next update we spot is a new type of tea. Again, Chewton Glen has gone out on a bit of a limb. Eschewing classic British brands that blend tea grown in established regions overseas, we’re offered a choice of Cornish Tregothnan. It’s made using Britain’s first actual home-grown tea (above) – and is already being heralded as the ‘new Darjeeling.’
Shelley picks a flavoursome English breakfast tea while I plump for an earl grey with light floral notes. Both are deliciously fresh.
The surprises keep coming – this time in the form of a rather decadent warm Old Winchester cheese and truffle amuse bouche (above). The light, almost mousse-like flavour melts in the mouth. Delicious.
Before we begin on our finger sandwiches, our waiter, Chris, thoughtfully checks if we have any dietary requirements and despite the new offer, tells us knowledgeably about the menu.
He brings out a platter laden with smoked ham and English mustard mayonnaise; egg, mustard and cress; smoked salmon, horseradish butter and Coronation chicken on a mini brioche. Ordinarily I’d avoid the latter but, taking a chance, I’m very pleasantly surprised.
We hungrily demolish them and promptly offered more but save ourselves for the choice of scones (plain or buttermilk and raisin). They’re served warm from the oven with a choice of clotted cream, fresh strawberry jam and lemon curd. Sublime.
Pastries are a delicately-flavoured Matcha green tea and apricot cupcake, an indulgent mascarpone, praline and espresso éclair and a Mediterranean holiday-inducing Amalfi lemon meringue tart. All are absolutely as delicious as they sound, but now we’re really starting to struggle.
Saved from unspeakable waste, we’re offered a smart gift box to take home the pastries we can’t manage, plus a slice of Victoria sponge or chocolate and salted caramel cake from the trolley that I quietly hide from the kids when I return home.
OUT AND ABOUT
If you’ve time to spare, make the most of the opportunity to explore Chewton Glen’s gorgeous and extensive gardens to walk off any indulgence. Wander a little further through the woodlands at the delightfully-named Chewton Bunny to reach Highcliffe Castle, a Gothic revival mansion dating from 1836. Or take a stroll along Highcliffe Beach (above).
Just 15 minutes’ drive, find indie shopping heaven at the coastal town of Lymington, which has some fab designer boutiques like Stanwells and Thirty-Three Boutique. There’s homewares and homestyling heaven at Starboard Home Interiors on the cobbled High Street and Scandi, coastal-inspired homewares at BluBambu over on Quay Road.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: An unhurried, fine dining pamper treat or celebration with friends and family. The new afternoon tea strikes the right balance (phew!) and will suit both traditionalists and the more epicurious. The attention to detail and friendly, polished service really allows you to kick back and enjoy yourself.
Not for: Chewton Glen is family-friendly but the afternoon tea here wouldn’t suit little ones. Likewise, the 5-star quality more than justifies the price tag but it’s a treat to tick off on your foodie bucket list, or celebrate a special occasion, rather than something you’d nip to on a whim.
The damage: Laurent-Perrier Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea £65; ‘G&Tea’ Nàdar Gin and Tonic £55; Nyetimber English Sparkling Afternoon Tea £55; Afternoon Tea £45.
Chewton Glen, Christchurch Rd, New Milton BH25 6QS, Tel. 01425 275341. Tea at Chewton Glen is served between 12pm and 4pm in The Dining Room.