Golden scones smothered with jam and cream, crust-less sandwiches, pretty cakes, pots of tea and a glass of fizz… if the English have got one thing right, it’s afternoon tea. Decadent and indulgent, this luxury tradition pairs perfectly with a spa visit, with everything from classic to quirky on offer. Whether it's a chocolate afternoon tea served in the English countryside or a traditional tea by the sea, spa goers can literally have their cake and treatment, too. And with afternoon tea week on the horizon (9-15 August), you have the perfect excuse to tuck in. Pinkies at the ready…
At 2,000sq metres, the two-storey London-based Bvlgari Spa – shimmering stylishly in green and gold - is grand by urban standards. The 25-metre pool is dramatic and moody, with green-tinted water and illuminated Perspex pillars; gold leaf surrounds the vitality pool. Bvlgari Spa isn’t just show, however, with some real results-driven treatments, including the natural – and oh-so-effective - mesolift facial. Afternoon tea is taken in The Lounge with its hand-selected menu of black, green, herbal and luxury teas. Choose from a Classic or Champagne tea, each served with an assortment of sandwiches, warm scones and lip-smacking deserts.
The Midland Hotel is a grand Victorian railway property in the heart of Manchester - think marble floors, ornate ceilings and wood panelling. The Tea Room - which opened in 2017 - is entirely dedicated to afternoon tea; there’s even a chef’s counter where you can watch your sandwiches being made and cutesy cakes decorated. The ‘scone of the day’ shows off unusual pairings and flavours (orange and chocolate anyone?). The Midland has city-centre spa-ing in the bag, too, with an express treatment menu for the time-poor, serving up 25-minute facials, massages, body treatments and beauty finishing touches.
Children are banned, the organic restaurant is perpetually booked and the holistic spa treatments are second-to-none. By far the most inviting thing about The Scarlet, however, is its setting: a deserted stretch of caramel sand on Cornwall’s Mawgan Porth beach. Don’t arrive without pre-booking the signature Clifftop experience, a raised hot tub overlooking the Atlantic Ocean where you can watch the sun set with a glass of bubbly. Afternoon tea is served on sea-view terraces with every element handmade - and made-to-order. As well as a mouth-watering selection of sandwiches and scones (served, of course, with Cornish clotted cream), spa-goers can tuck into out-of-the-norm patisseries, like basil and pineapple Macarons.
Built in 1776, and set within 240 acres of glorious Berkshire Parkland, Coworth Park takes its eco credentials very seriously. This classic Georgian, glass-fronted hotel, restaurant and spa has its own underground energy centre incorporating a Bio Mass Heating Plant, making it the only hotel in the UK to grow fuel by cultivating willow on the estate. Partially submerged into a hill, the two-storey spa uses chamomile and lavender grown on the ‘living roof’ in its classy treatments. Afternoon tea is award-winning – and scrumptious – with rotating menus and creative offerings, such as goats cheese, rocket and lemon sandwiches on beetroot bread, and tonka bean and cherry crumble cake.
Best for quirky-lovers
Agua at The Sanderson
The Mad Hatters Tea is one of London’s most unusual and much-loved afternoon teas - you may even find your menu hidden in a tea pot. Treats include a King of Heart croque-monsier stack, Tweedle Dee’s lemon curd financier and Mad March Hare’s vanilla pocket watch macaroon. Upstairs, Agua at Sanderson is a minimalist Alice in Wonderland palace decorated entirely in white with intricate furniture, sweeping sideboards and huge billowing drapes. Treatments – including the Eve Lom celeb-fave facial with cranial sacral therapy – would bring the Queen of Hearts out in envy (and easily make up for the absence of a swimming pool). The hair salon is a cut above.