Oxford, one of the world’s most famous university cities, is on top of the list when visiting England for its beauty and history. Oxford holds a special place in my heart — it’s where my husband and many of our friends went to university. In addition to exploring the many famous attractions Oxford has to offer, e.g. one of the colleges such as Christ Church, the Radcliffe Camera, the Bodleian Library and the Bridge of Sighs to name a few, slow down and indulge in an afternoon tea. After all, what would be more British than having afternoon tea in this privileged city!? Yes, there are quite a few tea houses and lovely cafés serving traditional afternoon teas; but in my heart one place stands out above the rest — The Old Parsonage.
Why does the Old Parsonage have my vote? In short, it’s one place that caters for all needs. You have a choice to take afternoon tea in its elegantly designed and stylishly decorated hotel restaurant, which is perfect on a colder and gloomier British winter day, or enjoy it al fresco on their beautiful and relaxing walled terrace when the sun is out. In addition, my usual fear for afternoon teas is the whole affair being too focused on the sweet side — I’ve been fortunate enough to take teas at many top-end London hotels, and unfortunately this has indeed been the case for some of them. However, the ‘Very High Tea’ served at the Old Parsonage is very balanced; savoury and sweet, I can finish it all. And if you really don’t have a sweet tooth, then they also offer an all-savoury option, the ‘Very Savoury Tea’. And of course, if you are in the mood to celebrate with an elegant glass of bubbly or two, you also have the choices of a Champagne Afternoon Tea or the ‘Celebration Tea’ for two.
On this trip, we took my parents as a treat, and we all decided to go for the classic option, the Very High Tea, which consists of three tiers of delicious treats:
- The bottom tier contains various finger sandwiches; cucumber, ham & mustard, egg & cress, smoked salmon and crayfish
- A middle tier with buttery scones; with or without raisins, served with clotted cream and (straberry or raspberry) jam
- The top tier holds a selection of cakes and pastries
There is a good assortment of teas that you can choose from. I went for the hotel’s own blend, Old Parsonage Afternoon Tea, which is a very strong heady tea to counterbalance the richness of the cakes. However, you also have the option of a non-caffeinated infusion, or opting for a coffee of your choice instead, if preferred.
As you would expect from a traditional afternoon tea, all the finger sandwiches are classic flavour combinations, and are freshly made. Their crayfish sandwich has a generous squeeze of lemon juice and chopped fresh dill; it’s nicely zingy, and is my personal favourite out of the five.
In addition to their buttery scones, their cakes are great. I particularly enjoyed the apricot and cream that is sandwiched between really good choux pastry, which is so unbelievably buttery and delicious, and at the same time being rather delicate — it tasted like a light and fluffy version of a mini donut that melts in your mouth. It looked so alluring and tasted unbelievably great I wolfed it down and forgot to take a photo of the pastry itself!
Bakewell cake is my husband’s childhood favourite, being one of the first bakes he ever made together with his mother. This one tops all bakewell cakes and tarts that I have ever tasted (even the ones he makes, which he is not pleased to hear). A great almond biscuit base similar to a well made cheesecake base, topped with a thin layer of cherry jam, then on top of that you get a sweet fluffy Victoria sponge cake packed with ground almond, and finished with a delicious crust of shaved almonds.
I can’t remember the last time I had a rocky road; probably when I was given a box from Marks & Spencer by a friend at one of our parties. And of course unlike the shop-bought types, this one is rich and moist, and the chocolate spread is very soft.
The lemon drizzle cake is also great; zesty and extremely light, yet rather sweet. The sweetness is nicely balanced with slightly soured cream, and topped with blackcurrant jelly.
Last and not least, you have a lovely little macaroon. Well, who doesn’t like a macaroon?!
Cost: £25 per person / £32 with a glass of champagne.
Address: 1 Banbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6NN
Phone: 01865 310 210