Tag Archives: afternoon tea

Babington House

Babington House Drive

Miles from London, in a faraway land called Somerset, there’s a long tree-lined lane. It leads to a pocket-sized chapel, St Margarets, and just beyond it, the dour Georgian manor that is Babington House.

Part of the Soho House portfolio, I was expecting a snazzy English countryclub scene, but the other guests were mainly just local mums bringing the kids swimming, and a few other couples in for the weekend from London. But mostly, we had the place to ourselves.

Babington House St Margarets Sign

Babington House Lawn

Babington House Lawn Chapel

Babington House Cobblestone Path

We stayed in the Coach House, in a delightful room over two stories. Sweet touches were everywhere you looked – fresh flowers, vintage books with winsome titles, a silver tin of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Babington House Coach House

Babington House Do Not Disturb Door Soho House

Babington House Coach House Room Velvet Sofa

Babington House Room Coach House Dressing Table

Babington House Room Coach house Spiral Staircase

Babington House Room Coach House Loft Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Loft view

Babington House Room Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress Knit Bobble Hat

Babington House Room Bathroom Tub White Tile

Babington House Room Bathroom Clawfoot Tub

Babington House Room Robes Big Feet Little Feet

Babington House Room Coach House

Babington House Coach house room Flowers

Babington House Room Fresh Flowers

Babington House Eat Sleep Nap

Babington House Room Tea

Babington House Room Tea Treats

We couldn’t resist a spot of tea before heading outside for an afternoon of countryside pursuits – strolling the sprawling grounds, going for a bike ride, and then a swim.

Babington House Wellies

Babington House Walled Garden Green Grass

Babington House Walled Garden Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Walled Garden Spa Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress

Babington House Pond Rear

Babington House Backyard Tree Pond

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Bicycle Path

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Babington House

Babington House Chapel

Babington House Chapel View

The outdoor heated pool is a perfect warm-up for these chilly February days.

We raced to see which one of us could shimmy back into their hooded robe the fastest, thick clouds of vapor wafting off our poached bodies like a pair of Chinese steamed buns!

Babington House Pool

Babington House Pool Steam Sun

Babington House Pool Swim Bun

Back in the room, we opened a bottle of champers, but before you could say “Pop, fizz, clink!” I was already in a clawfoot tub full of bubbles, where I had a good long soak before dinner.

The bathroom was stocked with shelves of Cowshed products, so no shortage of goops and creams to daub on.

Babington House Bathtub Clawfoot White Tiles

Babington House Bathtub Bubbles

Dinner was A-OK. Candlelight, dainty flowers on the table, the universal Soho House playlist audible above the din of the orangery. It felt a bit like going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by other couples.  But we are far too diffident to canoodle publicly at the dining table. (As my husband likes to chide, “We’re English, not savages, Sarah!”)

Instead, we sipped our Babington martinis (amazing, with Noilly Prat, Tokaji and grapefruit oils, by the way) and nearly choked with laughter piling up a tower of mussel shells, a perilous house of cards of molluscs, which eventually gave way and sent a few shells toppling to the floor!

Most-meal pastimes, such as pool, were on hand, but we found we were happiest in the Study sipping Moscow Mules by the fire.

Babington House Lobby Mirror Flowers

Babington House Games Room

Babington House Study Fireplace Light

Babington House Study Fireplace Drinks

Yes, it’s a chain and not really a country club in the true sense, but Babington House is a great choice for a relaxing and romantic weekend.

I can say I was actually sad to leave. But London missed me, I had to get back! Lots more city adventures coming soon…

Flower Power: Chelsea in Bloom

This past weekend brought the closing days of the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show.

Ladies love an opportunity to throw on a flowery frock, get gussied up, and spend an afternoon gasping at astonishing feats of gardening.

So why not pop by to experience all the hullabaloo!

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cfs mums

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It was so much fun wandering around through the stalls and vendor exhibits taking in all the cutesy fashions and accessories that people who garden would love!

cfs marigold

cfs greenhouse

cfs key tags

cfs tennis court

cfs roses

cfs candleabra

cfs cacti

After a walk around the grounds getting smooshed and bumped in the massive throng of crowds, it was time for a relaxed afternoon tea in the pavilion.

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cfs victoria sponge

victoria sponge sign

cfs victoria sponge slice

We had the best seats in the house – out on the sunny balcony of the pavilion, where we could nibble cakes and scones, watching the eager crowds below.

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cfs dessert

After tea, we had a chance to chat with some of the Chelsea Pensioners who were on hand for the bell-ringing ceremony to close the show.

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These retired servicemen and women live in barracks on the grounds of the Royal Hospital and are recognizable by their distinctive scarlet coats. They are a jolly bunch, and always add a distinguished air to ceremonial events.

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A truly lovely time was had by all.

Hats off to the Chelsea Flower Show for putting on another incredible event!

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Hen Do Tea Party

I cannot believe my wedding is in 5 weeks!

All the RSVPs are in, the honeymoon is booked, and I’ve had my final dress fitting. Time to relax, spend the weekend pampering myself with spa treatments, and meditating about wedded bliss.

Oh, wait a minute – not if my girlfriends have anything to do with it!

The big day that I thought would never happen is finally here:

My bachelorette party!

Saturday began with my darling friend Lia (isn’t she darling?) grabbing me for a shopping date and bistro lunch.

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A happy little salad and two happy bloody marys, then darling Lia hailed a cab and whisked me off to a secret destination in Soho…

Which turned out to be Dean Street Townhouse – where all my chirpy chickies were waiting to surprise me for my hen do afternoon tea!

How jolly British!

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I was so happy to see all of my hens – especially one who had just fluttered over from the US!

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What wedding diet?

Let the bride eat cake!

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And sip tea!

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A spiffing afternoon with the ladies!

After tea, the girls kindly accompanied me home to mine – where the scene was set with fairylights and candles, a cheese board, and lots and lots of bubbly!

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I donned my festival-themed accessories and shimmied into something a little more rock chic for the evening ahead.

Which was mainly drinking lots of champers and cuddling.

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Eventually, we prowled out into the London nightlife scene – kicking things off at our first stop, Maggie’s.

(Which was essentially like partying at home because this little 80’s club has been my bunker since I was just a Chelsea newbie).

I marched in and took the reigns – or drumsticks, in this case…

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I can’t show you more because us rockstar gals like to keep a low profile on our nights out.

But suffice it to say, with friends as gorgeous as this, it was quite a mischievous night carousing until dawn.

Oops, I guess that’s what happens when the hens fly the coop!

Tea at Fortnum & Mason

If I had to sum up England using only three words, one of them would definitely be “tea.” As the largest per capita tea consumers in the world, Brits can’t get enough of the stuff. They drink heaps of it. My fiancé’s first memories of drinking tea begin when he was aged 7 years old. Afternoon tea is a ceremonial embodiment of English culture and, here and in London, it’s been elevated to an art form.

Whenever someone asks me what to do in London – be it a weekend holiday, a business trip, or a layover at the airport – I say, have tea. It’s traditional, it’s refined, it’s an occasion.  As the official grocer to the Queen, Fortnum & Mason is known for its ubiquitous luxury hampers, and is bursting with gourmet British foodstuffs. It has been proudly sourcing tea for over 300 years, and was the first department store to offer afternoon tea to their customers.

It was the last weekend before Christmas, all the gifts were wrapped and under the tree, and it was pouring down rain – so I could think of no better place to spend the afternoon! We headed right up to the recently renovated Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, atop Piccadilly on the Fourth Floor. It’s a stunning space accented all over in that signature robin egg blue.

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The Tasting Room is the perfect place for a private lunch, or an exclusive afternoon tea.

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In our private room, we didn’t have to hush our voices (or our laughter) – we were free to have our little tête-à-tête without worrying about any nearby diners eavesdropping on our very civilized and intellectual discussions.9 10

Twice-Baked Shropshire Ham & Barbers Cheddar Soufflé with Honey Mustard Butter Sauce

Twice-Baked Shropshire Ham & Barbers Cheddar Soufflé with Honey Mustard Butter Sauce

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I ordered Fortnum’s Savoury Afternoon Tea. I love how the English linger over high tea. It’s so relaxed. The waiters don’t rush you. You are free to nibble each selection at your own leisurely pace. First, come the savouries – finger sandwiches, followed by savory canapes – exotic breads, delicate pastries, with delicious piquant toppings.

Finger Sandwiches: Cucumber with Cream Cheese, Rare Breed Hen Egg with Mustard Cress, Rare Roast Beef with Gherkin & Caper Dressing, Fortnum's Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Butter, Coronation Chicken

Finger Sandwiches: Cucumber with Cream Cheese, Rare Breed Hen Egg with Mustard Cress, Rare Roast Beef with Gherkin & Caper Dressing, Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Butter, Coronation Chicken

Afternoon Tea Savouries: London Smoked Salmon on Blini with Lemon & Caper Cream Cheese, Carpaccio of Venison on Mushroom Toast with Horseradish Cream & Hazelnut, Tomato Savory Financier with Pesto Cream, Black Olive & Silver Anchovy with Pistachio Praline, Rosary Goat's Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot

Afternoon Tea Savouries: London Smoked Salmon on Blini with Lemon & Caper Cream Cheese, Carpaccio of Venison on Mushroom Toast with Horseradish Cream & Hazelnut, Tomato Savory Financier with Pesto Cream, Black Olive & Silver Anchovy with Pistachio Praline, Rosary Goat’s Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot

No afternoon tea is complete without scones…

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And tea! Your own little pot, which the “tearistas” keep filling up with hot water to keep it constantly steeping for a refreshing classic “cuppa.” P17 P18 P19

We spent the better part of the afternoon stirring and sipping our cups and taking in the fine English tradition of tea. Afterwards, I couldn’t help tugging a reluctant arm into the Christmas Shop for quick browse. I loved wandering around through an endless array of ornaments and holly, taking in those familiar holiday scents – orange, cinnamon, and pine.

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A visit to 181 Piccadilly always promises a magical afternoon whatever the season – but this afternoon was what London Christmas dreams are made of.