The iconic 15th century Swan at Lavenham in Suffolk’s countryside, has brought a new dimension to the British tradition of afternoon tea with the introduction of its indulgent Emperor Swan Afternoon Tea. Along with other Swan tea menus, it’s served on delicate, antique porcelain in front of a roaring log fire bringing people together for a refined, convivial occasion, just like in times gone by.
Afternoon tea is said to have started with Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the early 1840s when it was common for people to take just two meals a day, breakfast and then dinner at around 8pm. The Duchess, who was always hungry by mid-afternoon, asked her staff to serve bread, cakes, biscuits and tea in her boudoir at around 3pm and began inviting friends to join her.
Soon afternoon tea was respectable enough to be taken in the drawing room and became a fashionable pastime of the upper classes when ladies would change into long gowns and tea services were made of the finest china. These days afternoon tea has become an occasional luxury or treat, but the tradition has been revitalised in the quintessentially English surroundings of The Swan with its ancient oak beams and inglenook fireplaces.
Devised by The Swan’s AA two rosette Head Chef, Justin Kett, the Emperor Swan Afternoon Tea begins with a selection of freshly prepared sandwiches on home-made speciality breads cut into neat triangles with, or without, the crusts. The tempting choice includes venison with cranberry jelly on rye bread; smoked salmon, caviar, cream cheese and cucumber on dill bread; crab and lemon mayonnaise on tomato bread and Manor Farm egg mayonnaise and cress on sea salt and black pepper bread.
Home-baked fruit and apple and walnut scones follow with local preserves, butter and clotted cream plus a selection of three delicate pastries and cakes. You can also choose from eight loose leaf and fruit teas, all for £21.50 per person; or add a glass of refreshingly chilled Adnams Brut Champagne for an extra £11.
If this is too much there’s a Traditional Afternoon Tea with home-made finger sandwiches at £15.50 or the lighter Suffolk Cream Tea at just £8.50, which might leave room for dinner.
The afternoon tea menu is served daily in The Swan at Lavenham from 12 noon (as an alternative to lunch) until 5pm in the lounges and contemporary style Brasserie; on warmer days it can also be taken outside in the secluded courtyard gardens; to book a table call 01787 247477, www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk.