As children, visits to the aunts’ and great aunts’ for afternoon tea were received with gleeful anticipation. All the women were good cooks and the table would be almost invisible beneath the plates of sandwiches, scones and cakes.
But we children, as children do, grew up and gradually the aunts and great aunts passed on, and afternoon tea became a thing of the past – a cherished memory.
Afternoon tea taken to a new level
However, afternoon tea has become fashionable again.
How delighted Anna, Duchess of Bedford, would be to learn that the institution she created way back in the mid-19th century as a means of staving off hunger pangs between lunch and dinner is back in fashion.
One venue which has raised afternoon tea to a new level is the Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quay – conveniently close to Portsmouth Harbour train station and the Historic Dockyard.
Our visits usually start at the Waterfront Cafe
The Emirates Spinnaker Tower (or Spinnaker as many of us affectionately call it) – was designed to resemble a yacht’s spinnaker sail and has long been a favourite haunt of ours; so much so that we have annual season tickets.
Our visits usually start with a light lunch in the friendly, bustling Waterfront Café on the ground floor before we wander round and take the express lift to the viewing galleries.
The lift is an experience in itself – travelling at four metres per second and reaching Viewing Deck 1 in 28 seconds.
Viewing Deck 1 with its famous glass floor
Work began on the Tower in 2001 – and was followed by four years of incredible construction work before it opened in October 2005. It soars to a height of 170m with three viewing decks. Viewing Deck 1 with its famous part-glass floor is 100m above sea level, above it on Deck 2 the Clouds Café and above that the Sky Deck – on our last visit cleverly designed to look like a seaside greensward complete with beach huts, deckchairs and plants.
We love all the Decks – but Deck 2 with The Clouds cafe has become our favourite. On an earlier visit I had noticed that visitors were sitting having afternoon tea, some of them enjoying glasses of prosecco, while looking out over the fabulous views.
Afternoon tea in The Clouds
Whilst Julia had gone up to the top Deck to explore I had stayed in The Clouds and asked Tom, who was on duty, what was going on I knew that snacks and beverages were served in The Clouds – but afternoon tea!
He explained that they were indeed serving afternoon tea. And jolly good it looked to.
So a month or so later and having booked in advance, we made our way to the lift and up to The Clouds for our High Tea.
Much to my delight Tom was on duty once again. He skilfully weaved his way through visitors, who were merely there to take in the fantastic view, whilst carrying pots of tea and coffee along with cake stands piled with goodies and checking that his diners were comfortable and had everything they needed.
If like us you are too full to finish everything Tom and his colleagues are on hand with goody boxes for left overs.
A cake stand and its goodies
On the bottom layer of our cake stand was a selection of very generously, and delicious, filled finger sandwiches – smoked salmon, tuna, egg and cheese with a salad garnish.
On the next level garnished with fresh strawberries a selection of macarons, dainty slices of Battenberg cake and the tiniest cream filled sponge cakes imaginable.
And on the top level a fruit scone each, complete with tubs of clotted cream and pots of strawberry jam and again garnished with fresh strawberries.
It was excellent, and a real treat, putting many a London hotel afternoon tea to shame.
With friends visiting from Kent shortly – I’m taking them to Spinnaker, and no, we are not going to abseil down the Tower or do The Drop. However, I have booked us in for another Spinnaker High Tea.
Included in the price of £55 for two people is a choice of very good coffee or tea, plus the cost of the general admission ticket so visitors can enjoy the Tower at leisure.
Visitors with annual members’ passes receive the admission price reduction from the cost of their High Tea.
Please inform the Tower when booking either by telephone on 02392 857520 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org so that the appropriate price adjustment can be made.
Unless the room is booked for a private function High Teas are always available, however, booking is recommended due to the limited space in The Clouds.
The online booking system prevents bookings being made for High Tea on days when private functions are taking place.
The first High Tea is served at 12.00pm and the last at 4.30pm. Sittings are every hour and a half (12pm, 1.30pm, 3pm and 4.30pm).
Emirates Spinnaker Tower:spinnakertower.co.uk