Cost – £27.00 (August 2021)
Parking and Access – There is a large car park just a short walk from the hotel. There is also some parking available right outside the front entrance. The hotel is entered via a flight of steps. I don’t recall seeing an alternative way in. Once inside the conservatory, where Afternoon Tea is served, was accessible on the flat.
The toilets were situated quite near to the conservatory. However, they were down some steps. Again, I did not spot an alternative without steps, though I would hope that a hotel of this size has accessible toilets nearby.
Background – National Afternoon Tea week was upon us again. And I had failed to book any Teas. Disaster! Luckily, we had a voucher (extended twice due to the pandemic, and swapped from a different venue that does not now accept the vouchers) for Afternoon Tea at The Ickworth Hotel. Disaster averted!!
We managed to get booked for the end of Afternoon Tea week. Phew!!!
The Ickworth Hotel is a fairly large hotel that is in one wing of the National Trust’s Ickworth Hall, which is famous for it’s Rotunda at the centre of the hall. The hotel is not run by the National Trust.
We have been to, and have reviewed, The Ickworth Hotel’s Afternoon Tea before (May 2016). I only gave them a score of 13.0 out of 20.0 then. Would they do any better this time? This time we would be having the Wind in the Willows themed Tea.
Contents per person – four rectangular sandwiches (egg mayonnaise, ox tongue with horseradish, smoked trout with watercress and chicken with lovage), half of a scotch egg and a small amount of watercress. 1 large/medium fruit scone, mini jars of Tiptree jam (strawberry and raspberry) and a scoop of clotted cream. A slice of chocolate and berry Swiss roll, a ginger beer cupcake and a tiny glass of lemon posset. A pot of tea or coffee.
Options available – There is also a Children’s Afternoon Tea available.
Comments – The coronavirus pandemic is still with us, though England has now lost virtually all rules. Masks are still recommended when inside, but are not now compulsory. We wore our masks as we entered the hotel, as we would normally do. However, none of the staff and virtually none of the guests were wearing them.
On entering the hotel, we were told to go down the corridor to the conservatory.
When we arrived there, we were given a table right in front of the entrance. I had hoped we would be able to go outside into the garden, where we later discovered a large area for eating.
However, we were not offered this option. There was an outside door open from the conservatory, and a large fan blowing, so we felt there was probably enough ventilation, and didn’t pursue the outdoor option.
The floor around our table was pretty dirty, and the seat cushions were stained. Not the best of starts!
The table was laid with white chunky pottery plates, large knife and fork, white pottery cups and saucers, a glass and a linen napkin each. The mini jam jars were ready on the table on a holder for six jars.
We were asked whether we wanted tea or coffee soon after we had sat down. Although we later discovered different types of tea were available, we were just offered ‘tea’. We both asked for tea, and were also offered some tap water.
The water arrived first, in a carafe. It was iced and nicely cold.
The tea arrived in a large white teapot along with milk in a white milk jug, and a tea strainer.
The tea was rather strong, but was made with loose leaf tea, so we could not take the tea out to stop it stewing further. We were offered a refill later on, and asked for just some hot water to top the pot up with. We received another teapot with just the hot water in.
The Afternoon Tea arrived shortly after the drinks on a three-tier cake stand with round white plates that matched the ones the table was laid with.
The sandwiches were fairly well filled, fresh and were tasty. The mixed brown and white breads were also good. There were some different fillings to the usual offerings, which was good to see. We had requested our tongue sandwiches without horseradish, and that was what we received. The sandwiches were topped with a small amount of watercress.
There was also a half of a scotch egg each. The menu said this was a truffled cheddar and ham scotch egg with pickles. However, our half eggs tasted like a normal, plain scotch egg, and no pickles were included. Having said that, we both enjoyed the scotch egg, and only noticed it was not as described later.
The large/medium sized fruit scones were warmed up. They were reasonably well fruited. However, one was considerably deeper in size than the other! They tasted reasonably freshly made.
There was barely enough jam in one small Tiptree jar. However, there were six on the table, so we used one and a half jars each. I was very pleased to be able to use raspberry jam for a change.
However, the clotted cream had separated on the plate. It was sitting in a small puddle of creamy water, and had a very dry consistency. It was suggested to me later that maybe it had been previously frozen. There was enough of it, but it was difficult to spread and a bit odd!
We felt that the cake part of this Afternoon Tea was particularly lacking. There was a thin slice of, what appeared to be, mass produced Swiss roll. Then there was a nice ginger cupcake with a, not too large, butter icing topping. And finally, there was a ridiculously small glass of lemon posset. The Swiss roll was boring and didn’t have a lot of flavour. There was no spoon for the tiny posset. We tried using our teaspoons from our teacups, but they were too big to fit in the tiny glasses.
We ended up using the wrong end of the teaspoons to scoop up the runny posset. The ginger cupcake was the best of the cake items.
We were surprised to have been given full sized knives and forks for our Afternoon Tea. I can’t imagine that a big hotel does not have any dessert size cutlery, even if they don’t run to cake forks. The large fork was completely useless! This was then compounded by the complete lack of anything with which to eat the posset. We felt this was very poor from a place that serves a lot of Afternoon Teas every day.
Service was rather patchy. The staff spent a lot of time just chatting and not taking much notice of the customers. However, the waitress who sorted out our tea was quick and efficient. She asked us if we wanted more, before we got around to it. I waited for some time trying to catch the attention of someone, to mention the lack of a small spoon, before giving up and using the wrong end of my teaspoon.
Also, the empty tables in the room, of which there were several, were not cleared in the whole time we were there. This is rather unsightly for those still eating, and can attract flies etc. into the room.
The conservatory, which should have been a lovely venue, looked run down and uncared for. The floor was not clean and the furniture was stained. This could be a great room in which to enjoy your Afternoon Tea, but it really needed some attention.
On the other hand, the gardens outside were very pleasant and were well cared for.
Unfortunately, it seems The Ickworth Hotel could not improve on its previous score.
All opinions expressed in this review are my own. The photographs are all my own.
I remain completely anonymous and always pay for my Afternoon Teas. They are never gifted to me by the businesses reviewed.
I am the legal copyright holder of the content and images on this blog.