Friday, 30 August 2013

Review: Bedford Lodge Hotel, Newmarket

I was recently invited to enjoy afternoon tea at the stunning and unbeknownst to me, recently revamped Bedford Lodge Hotel in Newmarket, just a hop from the racecourse. It only took me 25 minutes from my front door, so it's a great location to take a trip out of Cambridge for a few hours, even if you wouldn't plan to make a day of it. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket I believe my geekery had rubbed off onto my mini companions joining me for this very special afternoon, as they quickly advised me that we were about to enjoy a "Low Tea" due to the height of the table, I love them! The table was set perfectly, our white napkins were linen (no terrible paper ones here) and even starched and set in a fancy fold, much to my delight. The finger sandwiches were huge wedges, not quite the dainty 2-3 bite-sized sandwich it should traditionally be, but we weren't complaining. In fact, far from it, I loved the finger sandwiches and the way they were beautifully presented on a high 3 tiered stand, cut into perfect and symmetrical rectangles and garnished with fresh herbs to finish them off. There was a choice of ham & mustard, salmon & cream cheese and egg mayonnaise & watercress and as we demolished these little works of art very quickly, our waitress replenished them (without us even having to ask) to keep us going for even longer, it was lovely to have such an extensive savoury option. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket Our plates were then cleared away and clean ones provided for our scone course, which was a refreshing change not to be eating our sweets on a mustard or cream cheese smeared plate. I don't actually think my plate has ever been cleared away and swapped for a new one within any afternoon tea I've sampled in the last year or so, it was a very welcomed action. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket We were provided with a new tier filled with a choice of scones, both plain AND fruit, all warm straight from the oven, simply the smell of these beauties was enough to get us drooling for a bite of these large fluffy creations. This was only the second time at afternoon tea that I have been provided with not just strawberry jam & clotted cream to smother my scones with, but also a lemon curd for a very different scone experience, they were delicious with no fuzzy tongues here. A perfect scone. I mean scones, plural - I mean, it would have been rude not to! Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket The cakes were dainty, presented perfectly and served on a large rectangular plate, with some treats fixed in place with a tiny splurge of chocolate ganache to ensure nothing rolled around, it was an impressive sight to say the very least. My companions were in awe and couldn't resist getting stuck right in, spoiled for choice and unsure where precisely to start, we almost didn't want to demolish the cake display, it was gorgeous. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket We were provided with cute and perfectly round sweet white meringues sandwiching a dark chocolate ganache to give it a bitter edge, these were my favourite element, coming a close second though, was everything else! Raspberry tartlets with vanilla crème patissière, lavender macarons which melted in your mouth with every bite, tiny carrot & walnut cakes garnished with a piece of real carrot which had us laughing and a double chocolate eclair filled with vanilla cream. Our waitress had told us that we were about to be provided with an extensive selection and she wasn't kidding! Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket From the moment we parked our derrières, the background music had relaxed us, the food had flowed, top ups of tea were offered along with a waitress asking to pour for us and the friendly service with a smile telling us exactly what was in each item we were about to enjoy, the entire experience was relaxing and pleasing in every way. I loved that our food came in waves and not all in one serving, as it meant that everything was served fresh and warm or chilled where required, sandwiches didn't curl, cakes didn't dry out and scones didn't cool whilst waiting patiently to be devoured. We didn't have to ask for a thing, everything flowed perfectly and it kept an element of surprise back for every course which I loved about this tea. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket This is how I like my afternoon tea to be served, at a relaxed pace with no rush to leave and no grumbling stomaches by the end. In fact, there was so much food leftover that we had to ask to take a "doggy box" home with us for a second wind later on. The only negative from the entire experience was that the tea choice was lacking excitement for such a stunning afternoon tea, however the staff were very accommodating with my companions unusual requests for lemonade and apple juice in place of their teapots. No tea choices had been offered on arrival, just a simple question asking if we would like tea and then preparing to leave us, so I had to ask rather awkwardly for their tea menu, to which our waitress reeled off quickly a few generic "Teapigs" offerings which did let them down ever so slightly. I opted for an Earl Grey, however, with the superb food on offer, they should really offer a loose leaf tea selection to excite the geekery in their guests, but this is simply the only element I could fault for the experience. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket Afternoon tea is served in the Roxana Bar from 2pm - 5:30pm every day of the week and can be enjoyed inside or outside on the patio in the landscaped gardens, with no need to book, although out of courtesy, I would recommend doing so for larger bookings. £7.95 for a light cream tea with scones and tea & coffee. £9.50 for light afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, cake and tea & coffee. £14.50 for a full afternoon tea as experienced. You can view my full photo album for this stay by clicking here. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket Ps - I popped back in that weekend for a bite to eat (salmon & cream cheese sandwich and some Prosecco didn't disappoint ; ) and there were 5 ladies indulging in the very same afternoon tea I had sampled. They were mmmming and smiling from ear to eat enjoying the very same service I did, so I was thrilled to see I wasn't just being played for on my visit. I highly rate this venue for a wow-factor afternoon tea that won't send you home hungry. To view my full photo album for this visit, please click here. Bedford Lodge Hotel Newmarket Please note - On this occasion, my visit was complimentary, following an invitation to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions, please do email:

Thursday, 29 August 2013

How To Host The Perfect Garden Party

I was recently asked to write a feature for Local Secrets, a fantastic online guide to what's going on in and around Cambridge, the topic being how to host the perfect garden party. Garden Party - Scones Naturally, I was in my element jotting down my tips and advice on how to enjoy a stress-free event in your own garden or al fresco venue and here on the blog I am also sharing these notes with you, my tea and cake-loving readers. Hosting the perfect British garden party complete with dainty finger sandwiches, teas and scintillating conversation requires thoughtful finishing touches, meticulous planning and not least exceptional manners. Before the crusts are cut off the sandwiches or the cream added to the trifle think about whether afternoon tea will be served on vintage china or paper plates, if bunting will be decorating the trees and if you have a wet weather contingency plan. Get it right, and if you invite your nearest and dearest who you can rope in to help with the preparation on the day, you can enjoy yourself too. Ravenwood Hall Hotel Being outdoors there are always two things to think about. Firstly a garden party is obviously weather dependent, however, throw in a gazebo for good measure and you will never have to cancel and will instead be frightfully 'British' as you troop on through the showers. Secondly, consider dressing your garden for the occasion. Any garden can be dramatically transformed with some bunting or paper chains, candlelight and flowers picked freshly from the rose garden. Place flowers in milk jugs or small teapots for a nice little touch to the table. On the day it's best to get washed, dressed and made up ready for your party before you start anything to reduce a lot of stress. This means that you are ready and just need to brush the flour from your face or comb your hair beforehand and you aren't jumping out of the shower just before the doorbell rings. Streusel Topped Scones Bring and share parties work really well, but ensure you discuss what you need guests to bring, otherwise you may end up with a dozen trifles and more cocktail sausages than you can shake a stick at. When it comes to serving guests start with a chilled elderflower cordial and sparkling water drink served in jam jars for a refreshing option - it's the perfect non-alcoholic beverage to kick off a civilised affair. You could also add some fresh raspberries to the drink for some added flavour. Don't forget the finger sandwiches. Dainty, crustless and perfectly filled sandwiches are the most important savoury addition to your afternoon tea. If you want great suggestions, go for a traditional cucumber, cheddar cheese and tomato or even a good quality ham and garlic jam sandwich for all those looking for something a little more unusual. Miss Sue Flay Afternoon Tea Catering Cake, of course, is the ultimate afternoon tea treat. Fruit scones with lashings of strawberry jam and a big dollop of clotted cream, followed by some delicate tartlets filled with crème pâtissière and freshly picked strawberries always go down a treat. No garden party is complete without a Victoria Sponge, but to put a modern spin on proceedings, decorate the top like a Union Jack made with fresh fruit and whipped cream for the wow factor. Tuck Shop Cake Mis-matching china is the only way to whole-heartedly enjoy your well-deserved sit down after all that baking. You can collect it from charity shops and car boot sales, although everybody in Cambridge has the same idea lately. So try further afield, or hire from one of a handful of vintage china hire companies so you aren't left with a room full of china afterwards. Fresh linen, colourful tablecloths and napkins are also a must. You can opt for paper napkins and plates for ease, just think of the washing up you will save yourself. There are party shops in town that provide some gorgeous patterned paper party plates and you don't need to spend a fortune on them, also making them great for a picnic if you are taking your party further away from the house. Miss Sue Flay Afternoon Tea Catering Introduce guests to new and interesting teas. It doesn't matter which teas you serve, so long as it's good quality, loose leaf, poured from an easy pouring teapot. There are some inspiring options out there, including blends such as a whisky and ginger and even rhubarb and custard, so it really doesn't have to be boring. And remember, never buy your teapot from a charity shop... there is a reason they are there and it's not because they are superb pourers, trust me! Most importantly, remember your manners. Don't interrupt a flowing conversation, no elbows on the table and ensure that you pour your neighbour a cup of tea before yourself. Make an effort with the people around you, this is a fun and social event and will naturally encourage good behaviour. Finally, friends and family may help you with the clearing up afterwards, but if they don't then simply leave it until the next day - you must enjoy the party too! Miss Sue Flay Afternoon Tea Catering Now, let's just pray for that sunshine to stick around… To read the feature and other superb features by many local (and very talented writers) then visit the Local Secrets website here. And to read more about becoming a well behaved guest or host/ess at your own tea party, visit my etiquette workshops page here. Miss Sue Flay NB - Professional Photos by Debbie Wallwork Photography

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Lost Art Of Etiquette - Coffee Shop Campers

Whilst sat in my local coffee shop a few weeks back trying to work out precisely which etiquette faux pas really got me riled, I had a bit of a brainwave whilst getting rather frustrated by the small child stood on the same seating I had parked my bottom to enjoy my Cappuccino, staring intently at me whilst picking his nose. Lovely. The parent couldn't have cared less and I had to avoid awkward eye contact with this golden nose treasure seeker for quite some time. Hot Numbers This was just the start of my thought process on Coffee shop etiquette. It was a lightbulb moment, being a using of coffee shops and making them my pop-up office from time to time, I realised that there is a lot to be said when it comes to coffee shop do's and don'ts and how to (and very much how not to) behave. Not only can certain faux pas be noted from a customer perspective, but also very much from your disgruntled barista too, of which I spoke to a fair few (quoted anonymously below) around the county, as well as around the country to get their perspective on this well (or not so) mannered topic. Coffee Shop Etiquette Costa Coffee in the UK have started to change their wifi password every hour, printing a fresh password on drinks receipts to ensure that their customer doesn't just camp for free. Personally, I think this is a cunning idea and I won't knock them for trying it, I'm actually all for it. We are all guilty of making cafes and coffee shops our own personal office space, myself included, so with this concept I do believe some rules should be adhered to so as not to make enemies with your local coffee pit stop - it's not a free office facility, it's their business too, so don't take advantage. I think as customers, myself included, some lessons can be learnt here. southwold pier Firstly, for the love of the cake gods, buy something! And don't take your own food in either, you wouldn't walk into a pub with a Big Mac Meal and proceed to eat in front of them now would you? Well, I would at least hope not! Don't change your mind on your drink order mid-stream. Know what you want and stick to your decision, it costs the shop money and time to change your order half way through. And don't take anything away from the counter until you have paid for it, it can confuse the staff if they haven't accounted for everything, give them a little time and respect for a tricky balancing act. Coffee Shop Etiquette Build up a relationship with your barista. If you camp in the same place regularly, talk the staff and owners, build a relationship and even show your support, tell your family, followers, friends and even your colleagues about this fantastic place should they ever have a need for a drink or something to eat. This also goes for fellow customers, don't ignore people, acknowledge them, especially if you come across them on a regular basis, you never know who they are and where a conversation may take you both, so use this networking opportunity positively. On the same note, if you are a regular customer, please consider tipping. Some small/independent coffee shops use their tips to take a team building night out once a year instead of dividing out 50p a week for peanuts. If you go a lot, leave some change, it's a good thing to do for them... and for you. Or at the very least give your GOOD feedback when you have it, we are all guilty of only complaining/giving bad feedback! Coffee Shop Etiquette Don't take up a large table for yourself. If there is a communal table, use this to free up a space for a larger group, if there is this option to do so. If you do sit on a larger table by yourself, don't place your items on or in front/behind other chairs or spread out so nobody can share your space, it may be required during peak times. This also goes for pushchairs, suitcases and bags, show some consideration. Nursing a glass of tap water for the entirety of your stay is not cool. Again, you would think this goes without saying, but it seems it's a common occurrence and once that is simply not OK when spending hours plugging in your laptop and making yourself quite at home - See the first point for a refresher! And if you do want to plug in your laptop, ask the venue if it's OK to do so, their electricity bill is already sky high, so again, be thoughtful here. Coffee Shop Etiquette If you fancy typing away to some tunes, put on your headphones. Apparently the newest way to annoy the general public in a great way is to listen to your new "Eminem" Album on full blast, though your tinny iPhone speakers. Not cool, plug in and don't make other people endure your own weird taste in music. On the subject of sound, speak up when ordering your coffee. If it's a loud or bustling venue, sometimes the staff may not be able to hear you, no need to scream it out, but don't whisper your order so it frustrates everybody involved. It wouldn't hurt to help clear away your table if you can. Even to just put everything on your tray or stacked on your plate ready to be picked up, rather than leaving everything spread messily around the table. Some coffee shop owners don't like you to bring it to the counter as they may have nowhere to put it when busy, so this goes back to building a relationship with your barista once again, find out how you can help them. Coffee Shop Etiquette The "Im paying for this, so I don't to clear it up" attitude is not welcomed. Especially for smaller venues with stretched staff in peak periods, show some courtesy. If you spill your food or drink on the table, it doesn't take much to grab a napkin or ask for a cloth, truly. Don't complain about the price without knowing the product. Apparently this is a regular problem and people don't understand the quality that goes into beverages or into food, especially cakes. This isn't helped by supermarket treats costing a fraction of independent venues, but trust me, there is a huge difference in quality. On the same note, don't complain that the service is slow when your food is made to order and you aren't in a fast food restaurant. Don't steal the teaspoons. I can't imagine how much money is spent each year on replacing stolen teaspoons alone, not forgetting coffee cups, milk jugs, sugar bowls, napkins and cake forks... I wonder if anybody has actually conducted a study?! Coffee Shop Etiquette You really can't get away with ordering a pot of tea for one... for 2 people. Then ask for hot water to top it up! Do you honestly want to be at the receiving end of the "death stare" from your waitress?! We've heard this one before, but don't order whilst on your phone. It's just plain rude, either step away until you are ready to speak to the person in front of you or wait until you are sat down. But keep conversation to an acceptable level, nobody needs to hear what you told your doctor this morning or how much money you are making whilst sat here drinking your hot chocolate - we detest you! Don't assume you are wealthier/smarter/better off than your server. Some baristas are Grade A students, with degrees, they may even have their own business on the side, so don't talk down to them, why on earth would you feel you needed to?!... These rules don't just stop at business people or writers in need of a semi-permanent retreat, this goes to any customers, including those taking children for a treat. Coffee Shop Etiquette If you are bringing in baby food - please clear it up after yourselves. It's really not OK to expect staff to scrape mushed bananas and raisins from the chairs. This goes without saying surely? Don't feed your child their own food. Fruit or a favourite drink may be OK if the shop doesn't sell it, but ask first out of courtesy. Cookies out of a bag, cake from the local supermarket is not on if this is what your chosen venue is selling. And whilst they are eating, don't let them run around pressing noses up against the clean glass shelves or scoot around on those horrendous scooters.. it's not a playground. And lastly, say thank you. With a smile to make it even more pleasurable for you and for your coffee wizard! It costs nothing to say and will make for a nice experience all round, especially if you have been a pain in the panini whilst visiting! Coffee Shop Etiquette Are you a "coffee shop camper" or a disgruntled barista who has to endure bad behaviour from customers on a daily basis? ... I would love to know your thoughts below, so do leave a comment. Miss Sue Flay With special thanks to all coffee shop owners and baristas involved in the research for this article, they know who they are! It's been amusing and some comments I haven't felt that I can write due to their serious passion and hatred towards certain mannerisms, but I feel this gets the point across perfectly. One of the chaps I spoke to even shared this story with me, so if you have a wicked sense of humour, like myself, then you may find this coffee shop tale very amusing indeed! Visit my etiquette workshops page for more information on my offerings too.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Introducing "Belle" The Retro Bell Tent

I recently hired out my Vintage-style Bell Tent to one local tea-loving lady (I won't name names ; ) for her daughters' upcoming celebrations. Bell Tent Hire Cambridge She was in fact hosting her wedding at home in their stunning garden in a village just outside of Cambridge, complete with vegetable and herb gardens, even free range chickens wandering around, ruling the roost - I was in love! We rolled up on the Friday evening with "Belle" and pitched her in the very middle of the garden, which had gorgeous views of the local farm and countryside, complete with sunshine it was the perfect weekend for an al fresco wedding. Bell Tent Hire Cambridge My little beauty is simple to pitch and it doesn't take very long, so we were in and out very fast with minimal upset to their plans, which was nice for us so we didn't feel in the way for too long. Their friends then pitched their own tents out around "Belle" and they had their own festival-esque set up all ready and raring to go, it looked fantastic and even I felt excited for them. I had been asked to deck it the tent with bunting and fairy lights, of which I managed to source gorgeous battery powered lights to wrap around the interior pole and some Moroccan style lamps and side tables to go either side of the bed that was planned to be made up for the happy couple on their wedding night. It looked fab and I could have easily hunkered down and stayed in it myself once it was up, I felt marginally jealous! Bell Tent Hire Cambridge We collected it on the Sunday night and the garden looked as though nothing had happened, it was spotless and I could sense the relief on the lovely lady herself, weddings are hard work as we all know, let alone in your very own home. So we packed up fast, swept up the heart-shaped confetti and made off with everything, happy in the knowledge that the surprise venue had made their wedding night just a little bit more special. We have also had a bespoke wooden table made up especially to fit around the pole and large enough to seat up to 12 adults cross legged on comfortable floor cushions, just perfect for an unusual al fresco dining venue... Why not drop us a line to discuss your very own requirements for a pop-up venue with a difference? Bell Tent Hire Cambridge You can find more information on our gorgeous bell tent by clicking here. And if you fancy a nosey, you can see the full photo album for this set up by clicking here. Miss Sue Flay

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Tantrums, Tea & Tents

I've just returned from a well deserved break away, it was very much needed and after just 4 days in the Suffolk countryside, I feel like I've had a week away. My partner in camping crime joined me for a camp out at our favourite (and extremely peaceful) campsite at "Bailiffs Cottage" very close to Hollesley Bay. Camping in Suffolk Our tent and all the annual camping gibbons did us proud yet again, with an array of folding chairs, a table, gas cooker, portable washing up station and my luxurious inflatable bed, I can still live in relative comfort whilst roughing it for a few nights haha - who says camping has to be rustic?! This stunning & homely cottage has equally beautiful landscaped gardens complete with vegetable patches between tent and caravan pitches, so your neighbours are a good jog away and you can even purchase home grown courgettes, cucumbers and freshly laid eggs daily, it's a winner. Adnams Southwold Camping in Suffolk Said eggs were purchased for some of our planned meals and the gorgeous yellow yolk in the middle just shows how awful our supermarket eggs can be, a truly delicious addition to our full English breakfast on our last day. We purchased a little gas cooker last year and until now, had not used it, so I had been super organised and planned some tent-friendly meals for us to enjoy. And enjoy we did, with little stress, which was an added bonus. Yorkshire Tea We went for Halloumi and salad with some fresh baguette from Two Magpies Bakery in Southwold which was so simple, but delicious. An old childhood favourite of mine also made an appearance in the form of eggy bread and tommy k, my dad used to make this for me when I camped as a child, so this was great to recreate and show him photos of when we got to see him on our return. We also managed campsite pasta carbonara and even a full on BBQ in between showers with Suffolk-sourced sausages and corn on the cob brushed with a little butter, followed by marshmallows toasted on skewers. We did get a little bored after a few mallows, so started trying to aim at each others' mouths with these sugary fiends, making a hilarious slapping noise as we threw and missed one anothers' mouths, a great game carried out with popcorn too for any kids out there. Camping in Suffolk Yorkshire Tea had also been extremely kind following a recent Twitter conversation and we had a tremendous amount of fun coming up with different ways to enjoy their disposable cups between brews - we managed to find many uses for these handy cups, including make-shift cereal and pasta bowls when we realised these had been forgotten, mixing eggs, brewing tea (obviously), holding melted marshmallows in for a makeshift dessert and even perfectly shaped for spider we were camped next to a pond, we managed to be attracting some "Harry Potter-esque" beasts which put the frighteners (and waterworks on me every time I had one above my head!) on us both each time we spotted one scuttling around our feet - caravaners have got it so much easier! southwold pier The campsite facilities are pleasant and include no hot, stinky portaloos here, there's a very clean cabin in the middle of the garden with toilet and shower facilities. The shower costs you 50p for 15 minutes and never has there been such a military operation between two of you to get your money's worth, very amusing to the many flies on the wall, I'm sure! Also the only place you can go in the middle of the night when nature calls, but beware, if like me you are petrified of moths and don't wish to alarm the rest of the campsite with your "about to be murdered" screams, turn the light off for best results. Suffolk Coast A lack of hair drying and straightening facilities whilst camping is also an education to a gal who doesn't believe that she's that high maintenance, you really do learn how to live in the trenches on this sort of holiday, it's an eye opener. I'm not much of a girl when it comes to clothes and makeup, but I do make it up on the girly stakes when it comes to bugs, I spent a large proportion of our resting time chasing bugs, flies, frogs and Mosquitos with a dustpan and brush, much to the amusement of my camping buddy and I still managed to get bitten once on the bottom of each foot so that I could barely walk the last day... I did enjoy my holiday (spoken through gritted teeth), I promise! Miss Sue Flay Not only these bites, but I came away with lots of other happy memories and souvenirs, including a ritualistic stone throwing session at Shingle Street beach, the best ever hot chocolate and peanut butter brownie on Southwold Pier between rain clouds, a bottle of amusing Voss "artisan water" (gotta love the "I saw you coming shops" in Aldeburgh ; ) and a new love of Hydrangeas thanks to a stunning display in a milk jug on the yummy mummy table at the Pump Street Bakery in Orford after our bomb-filled walk on Orford Ness (well worth a hop over on the National Trust boat for the day of history and bleak walks) amongst other things. Aldeburgh Now to pack away the torches and well thumbed stack of Batman UNO playing cards until the next time... For my full photo album from my holiday & food & drink-based shenanigans (should you be as nosey as I can be ; ) then do click here. Miss Sue Flay

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Review: Ravenwood Hall Hotel

Here goes my first try at being a little more creative with my writing style, please don't judge me too harshly ; ) I was swimming in a large outdoor pool that reminded me of a blue lagoon in colour (see, I told you I was trying to be a bit more creative!), with the hot sun beaming down on me and surrounded by grapevines and roses. I felt as though I was indulging myself on a French vineyard, however this was in fact the historic Ravenwood Hall Hotel, just 3 miles from Bury St Edmunds. Ravenwood Hall Hotel There are Fourteen impressive bedrooms, each with a private bathroom and furnished with antiques reflecting the history and tradition of Ravenwood Hall, but each with modern comforts including wifi and tea making facilities, all the important stuff. "You are in fact staying in the oldest bedroom at Ravenwood" claimed the valet as he showed me to my room & placed my case next to an original luggage trunk on the low-beamed bedroom floor. "The floor is uneven and the doors are low, so do mind your head" he smiled as he noted my ducking under the door as I followed behind him - Noted for later that evening should I decide to have a tipple or two. Ravenwood Hall Hotel The history of Ravenwood Hall is actually very much shrouded in mystery, nobody, not even expert researchers can be sure exactly who built Ravenwood Hall, formally known as The Rookery. But, there are clues, it's believed to have been built around 1530 during the reign of Henry VIII for a woman of some local importance. This luxurious hotel is the perfect location to play a spot of croquet within its 7 acres, whilst imagining yourself in his reign. Ravenwood Hall Hotel After some exploring, I had decided that a dip in the pool was a must. It was a sweltering day so the fresh blast of cold water was sadistically welcoming and I enjoyed the silence around me other than the birds nesting & cooing in the tall trees around me. The attentive bar staff even catered to my hankering of a pot of English Breakfast Tea by the poolside once I had finished my exercise, these were the small perks of a midweek stay, I was in heaven. The staff were friendly everywhere I went, offering chats between jobs and answering my nosey questions about this fantastic venue, complete with ponies, horses and even goats, homemade goats cheese curd was on the evening menu, so not only were these little beggars entertaining and very cute, they were very useful as well. "It's dog friendly too" my waitress pointed out, which is great to hear next time I have my canine companion holidaying with me. Ravenwood Hall Hotel The food didn't disappoint, as I knew it wouldn't, I had saved myself all day knowing I was going to eat well with my companion that evening. We picked some spiced roasted almonds and a warm bread basket to go with our refreshing ciders on the patio before heading indoors for a starter of pan seared Cornish scallops, with cauliflower fritters and curried cauliflower puree, these were melt in the mouth and slid down a treat. Ravenwood Hall Hotel For mains I opted for the caraway scented wild honey glazed Telmara duck breast, served with pak choi, parmentier potatoes & infusion of Suffolk cider. It was delicious, the duck was so tender that you hardly had to chew it and the crunch of the pak choi worked really well in colour and texture against the rest of the dish. My partner in dining crime (he was cutting his bread roll with a knife and resting elbows on tables, truly shocking behaviour!) went for the rolled sirloin of Scottish premier beef, served with roasted cherry wine tomatoes, hand cut chips and mixed sauteed mushrooms. Again, this meat was melt in the mouth, I can think of no other wording for it, a huge steak and plenty of sides to accompany it, we certainly weren't going to bed hungry. Ravenwood Hall Hotel In fact, our persuasive waitress managed to tempt us into a dessert too, amusing us with the title of the menu, "I know I shouldn't But!"... It's so true, it made us chuckle. We chose a dessert each and shared, it would have been rude not to, seeing as there was a huge selection to choose from, it was actually very tricky to settle on our decisions. We went for the salted caramel & chocolate tart with clotted cream ice cream & hokey Pokey which was truly delicious. We also went for the quattro of desserts, which including a poached apple, lemon cheesecake, chocolate mousse & bakewell tart. Needless to say, we ate like a King & Queen, as would have King Henry and one (or many?!) of his wives whilst visiting for a refuel. Ravenwood Hall Hotel And, after indulging in the delicious food, there was only one thing to do and that was to retire to our fabulous four poster bed and read a book with a cuppa in hand whilst we enjoyed the sunset from our country retreat. The next day we were offered breakfast in bed or within the restaurant, of which we opted for. I went for the Suffolk Ham & Poached Eggs and a strong pot of coffee, which even with a vat full of milk, was still allowing my teaspoon to stand up strong, my kind of morning cuppa! This fueled me for a second dip in the heated outdoor pool, a few hours work in the garden followed by some reading under a tree, it was a hard life. Ravenwood Hall Hotel I hadn't finished yet, my main reason for my visit was to sample their highly regarded afternoon tea, of which had been recommended to me by various food lovers over the past few months. This was a very traditional afternoon tea which surprised me after such a modern and amazing dinner the night before. I was expecting something modern here, but I quite liked the differences in both as it kept me on my toes. The teapot was a heavy silver pourer that did the afternoon tea proud, no spilling of my Earl Grey here, of which is a common occurrence with more modern teapots with wide spouts. Ravenwood Hall Hotel The finger sandwiches on offer were varied, including Salmon & cucumber, cheddar & tomato, egg mayonnaise & cress and Suffolk ham & mustard. Although not dainty - man sized finger sandwiches - a bonus if you love your savoury to be fair. Then onto the warm fruit scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, followed by the largest cake selection I've ever been presented with on a tier, even I was defeated and had to take most home in a doggy bag for my family afterwards. Cakes change seasonally, but for this one I was sampling chocolate brownie, fruit loaf, bakewell tart, lemon drizzle, sticky ginger loaf AND miniature chocolate profiteroles. Ravenwood Hall Hotel Each piece was fresh and moist and the fruit loaf and lemon drizzle had a nice crust to it - perfect. The element I loved most was that there were in fact lots of elements, I felt like a kid in a sweet (or cake) shop... Tremendously generous servings at this afternoon tea, you certainly get value for money with this one! Ravenwood was peaceful, charming and romantic whilst offering us space to chat, refresh, eat superb food and stroll within stunning grounds, all just a stones throw from home. Ravenwood Hall Hotel I can see that Ravenwood Hall would appeal to everyone, not just for couples, but for individuals looking for a break away from everything, anyone on business looking for something special, even for friends or family looking for a large home to take over for a get together, stylish wedding or celebration. If you've dreamt of waking up in a four poster bed surrounded by wooden panelling, green trees and fields whilst hearing the click of horses hoofs pass your terraced window, well Ravenwood Hall Hotel is the stay for you. In fact, I would very much like to discuss coming back to Ravenwood to host an "Afternoon Tea Etiquette" workshop alongside their afternoon tea. With the history and fantastic food on offer, it would be the perfect combination. Ravenwood Hall Hotel I wonder if they would have me... Miss Sue Flay You can view my full photo album for this stay by clicking here. Ravenwood Hall Hotel ******************* During my stay the hotel was undergoing some renovations, however apologies were made regularly throughout my stay and shouldn't last too much longer, so do check on booking. Please note - This stay was complimentary, following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions, please do email: