England has many customs, traditions and quirks that set us apart from the rest of the world and nothing is more quintessentially English than an Afternoon Tea.
Also known as 'High Tea', the Seventh Duchess of Bedford is believed to be have begun the ritual in 1840; after having a 'sinking feeling' between luncheon and her evening meal, she requested that her footman brought her a pot of tea and some light refreshment. She enjoyed her 'tea' so much that she was soon inviting her friends over to gossip over tea, finger sandwiches and cakes. Afternoon Tea fast became fashionable amongst the upper classes.
Nowadays Afternoon Teas and Cream Teas can be enjoyed by everyone, with countless eateries offering them as part of their menus. However, if you want to truly step back in time and experience High Tea in all its quintessentially English glory, you must visit Hathaway Tea Rooms in Stratford.
Located on the High Street, Hathaway Tea Rooms is a Grade II listed building, which was constructed around 1610 and is known as one of Stratford's most historic properties. It has enjoyed a number of 'lives' over the years, known as The George Inn in 1728, becoming an apothecary and surgery in the late 1700s and early 1800s, before being turned into a thriving shoe shop until the early 1900s. Finally, in 1931, the building became a tea room.
Having been bought by Steven Smith and Rick Allen in 2012, the pair have lovingly restored what had become a more modern gastro-pub interior, turning back the clock and creating a slice of olde worlde England in the heart of Stratford. Gorgeous yet mismatched armchairs and chairs abound, haphazard walls and floors take you back in time, the sun glints through the leaded windows. Spread across three floors and a pretty, 50-seater, smoke free garden, Hathaway Tea Rooms offer everything you would want from a traditional eatery.
Service is at the heart of Hathaway Tea Rooms; as Rick explains, “A meal isn't just about the food – it is about the experience. Our guests are encouraged to take as much time as they want over their meal. There is no queuing to order, no plastic cutlery or condiment sachets; we are all about good old fashioned table service from the moment you walk in until the time you leave.”