Where to go for a vintage afternoon tea

We've scoured Britain for the best vintage-themed tearooms to enjoy tea and scones with a side of nostalgia!

one of the beautifully appointed carriages aboard Northern Belle

What could be nicer than catching up with friends over an old-fashioned afternoon tea? We’re talking a vintage cake stand laden with delectable cakes, finger sandwiches, scones with lashings of jam and clotted cream, plus a piping hot cup of tea served from antique tea pot – delicious!

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We’ve scoured the country for the best vintage-themed tearooms to enjoy a a delicious brew and a generous piece of freshly baked cake, all served up with a slice of nostalgia. Milk and one sugar for me, please!

Check ahead – please contact tearooms or keep an eye on websites and social media for updates regarding bookings, opening hours or menu changes.

Lady Scarlett’s Tea Parlour 

The Isle of Wight led the trend for stylish, period-themed holidays when the original cool campsite, Vintage Vacations, started renting out airstream trailers and reconditioned caravans near Ryde almost two decades ago. If you’re just after a retro pot of tea rather than a full nostalgia-tinted stay, though, the island is also home to Lady Scarlett’s Tea Parlour. Overlooking the sea in Ventnor, this 1940s-style tearoom does a brisk trade in homemade cakes, local ice-creams and crab pasties. Era-appropriate music is played through a 1940s radiogram and the toilets are reached via a mocked-up Anderson shelter. 

Esplanade, Ventnor, Isle of Wight. ladyscarlettsteaparlour.co.uk

Lady Scarlett’s Tea Parlour on the Isle of Wight overlooks the sea
Lady Scarlett’s Tea Parlour on the Isle of Wight overlooks the sea.

Mackintosh at the Willow

Glasgow’s original Willow Tearooms were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1903. Commissioned by local tearoom empress Kate Cranston, the site was restored by a charitable trust and re-opened in 2018 as a social enterprise, Mackintosh at The Willow. (‘The Willow Tea Rooms’, operating at a different site in the city, is a separate business). The only tearoom designed both inside and out by Mackintosh, right down to the high-backed chairs that became one of his trademarks, it is now a 200-seat restaurant spread across three floors. The big draw is afternoon tea in the Salon De Luxe.

215–217 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. mackintoshatthewillow.com

Mackintosh at the Willow re-opened in 2018 on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and is now run as a social enterprise.
Mackintosh at the Willow re-opened in 2018 on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow and is now run as a social enterprise.

The Fourteas Tea-Room

A quill’s throw from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, The Fourteas is just the place for a pot of tea (try the house blend, a perky mix of Keemun and Ceylon custom-designed by a specialist local company) and a homemade scone laced with jam and cream. Owner Zenios Loucas once worked in the Palm Court at The Ritz and, while The Fourteas has a more utility-chic, 1940s feel than the hotel’s famously lavish Louis XVI dining room, there’s an equally palpable focus on indulgence. The business has recently started selling hampers and cream teas online, the latter neatly packaged in replica gas mask boxes.

24 Sheep Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. thefourteas.co.uk

The Fourteas Tea-Room in Stratford-upon-Avon is the place to go for an indulgent cream tea served up in 1940s style
The Fourteas Tea-Room in Stratford-upon-Avon is the place to go for an indulgent cream tea served up in 1940s style.
An elegant tea party scene in a Georgian living room

The Vintage Tearooms

A polished, modern spin on the vintage tearoom, The Vintage Tearooms is a large cafe on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, with tables spread over two floors and a leafy tea garden. Downstairs is a Cath Kidston-inspired room with large windows painted duck-egg blue and a sideboard brimming with seriously good homemade cakes, while the upper floor takes its cues from the 1940s. Grab one of the wingback chairs and gaze over the village of Tealby through large bay windows while you nibble your way through smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, warm scones or a slice of white chocolate and raspberry cake (served on vintage china, of course). 

12 Front Street, Tealby, Lincolnshire. thevintagetearooms.co.uk

mouthwatering sandwiches and cakes served on a dainty stand at The Vintage Tearooms in Tealby
Mouthwatering sandwiches and cakes served on a dainty stand at The Vintage Tearooms in Tealby.

The Hidden Treasure Tea Room

Stylish and fun, with plants blooming from china teapots and a constellation of flouncy vintage lampshades overhead, The Hidden Treasure Tea Room in Exeter has an impressively original menu. It also has a sideline selling vintage crockery, Devon cream teas, bake-your-own kits and seasonal afternoon teas for local delivery. All the usual suspects make an appearance on the menu but thanks to owner Vicki Parks’ background organising bespoke tea parties and pop-up supperclubs, so do cranberry scones, madeleines dipped in dark chocolate and honeycomb, devilled eggs, fig and goats cheese canapés and elderflower mojitos. 

5A New Bridge St, Exeter. hiddentreasure.biz

Cocktails are served at The Hidden Treasure Tea Room
Cocktails are served at The Hidden Treasure Tea Room.

Northern Belle

One of a handful of vintage trains running luxury day trips from stations around Britain, the Northern Belle is a restored 1930s showstopper. Book one of its sepia-tinted afternoon tea journeys and you’ll find yourself in a glitzy tearoom on wheels. The train’s historic Pullman-style carriages are decorated with mosaics and marquetry panels created by A Dunn & Son (a 126-year-old Essex firm known for its work on ocean liners RMS Titanic and RMS Queen Mary). Sip champagne between bites of dainty sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries as your chosen corner of the British countryside sweeps by.

northernbelle.co.uk

one of the beautifully appointed carriages aboard Northern Belle
One of the beautifully appointed carriages aboard Northern Belle.
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Words: Rhiannon Batten