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!
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!
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!
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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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 supper-clubs, so do cranberry scones, madeleines dipped in dark chocolate and honeycomb, devilled eggs, fig and goats cheese canapés and elderflower mojitos.
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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.
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