As the car’s tyres rumbled along the driveway of Jesmond Dene House I knew we were about to experience something special.
Situated in the heart of Newcastle, Jesmond Dene House is a beautiful 19th Century Gothic-style mansion that overlooks leafy Jesmond Dene below.I find the history of Newcastle’s architecture fascinating, and the story behind JDH is no different…
Originally built in 1822 by architect John Dobson, (the man pretty much responsible for building most of Newcastle and contributing to the city’s elegant Georgian architecture), wealthy industrialist and inventor Lord Armstrong bought the property and invested time and money not only into the mansion, but the woodland surrounding it which would later become Jesmond Dene.
Lord Armstrong later moved further North to Cragside and donated Jesmond Dene to the city for use as a city park. It remains one of my favourite places to wander through on a weekend; whereas I save Jesmond Dene House for a special occasion.
I had come to sample their afternoon tea, and I don’t mind admitting that I expected great things from such a reputable establishment that has become synonymous with fine dining.
Evidently, JDH and its capable staff have worked hard to uphold such an enviable reputation – even the minor details of our day were met with precision, creative flair and quality. From the pristine white tablecloths and beautifully laid tables, to the generous three tier cake stand and range of teas that were presented to us, afternoon tea at JDH is no small affair.
It was exactly what I wanted. Proper afternoon that made me feel like a 19th century society lady in all but crinoline petticoat and corset!
Keen to try the House’s new range of Pol Roger champagne (or mainly just enjoy the delicious novelty of drinking champagne on a Monday afternoon), I opted for the Champagne Afternoon Tea (£32 per person), while my fellow lady stuck to a sensible cup of golden Lapsang Souchong tea.
I made some rather cute friends while we waited for our food to arrive (sculptor information here), while Ashleigh gazed out dreamily into the gardens beyond. It wasn’t long before our lovely waitress presented us with three exceptionally generous tiers of afternoon tea treats – an assortment of sandwiches, scones and artisan desserts.
Let me take you through each layer…
Firstly, we tucked into a tower of sandwiches (roast beef, rocket and fiery horseradish, potted salmon with pickled cucumber, egg mayonnaise and a hearty mature cheddar served with apple pickle).
In between sips of champagne, I helped myself to slices of plain, fruit and cheese scones, all crowned with clotted cream and jam. We were both impressed (and slightly intimidated) by the sheer amount of food before us. Despite being dainty, we were given four finger sandwiches and three scones to devour before even beginning the dessert tier – making JDH’s afternoon tea fantastic value for money.
Obviously everybody’s favourite part of afternoon tea is the decadent treasure trove that is the third and final tier and let me just say, JDH’s version does not disappoint!
With Head Pastry Chef Kristian at the helm, the kitchen is brought to life with dainty sweet treats and marvellous miniature versions. Full of flavour, bursting with colour and each individual dessert possibly more pretty than the last, Kristian and his team’s creativity truly shines through here.
The rich chocolate and raspberry tart was my favourite (topped with what Ashleigh and I could only describe as the whitest of white chocolate), followed by an apricot and vanilla macaroon. As a fan of Eton Mess I was intrigued by the blackberry sundae, but personally prefer the sweet tang of strawberries to blackberries.
In contrast, Ashleigh loved the intensely sweet slice of strawberry gateau followed by the blackberry sundae, which just goes to show that there’s something for everyone here.
Physically unable to eat another bite, our waitress offered to box up our leftovers for us to enjoy at home which I thought was a lovely touch. I struggle to find fault with JDH’s proper afternoon tea, the traditional flavours of our finger sandwiches and scones adhered to everything I love about afternoon tea, while the range of desserts wowed the 21st century foodie in me.
Afternoon tea is served daily from 2:30-4:30pm and booking is advised.