The Best Vegan Afternoon Tea Experience outside of London

I bite into the fluffy scone caked with thick soy cream and coated in delicious strawberry jam. The cream melts in my mouth. I smile and close my eyes. The jam now sweetens the taste buds on the tip of my tongue. Finally, I munch on the spongy scone. A little denser than a traditional scone but absolutely delightful. I look across the table to see my partner’s reaction. He was also smiling. We were very much enjoying our rather decadent afternoon tea at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

For my 25th birthday I happened to be back in the UK. For the last three years my birthday had always been celebrated abroad in China, Romania and Germany. Therefore, this year was going to be a very British birthday! And what could be more British than afternoon tea? Yet would we be able to find a vegan version of afternoon tea?

London of course has several options when it come to vegan afternoon tea. However, we were pleasantly surprised when we found a much closer option in the heart of England.

Stratford upon Avon is a medieval market town and is the birthplace of the playwright William Shakespeare. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) still performs his plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theater. The theatre recently underwent a £100 million transformation project and reopened in 2010. The company currently employees over 1000 staff and can seat 1,060 people in the theatre. Yet our visit was not to sit in the theatre but above the stage!

Part of the transformation project included the creation of the rooftop restaurant and cocktail bar. These are located on the third floor of the royal theatre. The rooftop restaurant offers fantastic panoramic views and serves an array of British food including vegan afternoon tea!

There are three different options for vegan afternoon tea. For those on a budget, the Afternoon Tea at just £7.95 per person would be the best choice. This option includes a drink, a scone, jam and soya cream. The midrange choice, which is what we went for, is the rooftop high tea option. A selection of seasonal savoury and sweet delicacies alongside unlimited hot drink refills are included in this option for £18.95 per person. For the most decadent of occasions there is also the top end possibility of the Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne High Tea for £27.95 per person. This includes the sweets and savouries as well as champagne. Whichever option you choose, the staff and location will make this an occasion to remember.

The rooftop location offers wonderful panoramic views of Stratford-upon-Avon. We were seated by the window and looked out onto the river Avon. The little barges were beneath us and we could even see the statue of Shakespeare himself in the distance. It was a lovely place to sit, people watch and observe the sun setting.

We had pre-booked the night before, but they said walk-ins are also available – even for the vegan option. We were given two bottles of water, one sparkling and one still whilst we debated what drinks to try. With unlimited refills, we both opted to have a tea first, after all, what would high tea be without a cup of tea? I ordered an Earl Grey and Alex asked for a vanilla chai tea.

We were given our teas, then soon after a huge array of vegan goodies appeared at our table. A decorative three-tiered curate stand was laden with our food. The top tier contained 8 miniature desserts. On the middle plate were two large scones next to tiptree jam jars and two pots of soy cream. The sandwiches and savouries could be found on the bottom tier.

Where to start?!

As we sipped on our teas, we debated which one of the savouries to try first. We had four to choose comes. In front of us were Salted cucumber and black pepper sandwiches, two autumn tartlets, a couple of avocado rye sandwiches and two falafel wraps.

Over the next couple of hours, we lost track of the time, as we worked our way through the delectable treats.

The first savoury we tried was the smashed avocado and cherry tomato open rye sandwich. This was very nice. The bread is made locally, and the Rooftop restaurant makes as much in house as they can.

Next up was the falafel option. As vegans, we often find that falafel and hummus is the standard vegan option. Whilst falafel can sometimes be a bland mush, the chefs at the RSC have perfected this upmarket version. The falafel was very fluffy and the hummus fantastically creamy. Layers of pickled red cabbage added texture and colour to this savoury bite.

I particularly enjoyed the autumn tartlet. The tartlet’s warm flavours of caramelised onion, thyme and walnut melted on my tongue. The flaky pastry was wonderfully crisp.

Finally, we tried the quintessential English afternoon tea dish: the cucumber sandwich. The crusts had been removed of course and the slices were perfectly thin. A wonderful layer of creamy vegan butter complimented the cool slices of the cucumber with a hint of lemon on the fresh bread flavoured with a pinch of salt. The little sandwiches were cut into small isosceles triangles.

The dainty cucumber sandwich has been a stable of afternoon tea since 1870 when they were eaten in India by colonialists to try and cope with the oppressive heat. Indeed, scientists have now proven that cucumber sandwiches are in fact one of the best foods to regulate body temperature and avoid dehydration!

In UK, the cucumber sandwich has long been associated with the upper classes. In the 19th century cucumbers were not accessible all year round unless you had access to a hothouse. Secondly the luxury of cutting away crusts highlighted that they were a snack rather than a way of sustaining oneself. Oscar Wilde’s character Ernest even proclaims them to be a ‘reckless extravagance’.

Alex and I enjoyed our extravagant treat and ordered more drinks. Next up was the dessert tier as we wanted to save the scones till last!

The autumn fruit compote was very sweet. I gave mine to Alex and moved onto the pistachio and orange cake. The small slice of cake was packed full of flavours! I really enjoyed the pistachio slice.

The filo parcels were little pieces of art. Once again, the filo pastry was fantastically crispy. Inside the parcels was a gooey apple and gooseberry filling.

Surprisingly as everything else was so good the Belgium chocolate brownies were disappointments. The dough was very floury. Completely different to the moist pistachio slice. We felt as if our mouths were being glued together. I wish I had kept the fruit compote. The icing was nice, but the actual cake was not.

We still had one more course to try: the mouth-watering scones!
Slowly we sliced our scones open with our knives. We opened our cute tiptree jam jars and coated the baked goods with strawberry goodness. Finally, the thick soy cream was carefully poured onto the slices. Our scone was now ready!

Whilst the bottom was slightly hard and chewy the top of the scone was very light and fluffy. Coated with the cream and jam the sweet cake was absolutely fantastic. It was the best end to the perfect quintessential and vegan afternoon tea.

We both sat back feeling very full. Another cup of tea and we were ready to leave to walk by the river and watch the sunset.

A service charge was added at the end but as the service had been so good we did not mind. The vegan high tea at the RSC was a fantastic birthday treat!

I later discovered that afternoon tea had actually been invented by an Anna! After some research I found out that the duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell is credited as the creator of afternoon tea. The duchess found the time between luncheon and dinner which was not until 8pm or even later for the upper classes was too long to go without food. Therefore, she needed a snack before dinner and she would invite her friends around. They would have tea, sandwiches and sweets. The idea then caught on and thus the concept of afternoon tea was born.

This Anna, like Anna Russell very much enjoyed her afternoon tea. Alex treated me as it was my 25th birthday. The vegan high tea experience was a wonderful end to a wonderful day.

Veganism is on the rise and it is wonderful that traditional national dishes are now available to vegans too.

Would you like to try the vegan after tea experience at the RCS in Stratford-upon-Avon? Let me know in the comments below!

Find out where the Best VEGAN Afternoon Tea experience is outside of London! See where you can have thick, creamy soy cream on vegan scones alongside lots of other savoury and sweet vegan goodies. With unlimited hot drink refills treat yourself to the ultimate high tea. #vegan #afternoontea #mytravelscrapbook Find out where the Best VEGAN Afternoon Tea experience is outside of London! See where you can have thick, creamy soy cream on vegan scones alongside lots of other savoury and sweet vegan goodies. With unlimited hot drink refills treat yourself to the ultimate high tea. #vegan #afternoontea #mytravelscrapbook Find out where the Best VEGAN Afternoon Tea experience is outside of London! See where you can have thick, creamy soy cream on vegan scones alongside lots of other savoury and sweet vegan goodies. With unlimited hot drink refills treat yourself to the ultimate high tea. #vegan #afternoontea #mytravelscrapbook

4 Replies to “The Best Vegan Afternoon Tea Experience outside of London”

  1. The tea goodies look so delicious and appetizing! Such a well-written post, I enjoyed reading the little story about inventing the afternoon tea!

  2. I love your writing style. You definitely sold me on this experience! I’d love to have high-tea in Avon!!

  3. Definitely sounds worth trying! A note on the falafel and hummus: you’d be best trying them authentically at a middle eastern restaurant as they are traditionally very rich in flavour and not bland or mushy at all – the hummus creamy, the fried falafel crunchy, crispy, and earthy.

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