Review: Afternoon Tea at Leonardslee House

It started with a scotch egg. But this was no ordinary creation, it was a pinnacle of savoury deliciousness, made with pulled pork and an egg with a yolk of the most golden splendour from Leonardslee House’s free range coup. Each day Chef Jean Delport collects eggs from the Sussex Red hens and eight other breeds to create succulent dishes and sauces.

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Nearly every wonderful item on Leonardslee’s Afternoon Tea menu is home grown or home raised, then cooked and beautifully prepared in the new state-of-the-art kitchens that Jean designed in the restored manor house and estate - a major investment by the Streeter family.

This array of savoury and sweet treats is brought to your table in a magnificent display, introduced by charming staff. With Leonardslee’s own custom-designed tableware resonating the floral theme of the 200 acre woodland gardens - probably the finest in England - it is as much a visual as a gastronomic feast. The elegant tea rooms offer superb views over the gardens through tall french windows.

The special quality of the experience begins on arrival at the Italianate mansion, as if invited to tea by old and very well-connected friends. There is a warm greeting in the beautiful colonnaded hallway, with its original tiled floor and sunlight flooding down from the impressive light well overhead.

We selected the Savoury Menu from the three presented. The others are the Classic, with the most delicately cut finger sandwiches instead of savouries, and a children’s menu. This is all perfectly harmonised by the tinkling melodies of the self-playing piano, and a glass of Benguela Cove bubbles from the owner’s vineyard, of course.

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Viewing the choice of savoury dishes, I opted for the aforementioned scotch egg and my partner for the eggs royale, probably the best she has had, with an exquisite bed of muffins and bathed in delicious hollandaise sauce. Other treats included sausage rolls - a heavenly confection of locally-bred pork, apple, walnut, celery and spices.

The home-baked raisin and plain scones were yet a further highlight. Of the lightest, most delicious texture, they melted in the mouth, set off by lemon curd or strawberry jam and the chef’s own clotted cream.

Next a superb festival of patisseries: an exceptional treacle tart in miniature, lavender macaroons, and chocolate creations to bedazzle the eye and taste buds.

Finally, the cake trolley. We chose a Battenberg and three-layered lemon cake, the like of which we had never experienced. A true feast.

Afternoon Tea at around £40 pp, perfect for tea or for lunch.
www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk/food/


Emily Grey