I found Birmingham's 'best afternoon tea' in 'perfect' garden and could have dropped my teapot

Afternoon tea at Winterbourne
Afternoon tea at Winterbourne -Credit:Kirsty Bosley

I almost dropped my tea tray when I walked out of the Winterbourne House cafe and looked out over the Edgbaston garden. I was balancing a towering, top-heavy three-tier stand loaded with far more food than I'd anticipated, a teacup and saucer and a pot full of hot water. It could easily have ended in calamity when I finally took in my surroundings, a 'world stands still' kind of a moment, like when two people fall in love in a film only it was me, falling in love with Birmingham again (for the 15th time that week).

"Oh WOW!" I said out loud to a bunch of strangers. "WOW WEE!" I stood admiring the beautifully manicured lawn, the twelve pristinely-shaped conifers and the stretch of 'pleached' lime trees for a full minute before I remembered I was holding enough food to feed everyone on the patio.

I'd blown it, by the time I got my wits about me, every table was full and I was standing there looking around for options. Going back inside, not looking at all of this beauty, didn't feel like a very good option and my desperation must have been obvious.

Read more: I visited Solihull park that 'has it all' and accepted a stranger's invitation

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"If you follow this path round," a staff member told me, "you'll find a few more little tables." I tentatively followed his instructions, suddenly embarrassed by the giant tea tower wobbling, my cup rattling on its saucer.

My destination was even better than the patio. Three little bistro tables were positioned around the edge of the walled garden and it was absolutely wonderful to be the only person sitting there as the clouds gave way to glorious spring sun. It felt, for a moment, like this was my own personal garden, like I was Mrs Nettlefold circa 1911. My tea was going cold.

Rolls and quiche
Rolls and quiche -Credit:Kirsty Bosley

I have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the city, enjoying lunch in extravagant hotels, dinners in top-rated restaurants, at the top of towers and in old museums. None of them made me feel as peaceful, happy and special as I felt in this exact spot, watching a couple of crows respecting the borders and politely hopping through the lace-like precisely-cut flowerbeds without disturbing any delicate blossoms.

I needed the afternoon tea, £19.95, to be good. I knew that if it was, if I could tell you that not only is it the most exquisite, quintessentially English place to have high tea, but that you won't feel ripped off by the food either, then this would be a win for us all. And reader, it's good news.

There was so much food that I am starting to think that it's a tea for two people. A couple walked past me in their sun hats and shades and couldn't help but comment on the size of it. Again, I felt a little bit embarrassed as they said 'is all of that for you?!' but it wasn't said unkindly, because I do believe it's impossible to be unkind in a place as beautiful and filled with great energy as Winterbourne.

The lady encouraged: "I'd eat the lot if it was mine!" and I wish she'd sat down and shared it. It was like an all-you-can-eat buffet of an afternoon tea.

I'd chosen the veggie version so my top layer was filled with two giant hulking great chunks of a herbacious 'rainbow' roll with a pot of a mango-style chutney sprinkled with nigella seeds. The roll was golden and crisp and the filling of carrot, pepper and herb was surprisingly fragrant.

The menu says that Winterbourne uses produce grown right here in its food where it can, but I'm not sure if that extends to the rolls. Awesome if so. A big handful of green leaf salad seperated the roll from yet more savouries, this time half a little quiche.

The view of Winterbourne House from the lawn
The view of Winterbourne House from the lawn -Credit:Kirsty Bosley

On the second layer were the sweets, a lovely dense little chocolate brownie piece, a mini Victoria sponge, a lemony drizzly moment and two scones filled with jam and cream. Two!

Below that was the boxed sandwich I'd chosen myself from the fridge in the tea shop. I'd gone for a ploughmans, not realising how much other stuff it'd be served with, and that came with yet more green leaves. It was a TON of food by anyone's standards.

I sipped my Clipper Everyday Fairtrade tea and listened to the buzzing of bees foraging on the blooming bush behind me. The walled garden is starting to burst with colour and I admired a couple of poppies nodding to and fro in the breeze. A crow was admiring my sandwich at the same time, suddenly looking more like his cousins that hang around Selly Oak Greggs than some sophisticated English garden gentleman.

I'm going to write about my Winterbourne experience seperately, from exploring the print works and the house, the other parts of the garden and the two, huge secrets I uncovered along the way. Be sure to check back in to read those, because even though this afternoon tea sounds spectacular, I can assure you that the best is yet to be revealed!

To access the Winterbourne House tea room, you have to pay for entry to the house and gardens. Pre-booking for access and afternoon tea is not necessary and there is free parking. Tickets are £8 for adults, £6.90 for kids and over-65s and free to University of Birmingham staff and students on presentation of an ID card. Winterbourne House and Garden, 58 Edgbaston Park Road, Edgbaston, B15 2RT.

This review was independent and food and drink and bought and paid for by the reviewer.