Laura Cartledge discovers what makes Goodwood’s afternoon tea great.
Ask the head chef of Goodwood House what food trends they would like to see come back to the fore, and you might be surprised to hear the answer is bread.
“Bread is an everyday product but I feel that we as a nation have lost sight of what proper bread should be,” explains Mike Watts, “and as a consequence are losing certain skills as time goes by.”
Mike is also passionate about traceability and sustainability, which he believes ‘is improving but still has a way to go’.
It is no surprise then that doing good things well is an ethos you can see in the estate’s afternoon tea, which makes its return to the ballroom this month.
There’s no doubt the traditional finger sandwiches and scones are experiencing a revival at the moment, however, as with many elements of the vintage trend, the pressure to reinvent the wheel can be a challenge for some.
Thankfully Mike believes simplicity is key.
“As long as you always use great ingredients and don’t lose sight of the importance of flavour, you will always be well on the way to being remembered for the right reasons,” he insists.
When it comes to Mike’s approach, he adds it is as much about the overall result as it is the stand alone componants.
“For me the elements of an afternoon tea should complement each other, but each have their own individuality,” he agrees. “You have to try and satisfy many different tastes and opinions with the same tea stand.”
The ‘grand and regal’ setting of the ballroom already feels ‘like being transported back to times gone by’, says Mike, making it both an apt and inspiring place to serve the tea.
“We are proud of our heritage and traditions at Goodwood House, but part of the joy and wonder of Goodwood is that it is a historic Estate run in a way that embraces the modern world,” Mike enthuses. “We take a very similar view point when it comes to the creation of our afternoon tea.
“We endeavour to give an offering that rivals most luxury grand cafes and hotels using modern techniques and influences, but serving it in a way that is in keeping with the grandeur and luxury for which the ballroom is famed. Be it the fabulous loose leaf teas or the luxurious and rich Dorset clotted cream or our own organic produce, only the best will do when it comes to our food philosophy at Goodwood.
“Freshly baked fruit scones are in my opinion the cornerstone of a great afternoon tea,” he reveals. “But they need to be backed up with the best clotted cream and jam that is available to you.”
Despite the focus being on the best, Mike confesses a common mistake can be people worrying too much about the correct afternoon tea etiquette.
“Personally I feel it should be a more relaxed situation,” he says, “where you can decide and eat at your own leisure.
“With the current renaissance in baking that has become mainstream in both the media and at home,” Mike adds. “I believe afternoon tea has found its way back into people’s hearts.”
What: Afternoon Tea
An array of sandwiches, cakes, pastries and traditional English scones served in the magnificent ballroom.
Served from 2pm – 4.30pm on open days, last entry at 4pm.
£25 per person, including entry fee and tour.
Where: Goodwood House
When: From March 5 - October 30
Contact: 01243 755055 or www.goodwood.com
This first appeared in the March edition of etc Magazine, pick up your copy now.