Afternoon tea cake and sandwiches

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Making the Ultimate Afternoon Tea

What’s more quintessentially English than afternoon tea? At The Bell, we’ve explored the very limits of what afternoon tea can be and discovered its ultimate form; simple, sumptuous and satisfying. This is how we make the ultimate afternoon tea.

The Ingredients

Food starts as ingredients – and the better the ingredients, the better the food. The New Forest provides an absolute bounty, in stunning variety and unrivalled quality – so naturally, we source our ingredients locally.

A proper afternoon tea is brimming with variety. Sweet and savoury meet in the most delightful way to make more than a meal. We strike the balance of flavours to make every element just right – and that takes lots of thought, experience and the perfect ingredients to start with.

Jams made with locally picked berries, breads from New Forest bakers, cakes and scones made here at The Bell in small batches, hams and cheeses from suppliers on our doorstep – we’re completely spoiled for choice. And we pass that on to you with every one of our afternoon teas.

Ingredients are just the beginning of the journey, though; it’s the preparation that turns great ingredients into unforgettable food.


Respecting ingredients takes discipline and restraint. Do too much and you’ll drown out the essential flavour. Do too little and you won’t bring out the potential of the dish; either way, it’ll fall flat. That goes for everything from simple finger sandwiches to an expertly rolled and roasted beef wellington.

An afternoon tea is simplicity itself – and we do exactly what’s needed to get the best from our ingredients. Finger sandwiches, made to order and buttered amply, cut precisely into perfectly square-edged fingers (with no crusts of course) always taste better than their triangle cut brethren.

An unctuous heap of clotted cream needs no meddling – it’s already perfect. But the scone on which it’ll sit needs to be precariously teetering between moist and crumbling; a dense and inviting platform to deliver the cream and jam. That takes serious baking skill.

In our opinion, the perfect cake to accompany an afternoon tea is carrot cake. Not that a rich and decadent chocolate cake, or a humble yet mouthwatering Victoria sponge aren’t wonderful – of course they are. But there’s something very special about carrot cake.

The moisture, the hint of spice and the sweetness against the frosting and nuts are immensely satisfying, complex counterpoints to the simple brilliance of a cream tea. And to make it even better, our irresistible homemade carrot cake goes amazingly well with either tea or coffee.

The Setting

Our little corner of The New Forest is undeniably beautiful – and we know that food tastes better when the experience around it is just to your liking.

The ultimate afternoon tea is eaten in the perfect setting. But one person’s idea of perfection might be quite different to the next person’s.

That’s why we offer a choice of setting; relaxed and laid back bites on the sofa in our comfortable lounge, a formal tea at one of our tables in the beautiful garden room – or out in our garden itself on sunny days.

Whichever setting you choose, you’ll enjoy the same first class service and delicious food, right here in our beautiful New Forest surroundings.


After ordering, the anticipation kicks in. Expectations are high – it’s the ultimate afternoon tea, after all.

The perfect afternoon tea should be as much of a spectacle as a quaint English staple is allowed to be; that is to say, elegant and restrained – but just cheeky enough to make you sit up and take notice.

There’s enough of everything to keep everyone satisfied – in terms of both selection and quantity – removing all urgency and the need to be the first to get to the cheese sandwiches before they’re all gone.

At The Bell Inn, your afternoon tea is delivered on a tiered platter, just the way it should be, so there’ll be no awkward meetings of hands, and so everyone can easily take their pick.

It certainly looks good enough to eat. And our fine teapots, cups, crockery and silverware all play their part in giving you the experience you came for – the ultimate afternoon tea.

The Bell Inn – Home of the Ultimate Afternoon Tea

Ready to try our afternoon tea for yourself? Book your afternoon tea online or call us on 023 8081 2214 now. Booking is essential, so be sure to get in touch.