Lumley Castle, where ordinary afternoon tea becomes extraordinary Noveltea

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Every girl likes to think they’re a princess, right? Living in the North East there are some pretty picturesque places to throw on your crown and go flouncing in the meadows. One of my most favourite places in the North East to visit is Lumley Castle. Located in Chester-le-Street and just a stone’s throw from the spindling spires of the historic city of Durham and those magnificent cathedral door knockers! A two-minute walk to Durham Cricket Club. This medieval castle really is no ordinary hotel. With its own resident ghost; it really is as romantic and picturesque as any castle could be.

It’s been a while since I was last at Lumley Castle so when an invite for Afternoon Tea headed my way I was eager to check out what the ‘twist’ on the invite was. I was thoroughly looking forward to what was in store. An oxymoron indeed; Lumley Castle steeped in tradition playing host to what is fast becoming a completely new traditional spin on afternoon tea. Out goes champagne and prosecco, move over Noveltea is in town.

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If you haven’t caught on yet Noveltea recently launched with a quirky twist on blended tea with alcohol to accompany the institutional sandwiches, cakes and scones. Vincent & Lucas, the two Newcastle Uni students originating from Germany resplendent in their British tweed 3 piece suits are taking a punt at converting this hallowed tradition into something somewhat more contemporary.

If you’re a regular reader you may have already read about our evening fabulously hosted at Mason + Rye in Fenwick with the effervescent Vincent & Lucas for their Noveltea launch. Proving such a huge success, the two German Geordies are now introducing their gin and rum blends to the afternoon tea service at Lumley Castle.

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Image: NOVELTEA

Picture perfect, Lumley Castle

As we drove past Chester-le-Street Golf Club and up into the magnificent photogenic grounds of the hotel the views were enchanting. Heading into the castle through the reception we navigated busts and suits of armour. Feeling like a scene out of Harry Potter we meandered through a rabbit warren of corridors. Eventually winding up at an amazingly pretty suite. Of course, situated in the tallest turret in the highest part of the castle where we were greeted by the velvet voice of Jessica Avison. If you’ve never heard Jess before she is totally magical and captivating. I’ve heard her sing previously, at last year’s Malmaison Menu launch and she has the easiest listening voice ever. Singing a whole host of different classics and modern day chart toppers with her own sensational acoustic take on them.

Arriving to a champagne reception we chatted amongst each other before heading to large circular banqueting tables. We all commented on how perfect and idyllic the castle would be for a wedding. As our hostess Claire explained, not surprisingly the castle does indeed play host to hundreds of weddings. Offering exceptionally good rates for such a magnificent setting. The rooms are spectacular and exactly what you would expect from a castle of this calibre.

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Afternoon tea with a NOVELTEA twist

Slightly disappointingly, however, the afternoon tea was served in a separate room as a buffet. Both aesthetically and for promotional purposes for this particular event, this wouldn’t have been my preference. I feel this missed achieving the WOW factor that the hotel was hoping for. I personally would have loved to have seen the afternoon tea served exactly how it would be delivered to guests.

Individually at the tables on the tall serving platters. For me this would have been more indicative of the good value and the attention to detail that goes into providing an excellent tea service, I can only assume logistically this may have proved a challenge on the day.

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Don’t get me wrong the afternoon tea was good but with slightly more planning it could have been truly awesome. Afternoon tea is one of my most favourite things in the world and I like to think I’m quite the connoisseur (but don’t we all?).

The selection at the buffet included the essential fruit scones (regardless if it’s afternoon tea it’s still pronounced S-KON-Z), clotted cream and jam. Mini sliders, which are so twee but I do love them. Ham and Pease Pudding rolls were accompanied by Cheese savoury with vine tomato fingers. Poached Salmon, cream cheese and cucumber sandwich fingers and Beef with Dijon Mustard finger sandwiches.

There were some fabulous little ham and cheese pastries and one of my firm favourites vol-au-vents. Along with delicious pate stuffed cornets. The savoury aspect of the afternoon tea was kitsch and traditional.

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Food that kept on coming

Then there was the sweet side. Strawberry Macaroons with White Chocolate Ganache so pretty you didn’t want to even begin to eat them. A princess ‘fluff’ fool with a seasonal raspberry on top. This Rhubarb, Raspberry and White Chocolate Fool was delicious. There was also a selection of chocolate cakes and little egg custard tarts. A real treat for those with a sweet tooth.

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Gin or Rum, what’s your poison?

The piece de resistance (or the equivalent German ‘best part’) was the boozy tea served up with the treats. After having tasted both the Taste of Tangier and Earl Grey on two separate occasions now I can confirm that my winner is.

The Taste of Tangier.

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A right rum based blend this iced green mint drink is best served with mint garnish over ice for a Taste of Morocco. With one sip you are instantly transported to the African souk. The scents of the sun-dried herbs which rise from the ceremonial pouring from silver teapots. This is whereby The Tale of Tangier obtains its tea culture status from.

The Tale of Earl Grey is a Gin & Tea blend with a rich heritage behind it. Upon return from Asia, a ship of British merchants became trapped in a violent storm. In the hull of the Ship, Chests of black tea leaves crashed into oak casks filled with the finest Sicilian bergamot oil. Sir Charles Grey, enchanted by the zesty addition transformed British tea culture adding his twist to traditional tea. With a monument towering over the city of Sir Charles Grey himself, the team at Noveltea have embraced the story adding their novel twist on Earl Grey’s novel blend.

I’m sure if you’ve not already experienced the beauty of Noveltea, Vincent and Lucas will be bringing their amazing blends to an afternoon tea location nearby soon. Until then you can find them online here.

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4 Responses

  1. Sounds like a fantastic afternoon tea! Food looks so good and oh, how I wish I could drink because those Noveltea blends sound so good! 😀

  2. Great review Laura, I absolutely love the way you write! you certainly create a magical picture of being a princess for the day, sipping on exotic drinks and nibbling on dainty treats! I agree with you about the buffet style and snap! Tale of Tangier is my favourite too x

    1. Am I not a Princess June? Please don’t shatter this illusion I have….no Lumley was lovely and I do prefer the Tale of Tangier too – looking forward to your Fjords post!!!

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