Review of Afternoon Tea At The Spa Hotel Royal Tunbridge Wells

As a lover of food and nice cups of tea I never turn down an opportunity to enjoy an afternoon tea. I received an invite to join a group of friends to have afternoon tea in Tunbridge Wells. So, of course I had to say yes. My friend contacted the hotel twice to confirm that one of the party was dairy and lactose free. The afternoon tea was arranged a month in advance, so all week all I could think about was my freshly cooked warm scones and jam.
We met in the lounge area in the front of the hotel where the afternoon tea is served. It was a nice informal setting and we were seated on 2 large sofas with a coffee table in the middle. We selected our teas, which were bought out first. They came in a little glass teapot with the tea leaves at the bottom. This could be topped up with hot water as required to make a couple of cups of tea. The cups the tea was served in were a plain white. I loved the individual teapots but found the cups to be a bit dull and basic. I personally like pretty quaint tea cups.
There was a good choice of teas, but I opted for my old faithful early grey. I have to be honest I didn’t enjoy it. It was very strong. It couldn’t distinguish between its different elements. It tasted like a regular strong black tea. I needed to top my cup up with hot water to make it more palatable, it made no difference. I tend to have earl grey when enjoying an afternoon tea,but this was the worst I’ve tried. I drink all my tea without milk, but I was never offered a dairy free milk to have my cuppa. A little disappointing as the hotel were made aware in advance. The waiting staff were very helpful and provide us with regular hot water allowing us to top up our teapots. We were also given new individual tea pots throughout the afternoon. I changed my tea to Darjeeling, which was a nice refreshing alternative to my earl grey.
As for the food element of this afternoon tea. It started of very promising with the waitress confirming that they were aware of my dietary needs. My scones were coming and I was going to dive in and have my sandwiches later. Sadly, things went down hill. The waitress returned to talk to me and was very apologetic. The chef had not prepared an afternoon tea for me and the bread for the sandwiches contained dairy and lactose. She explained that I could have a salad from the menu with a fruit salad which would be free of charge. I was soo disappointed although any salad could be adapted I had my heart set on warm scones. I couldn’t decide. The waitress returned with the main menu and advised me that I could choose from this as well. I really couldn’t decide, but opted for steak and chips with spinach. Slightly different but there you go.
The afternoon tea arrived on a 3 tiered cake stand. There was a nice selection of sandwiches at the bottom, delicate cakes to the middle and a mixture of plain and fruit scones to the side. This was accompanied by jam and clotted cream. You weren’t able to top the sandwiches up, if you wished to have extras, you had to pay for this.
My friends waited for my steak and chips to arrive, before they dived in. This turned out to be a good 10 minute wait. As I wasn’t expecting to eat a main meal, I offered to share mine. When it arrived, the first thing that we all noticed was the aroma of the steak. It smelt delicious. The steak was accompanied by a small portion of seasoned spinach and a small bucket of triple cooked chips.
The steak was cooked just how I had requested and was full of flavour whilst being both tender and juicy. The spinach was a nice accompaniment, and if I’m honest I would have liked more as some of the dish had been removed to suit my dietary needs. The chips were hot, crispy and a little fluffy inside. They were average and I’ve eaten much nicer triple cooked chips. I expected more from a 4 star hotel. That said I did enjoy my ‘version’ of afternoon tea. My friends also requested chips to top up the afternoon tea (I was to blame for this). They had a long wait, I enquire as to why they were taking so long. The waitress explained that it was because there was a big function also going on. Surely, a large hotel should take this into account. Another disappointing element to the afternoon. Towards the end of the tea my fruit salad arrived. Cue the quote “fruit salad is not a dessert”. It was in a plain bowl and had a good variety of fruit from apples, grapes, through to melon. It had a nice combination of flavours and was freshly made, always a bonus. Sadly, it wasn’t the cakes I had hoped for.
Sadly, I would not recommend the afternoon tea at this hotel for any individual with a food allergy or intolerance. They are clearly unable cater for this. On a positive note, it was a beautiful autumn afternoon so we were able to explore the hotels grounds.


  1. Lucy
    September 14, 2015 / 6:08 am

    If your afternoon tea alternative was steak and chips the spa hotel rocks!!!!! Good work spa hotel!!

    • September 15, 2015 / 8:04 pm

      I did enjoy the steak and it was my alternative choice. I personally find it disappointing that a hotel is unable to cater for special dietary needs when requested in advance.

  2. Things Sarah Loves (@thingsarahloves)
    September 18, 2015 / 9:23 pm

    They should have been able to cater for dietary requirements better, especially after being informed in advance. I love the teapot and the steak looks delicious (I love spinach too!). Thanks for another honest review!

    Sarah xx

    • September 18, 2015 / 9:31 pm

      Hi Sarah, thanks for your kind comments. It was a disappointing afternoon but at least there are other venues locally that I can try as well. I did think the tea pots were cute, and like nothing I had really seen before. On a positive note the steak was lovely.

  3. September 19, 2015 / 10:25 pm

    Oh that is a shame! It’s so disappointing to have your heart set on somethg and to then be unable to have it. I wonder where the line of communication broke down on the Spa’s side? Not great….hopefully it was just a little blip x

    • September 20, 2015 / 8:28 pm

      I think it may have been a blip as they were aware of my dietary request. Sadly, the chef hadn’t made it for me. That said I enjoyed the alternative. I hope to pop back to Tunbridge Wells soon for some shopping and maybe a bite to eat with a nice cup of tea. Thanks for reading my post C ?.

  4. September 22, 2015 / 10:55 am

    What a disappointment especially after you were promised a proper afternoon tea! We have stayed at a few hotels over the years and with the exception of only one, they never seem to have any egg and dairy free bread even though we had given them advance warning. I have to take my own now just in case to stop my kids getting disappointed.

    • September 22, 2015 / 1:38 pm

      Hi Kazza, thanks for taking the time to read my post. I was indeed disappointed but ended up with a nice alternative lunch instead. It’s amazing how hotels are still unable to cater for good allergies/ intolerances. I think it’s a shame that you have to take your own just in case. It must be very difficult for children to not be disappointed, it can be hard enough as a grown up.

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