I’m not sure I’d recommend the Fan Museum at Greenwich to non-girls.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous, frilly froth, beautifully presented in a jewel box of a building. I utterly adore it. Men I have taken there, however, have developed a strange, glazed look halfway through Room Two.
Perhaps that’s why up to now I’d never got around to visiting their much whispered-about tea room, though the more likely reason is its arcane opening hours. Sunday and Tuesday afternoons and you have to book ahead, though I’ve heard they now open to all-comers on Friday and Saturdays which must be a figurative bunfight (at least I hope it isn’t literal).
The good news is that it is in the prettiest orangery I have ever; ever seen and afternoon tea is laughably cheap.
Every inch of this beautiful, sunny glass-house is painted in exquisite 18th-century-style trompe l’oil. Vases of peonies and roses tumble over ‘cracked’ masonry and intertwining vines. A wall of fake-window mirrors gives a distinctly ‘Versailles’ feeling to it, and the real windows open out onto a secret Japanese-style garden.
I went with an artist friend, we overdosed on sugar and tannin and were so inspired by the gorgeous floral murals and fan-shaped topiary we cooked up a new project together.
It’s intended for a sweet tooth, with large slices of Victoria sponge, scones and jam, sticky toffee cake and chocolate delights. There are no savoury items at all, which is a shame. I’d have happily forsaken a cake or three for a couple of finger sandwiches. The tea, however was great – plenty of choice and plenty of refills. The service was cheery and friendly.
The scones and cakes may not be the very best I have tasted (they’re a teeny bit on the heavy side), but at £7 a head it would be churlish to complain. This is one of London’s best-value afternoon teas, served in the heart of a World Heritage site and in the prettiest surroundings imaginable. Highly recommended.
Afternoon tea at the Fan Museum is £7 on top of the entrance fee to the museum.
A version of this feature by Sandra Lawrence originally appeared in British Heritage magazine. If you would like to syndicate this story or commission Sandra to write something similar please contact her at the following address, missing out the obvious gap…