Forget the diet – it’s teatime!

At Rushton Hall, a very grand country house hotel in Northamptonshire, teatime is proving more popular than lunch. The hotel’s Jacky McAulay says: “Our teas are available until 4.30pm throughout the week, but we’ve started serving earlier – at 1.30pm midweek and 2.30pm Sundays – to keep up with demand. “Tables are being booked earlier and we’re averaging 40 people midweek and 80 to 90 at weekends.”
When I visited the exquisitely-refurbished Brockencote Hall Hotel in Worcestershire last week the pine-panelled library and sunny terrace were abuzz with conversation and the gentle clink-clink of elegant Victorian-style crockery. 
Cake stands groaned under the weight of cholesterol. The scene was a dietician’s worst nightmare, though no-one seemed over-concerned.
It’s not just ladies of a certain age who take time out for tea, confirms Brockencote’s affable general manager Dean Gunston. “We’re attracting increasing numbers of yummy mummies meeting up for a chinwag before the school run and groups of friends or families with something to celebrate,” he told me.
Charming Brockencote is out in the sticks in the pretty little village of Chaddesley Corbett, but many of Dean’s new post-luncheon clientele are happy to drive a fair distance for their afternoon socialising.
Sometimes a clotted-cream scone or rich chocolate cake goes right to the spot. And if there’s a birthday – out comes the bubbly.
Women clearly outnumber men at these gatherings. I didn’t spot too many business types emerging from Brockencote’s library with that tell-tale satisfied demeanour and strawberry jam down their ties.
But could there be danger lurking behind the cucumber sandwiches (crustless, triangular) and clotted-cream scones?  For those who lunch and take afternoon tea, the following little jokette I heard last week serves as a warning:
Wife to husband: “Does my bum look big in this?
Husband: “Well, dear, in fairness this is rather a small room…”
A salutary lesson for us all, no doubt. Meantime, another slice of the lemon drizzle anyone?
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