One of mine and my husbands favourite things to do from time to time is to go for afternoon tea. It is a real treat for us and we like to try a different place each time that we go to see what they have to offer.
We've been to lots of different venues for afternoon tea in the North East and beyond and some places stand out more than others. The St. Mary's Inn is definitely one of those places.
Situated on a private estate near Stannington village in south Northumberland, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in the middle of beautiful nowhere as the drive up to the building is surrounded by tranquil countryside. When really you're only a short drive away from the A1 and close to Newcastle which makes this unique pub easy to get to.
The St Mary's Inn opened around 9 months ago after a pretty dramatic transformation. The pub is on the site of the former St Mary's Hospital which was built at the beginning of the last century as the county asylum for the Gateshead area. It was home to a whopping 2000 patients at its peak before it closed in 1996. Some of its buildings have been converted to housing and the former administration block is what has been transformed into the St Mary's Inn.
The building itself looks so impressive as you drive up to it. The outside is a colourful red brick with contrasting window mouldings, an striking clock tower and huge arched doorway with paving outside and a cute quote on a board. This time it read 'it is Saturday... to beer or not to be, that is the question!' There is ample parking available outside as well as picnic style benches for those wanting to sit outside for drinks.
Inside, you're immediately greeted by a big, open bar with very friendly staff behind it. There's this amazing welcoming feeling and an air of calm and being at ease which is unusual for pub but it does match the setting of the inn. I'd much prefer to go somewhere like there for drink than a rowdy bar in town.
The areas to eat in the St Mary's Inn are light, open and airy and theres lots of little areas that branch off from a hall way. I absolutely love this as it gives you the feeling that it is open but private in equal proportions. I also adore the wire dog sculptures that are around the inn. So cute.
As we were seated at our wooden table complete with rustic, mismatched chairs that gave it a country, home like feel, we were given our Afternoon Tea menu. I'm not sure if it changes seasonally but the selection sounded fabulous and we couldn't wait to tuck in.
Our waiter took our order drinks order; a loose leaf English Breakfast Tea for me and an Americano coffee for him, before checking that everything on the menu was suitable for us. There was plenty of drinks to choose from and I like that they offer loose leaf or bagged varieties for the tea and we were topped up throughout our visit.
Our Afternoon Tea arrived shortly after, displayed on a fabulous wooden platter, it was definitely Instagram worthy. Free WIFI is offered throughout the building and I was so tempted to snap a picture to upload sooner but I thought I should reserve them for my review!
The bottom tier was home to the finger sandwiches and scones while the top tier displayed a fabulous array of cakes.
Naturally, we started with the sandwiches which were an ideal selection for us as there was a great mix of flavours on two different types of bread. You'd be hard pushed for even the pickiest of people to not find something that they liked.
We had roast beef and horseradish first which is always usually Mr WLL personal favourite when we go for afternoon tea but the cheeky addition of ham and pease pudding over took that. It was absolutely delicious and I love that they have this sandwich within their selection as it keeps it traditional to the North East. The cucumber and cream cheese and salmon and dill sandwiches were equally as fresh and delicious, we really couldn't fault them.
Next we moved on to the scones and were surprised to see such a great selection. At other places that we've been to for afternoon tea, we're usually served two scones each, one plain and one fruit however at St Mary's Inn, three arrived; one spiced fruit and blackberry each which made a lovely change from the usual fruit scone, one plain scone each and one mature cheddar.
The addition of the cheese scone was very welcome, especially as all of the scones arrived warm. I never used to like scones as a child but I would bake them for my dad who always said that they tasted beautiful (genuinely, not just because I'm his daughter!) but as an adult, I really love the taste of them but no longer make them myself which is probably a good thing!
The scones were served with butter, homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream. This always throws up quite the discussion between my husband and I. Do you put the cream on first or the jam? I'm a cream then jam scone eater, my hubby is the other way round. Either way, they were absolutely gorgeous, moist, not dry like some scones can be.
They were definitely a hit with us!
Lastly we moved onto the top tier and tried out the cakes that they had to offer. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, whereas Mr WLL is far more of a sweet person have a savoury, but when its in miniature form, I can't help but go all heart eyed emoji.
We started with the impressive looking rhubarb pavlova. I love meringue so this was an instant hit with me. Followed by the chocolate brownie which was so moist and rich that I couldn't finish it all but of course, my husband was happy to have the rest. He's a self confessed chocaholic so I knew that this cake would be his favourite. We equally both enjoyed the raspberry Bakewell tart which I'm sorry to say, Mr Kipling, was better than yours!
I definitely think that we saved the best to last though with the lemon and white chocolate macaron which was without a doubt my favourite cake from the afternoon tea and despite being utterly stuffed, we polish off every last little crumb.
Aside from the food and decor, what I loved the most about having afternoon tea at the St Mary's Inn was the atmosphere. It was so relaxed, not stuffy or up itself where you'd be frightened to leave a crumb out of place.
A lot of the establishments where we've enjoyed afternoon tea in the past have been quite formal locations which do make you more conscious of what you're saying and doing. While we love going to those types of places too, the informal atmosphere of St Mary's Inn was so welcoming and it immediately put us at ease. We felt so comfortable to just enjoy our afternoon in each others company, feeling free to laugh out loud if we wanted to.
Our afternoon tea was complimentry in exchange for giving an honest review of our visit but I do think that it is still worth mentioning the price for the afternoon tea that we had which would have been £14.95. I think that this is very very reasonable for everything that we received and would happily pay that ourselves on our next visit. We have paid far more for afternoon tea of the same high standard and even for afternoon tea that hasn't been as great as St Mary's Inn before so in comparison, I think that the afternoon tea that we enjoyed on this visit was good value for money and we thoroughly enjoyed our experience.
I'd highly recommend a visit to the St Mary's Inn, I could not fault our experience and we will definitely be back (in fact we already have been... we went for Sunday lunch last week which was absolutely FABULOUS! It wasn't part of a review, we went out there specifically because we'd thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon tea so much and are partial to finding great Sunday lunch spots. We'd really recommend the roast beef with bone marrow and the belly pork. Delicious!).
Afternoon tea at St Mary's Inn is served Monday to Saturday from 12 noon until 5pm and from 3pm onwards on Sundays.
You'll be able to find this fantastic pub here:
St Mary's Inn
St Mary's Lane, St Mary's Park
To book a table for afternoon tea or any other delicious meal or to enquire about rooms, call: 01670 293293 or make an enquiry by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to see what I wore to visit St Mary's Inn, check out this outfit post.
What would you most like to try from the St Mary's Inn afternoon tea?