Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect and designer of both the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. My interest in Mackintosh began many years ago when I learned about the furniture and interiors that he and his wife Margaret Macdonald created for The Willow Tearooms in Glasgow. I haven’t made it up to Glasgow (yet) to see The Willow Tearooms, but I was fortunate enough recently to have been invited to see 78 Derngate in Northampton – the site of Mackintosh’s only domestic commission in England.
The modest house at 78 Derngate was a wedding gift in 1917 to Northampton businessman W. J. Bassett-Lowke from his father. Not entirely to his liking, Bassett-Lowke hired Mackintosh to help with a renovation. The end result took portions of the house from modest to remarkable – a hybrid mix of geometric Mackintosh (the hall/lounge) and cosy Mackintosh (the dining room, below) – which is the Mackintosh style I favour.
I highly recommend a visit to 78 Derngate in Northampton. The staff are very friendly and accommodating, and the house tours are led by knowledgeable guides. Exhibits, special events, and educational activities are held there, and you will also find a gift shop. More importantly, I am happy to say, is that there is also a place for Afternoon Tea.
The Dining Room restaurant at 78 Derngate provides home cooked fresh food for breakfast, lunch, dinner – and Afternoon Tea. The space is very welcoming: lots of windows with a simple but classy ambiance.
But the real attraction of The Dining Room is the food. I have had many an Afternoon Tea – and the tea food here ranks tops.
The full Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room is served on two – yes, two! – separate cake stands. The first arrives with savouries. On the day Mr. Tea and I visited, the first stand had sandwiches of egg; ham; and cucumber on the bottom tier; warm tarts and cheese scones on the middle tier; and coronation chicken filo cups on the top tier. All savouries – one of each per person – were freshly made and contained plenty of flavour and plenty of filling. We consumed it all, and it was superb!
At this point, we didn’t think we could eat another morsel, but when the second cake stand arrived – laden with warm scones; cakes (including a cupcake topped with mini-marshmallows which had been lightly toasted – scrumptious!); tarts; macarons; and truffles – we couldn’t resist giving it our best shot. Perfection on a plate is the only way I can describe it all. There truly is more food here than two people can eat, but fear not – a takeaway box will gladly be provided.
At £16.50 per person, which includes unlimited tea or coffee, Afternoon Tea at The Dining Room has to be one of the best – if not the best – Afternoon Tea values in England.
The designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh at 78 Derngate aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but tea at The Dining Room, 78 Derngate is certainly mine.
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