Nestled among a small strip of shops in Merton Park, Wimbledon, Willow Bough Tea Rooms encapsulates all the history, beauty and charm of traditional English tea parties. I had the pleasure of enjoying one of Sweet Clare’s afternoon tea menus, and it was the perfect, tiered array of sweet and savoury, delicate and moreish.
After developing a love of baking during her childhood and being a self-confessed ‘hoarder’ of vintage china, passionate home baker and baking blogger, Sweet Clare, began fulfilling a lifelong dream when she opened her own traditional tea rooms in Wimbledon, in 2015.
Named after the famous pattern designed by William Morris in 1887, Willow Boughs, Clare has been heavily influenced by the arts and crafts movement of that time, and wanted to incorporate many of its philosophies into her tea rooms. Placing a high value on quality of materials, design and life, Clare has adapted these beliefs and applied them to her baking and interior décor. Soft, pastel tones and dark timber furniture create a very warm and welcoming space, while a framed piece of the Willow Boughs pattern hangs on the wall, paying homage to the ideas and time that inspires the space.
As Clare sets the tiered cake stand on my table, my mouth starts drooling while my head considers how I’m going to manage to eat every last crumb. Clare’s afternoon tea is everything you want it to be; the sandwiches are full with ingredients that look fresh and scrumptious, the clotted cream and jam pots are filled enough to cover your scone twice over, and your first urge is to dive straight into the irresistibly scrumptious cakes.
I fight the intense desire to take a spoonful of a moreish-looking chocolate cake and work my way down the tiered stand, from savoury to sweet. The handmade sandwiches are some of the best I’ve had at an afternoon tea. Cut in small triangles rather than fingers, you can taste the quality of the ingredients, as well as Clare’s knowledge of food and flavour! The sandwich selection included smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg, ham and traditional cucumber. Moving onto the fruit scone, it comes and goes quicker than I can smother it with jam and clotted cream. And then to the cakes … wow! The chocolate and courgette cake is beyond all my wildest, chocolate-addict dreams! The moistness of the courgette makes this chocolate cake extra decadent while bringing out the richness of the chocolate. And the rose buttercream icing delicately swirled atop of a dainty rose and pistachio cupcake will melt in your mouth while the rose-infused sugariness has your taste buds doing the Cha Cha!
All-in-all, Clare’s dedication to quality ingredients and homemade goods sets this little tea room apart from some of the major players, such as The Ritz and The Savoy. Though the décor may not feel as glamorous as Sketch, Willow Bough Tea Rooms offers a traditional experience in the beautiful suburbs of South London. And if you’re looking for a celebratory cake that will be the talk of the town for years to come, Clare also provides catering and I can assure you, you will not be disappointed!!!
Thank you so much to Clare for having me and I can’t wait for my next slice of Chocolate and Courgette Cake!