The Most Instagrammable Restaurant in Essex

I’ll admit it: I’m an afternoon tea snob. If I’m going to a restaurant to eat bad sandwiches, I might as well have stayed home and made my own. And I hate to be picky, but ‘local’ afternoon teas so often let me down (how often restaurants manage to mess up sandwiches is truly beyond me!!!) – I’ve only been ‘wowed’ by fancy London hotel ones in the past. I’ve reviewed a few in my time, like this one and this one, but at about £100 a head, they’re a very rare treat. My 22nd birthday was coming up and I wanted an afternoon tea to celebrate, but didn’t want the cost and effort of hauling my entire family up to London, but also thought I’d experienced all the lacklustre afternoon teas in the Essex area. But then my boyfriend suggested we go to Mad Dogs and Englishmen in Leigh on Sea, and it’s safe to say I was eating my words (and great sandwiches).

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Even before I’d visited the restaurant, the team were so helpful; arranging a booking for me regardless of the fact it was a bank holiday, allowing me to add more guests to my table at a later date with no hassle, and even taking my picky little brother into consideration, and suggesting they create a special children’s afternoon tea just for him.

When I arrived at the restaurant on my birthday, they had even coordinated with my boyfriend to have a big bunch of peonies delivered and set next to my place at the table (adorbs, thanks Jake). The tea parlour itself was stunning. Once you’re in the building, to get to the tea room you walk through a secret door and over a flower-adorned bridge, next to a baby grand piano and a floral swing. Legit instagram bait. As the afternoon tea theme was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the room was adorned with flowers, fairy lights and candles, whilst a beautiful silver tree seemingly grew out of our table. Depending on where you’re seated you might be under an arch of roses, or by a wall of blooming peonies, or under a gorgeous chandelier next to an antique fireplace. The whole room is unique and quirky, with kitsch mismatched crockery to match. Whilst the main features of the room stay the same, they change the decor to fit with the theme of the tea being served (but whatever tea you join them for, you can guarantee it’ll be photo opportunity heaven).

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But it wasn’t style with no substance, the food was gorgeous too. We were served huge portions of sandwiches, followed by warm, freshly made scones topped with strawberries. When I asked if I could have an extra pot of jam, the waitress brought me four – it’s little, friendly details like that that make me think so highly of a restaurant.

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After we had finished the scones, a plate of cakes was brought out, with a centre piece of a caramel drizzled meringue. Having a massive savoury tooth, the sweet part of afternoon tea is always my least favourite (not to mention ‘posh’ afternoon teas often stick weird ingredients in their cakes seemingly for no reason!), but these cakes were something else (no weird, unnecessary ingredients in sight). My favourite was the mini vanilla cheesecakes (which were adorned in beautiful edible flowers, as was everything else – even my little brother’s glass of milk was garnished with them). The treats were just the right balance between being a nice way to round off a meal and an indulgent treat, not too heavy or sickly.

Once you’re done with your tea, you can walk around the shop (which feels TOTALLY separate from the restaurant by the way – you forget it’s there until you cross back over the bridge). It’s a mix of shabby chic interiors and cute decor pieces, we bought a funky spoon (lol) and a reed diffuser, and a wander around was exactly what we needed after two hours of sitting on our butts eating treats. When you’re finished, you can walk down to the seafront, or look around the other boutique shops Leigh has to offer.

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At £22 a head for a normal afternoon tea, and £25 for the themed tea, I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s a great place for a special occasion, but is definitely reasonable enough for a lil #treatyoself moment too, no birthday needed (you can even bring your own champagne/prosecco!). Incredible interiors, super friendly staff and amazing food – and you don’t even have to buy a ticket to London for the privilege.

Find Mad Dogs & Englishmen here.

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