The Swan at Lavenham’s new afternoon tea celebrates the World War Two role of ‘bomber boys’ depicted in new Apple TV+ series masters of the Air, starring Austin Butler
A new afternoon tea menu by a hotel in Lavenham, near Sudbury, celebrates the US 487th Bombardment Group, stationed nearby at RAF Lavenham during World War Two.
They were part of the ‘friendly invasion’ of East Anglia by USAAF personnel during World War Two being depicted on the screens in new Apple TV+ series Masters of the Air.
On Saturday, SuffolkNews visited The Swan at Lavenham to try its 487 Afternoon Tea: Episode One, named after the bomber boys.
There is something about a trip to Lavenham which always makes me feel nostalgic.
Growing up in a small village just a few miles away, I have many comforting childhood memories of shops long gone (‘that was the greengrocers and that was a tiny Barclays bank,’ I told my husband David as we walked to the Swan shortly before noon), my own first Saturday job in a former gift shop and memories of seeing Lovejoy filmed there in the 1980s.
But nothing is more reassuring than the heavy wooden door of The Swan which, as you push it open, releases a gust of warm air and the enticing aromas of food to welcome you inside its cosy historic timber-framed interior.
With the afternoon tea menu – a modern take on the sweet and savoury delights which might have been enjoyed during 1940s wartime Britain – served from noon-4pm Monday to Saturday and 2.30-4pm on Sundays, at noon on Saturday we were the first diners inside the restaurant.
We were greeted with the customary Swan warmth and professionalism and shown to our table to be served a chilled glass of prosecco and a bottle of St Peter’s 487th Ale, with the bottle’s quirky shape enchanting us both.
We then embraced the task of choosing our hot drinks – with the menu including a range of teas and coffees ranging from Persian Pomegranate to hot chocolate. We eventually settled on a cafetiere of the Paddy and Scott’s decaffinated Mexican blend (me) and the decaf Ceylon (David).
Our afternoon tea menus had been pre-ordered, with David opting for the savoury offering.
Booking is essential at least 24 hours ahead by calling 01787 247477 or go to www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk
The sandwich selection includes a ‘wartime BLT’ with corned beef, lettuce, tomato and Branston pickle, which was invented in the late 30s and eaten by the wealthy; delicious lemony egg; smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumber and dill. All were served on light and fluffy fresh bread.
David’s savoury scones included ham and prune, and cheese and chive, with whipped butter, while the top platter offered St Peter’s 487th ale in a spam fritter with apple chutney; King Ed’s biscuits and Piccalilli; potato rarebit with brown sauce gel and devilled quail ‘two eggs’ with caviar on a toasted brioche – a nod to the airmen being given two eggs when they were flying instead of the rationed single egg.
Meanwhile, I had chosen the sweet afternoon tea, swapping out the corned beef sandwich for an avocado-filled delight instead.
I enjoyed my warm fruit and plain scones – along with lashings of clotted cream and blackcurrant jam – while the top tier of my serving platter was an eclectic mix including a chocolate cake with a dash of beer and camouflage butter icing; peanut butter red, white and blue American flag-topped macarons; a lemon posset with Chantilly cream, lemon sherbet shards and chocolate M&Ms, and an apple tart with a mini ‘toffee apple’.
David and I sampled delicacies from each other’s menu and enjoyed every morsel, with the spam fritter winning particular praise from David and the lemon posset scoring top marks with me.
But what really sets this afternoon tea apart from other offerings is The Swan at Lavenham’s attention to detail.
From the impeccable service – where staff members’ pride in their work is evident – to the care and attention to the food, our experience was faultless.
We were asked on more than one occasion if we needed more tea or coffee – with David enjoying his Ceylon so much he could have quaffed it all afternoon – and felt the entire experience was designed to be an indulgent delight to be savoured and enjoyed.
And while prices may be a few pounds more than afternoon teas elsewhere – the 487 afternoon tea menu costs £27.50 per person or £36.50 with a glass of prosecco – we felt the minimal extra spend was more than worth it.
For not only did we relish a delicious menu, but the whole atmosphere offered us the opportunity to talk, reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.
At the same time we could sample updated takes on the flavours of yesteryear – and take in the nods to The Swan’s wartime role as we visited its nostalgic Airmen’s Bar before leaving.
There, we perused military memorabilia, read some of the old press clippings and took in its walls signed by past and present airmen who have visited over the years, but nothing would persuade my husband – a serving sergeant in the RAF – to add his own autograph.
If you are looking for a luxurious and indulgent experience with a dash of wartime nostalgia, The Swan at Lavenham’s new themed afternoon tea ticks every box.