Going up the long driveway into the grounds of Stansted House, it’s difficult to imagine how this huge area of land was once the private preserve of one family.
Thankfully Stansted Park, just across the border into West Sussex, has long been open to the public.
That meant our party was able to take an amble, enjoying the fresh air even in the biting cold, before heading to the Pavilion Tearoom.
A queue out of the door meant we thought we’d be waiting for some time, but the friendly staff found a table for four fairly quickly.
Set in the extensive grounds, the tearoom boasts a good selection of paninis, salads, toasted sandwiches and baked potatoes, along with a children’s menu (but that was only served between 12pm and 3pm).
Specials differ day-to-day and afternoon tea is also available, along with group bookings.
The option to add a cup of soup to your lunch is a nice idea and not overly expensive (at £1), with the curried apple and parsnip soup tasting particularly warming.
The chicken breast, crispy bacon and avocado salad bowl was a little expensive at £10.95, but did arrive on a solid bed of new potato and chive mayonnaise, carrot and sultana salad, cucumber, pineapple and fresh dill.
Overall the food, which arrived quickly after a short queue to order during the lunchtime rush, was filling, well-presented and made with good quality produce.
Just a small quibble would be the delay in the sandwich coming out in the children’s ‘Little Gardeners’ Picnic Box’ (£5.25), as the little one in our group was demanding food, despite staff handing the box over straightaway unlike the rest of the food, which arrives by table service.
The atmosphere was relaxed and with excellent acoustics.
Somehow the entire place, split into two seating areas, remained quiet and felt calm despite every table being full.
Eating at the tearoom was a pleasant stop before enjoying what the large park had to offer.
From waving hello to passing horse riders on the edge of the grounds, to enjoying a ride on the light railway (£1.50 for children aged 2 to 13 and over 60s, £2 for adults) , and inspecting the various flora, Stansted Park is glorious in winter, and indeed at any time. Well worth a visit.
Tel: (023) 9241 3432
(ratings out of 5)