Quirky afternoon tea: Alice and The Hatter
We jumped through the rabbit hole and discovered a Wonderland of treats at Alice and the Hatter in Herne Bay – afternoon tea fun at its best!
Alice and the Hatter is fresh on our radar even though this eye-catching themed tearoom has been in its position just off the High Street in Herne Bay for the last four years wowing Alice in Wonderland fans (big and small) with its fabulously kitsch interiors and famous afternoon teas. Herne Bay is not yet on the same par as Deal and Ramsgate in Kent as a trendy regenerated seaside town, but it still has plenty to offer for day trippers or those looking to make more of a staycation within the surrounding area.
Herne Bay rose to prominence as a seaside resort during the early 19th century after the building of a pleasure pier and promenade, which are still very much in existence today, and reached its heyday in the late Victorian era. There is an air of faded seaside glamour about the place especially at the Pier with retro fairground rides, including an old-school helter skelter, plus crabbing equipment and bait can be easily hired too. For pure seaside nostalgia, you can tick a lot of boxes in Herne Bay.
Alice and the Hatter is the brainchild of Nathan and Kate Rivers who brought the concept to Herne Bay after a family visit to Florida’s Disney World and recognized that there was a gap in the market to open a themed tearoom in this seaside town. Afternoon tea with a twist is guaranteed here and it has attracted visitors worldwide – from Europe to Australia – so it should really be on your tourist trail in Kent too.
From the life-size Knave of Hearts greeting you at the door to the Queen of Hearts’ table straight in front of you complete with tea cup stools, a large throne for the ‘special guest’ and, of course a large teapot – there is no doubt in your mind which world you have transported yourself into upon entering Alice and the Hatter. There is a fine line between going too twee or OTT with the décor, but they have got it exactly right here and my two (aged 5 and 7) were mesmerized by the themed wall art, chequered floor, grassy nooks and love seats dotted around the place and my mother-in-law (who has a keen eye for interiors) was also suitably impressed so a tough crowd to simultaneously please!
SCOFF AND QUAFF
As you can imagine, the Alice in Wonderland theme is present throughout the menu with the ‘Shrink Me’ option as a special mini variation on afternoon tea for children. Sandwiches within The Hatter’s Table section are named after iconic characters from the book such as The Dodo (Salt Beef / Gherkins / Mustard / Swiss Cheese on Sourdough), The Caterpillar (Beets / Leaves / Swiss Cheese/ Black Pepper on Sourdough) and The Walrus (Chicken / Chorizo / Mozarella on Focaccina) so simple but effective touches throughout plus they are all served in artisan homemade breads so no scrimping on quality when it comes to delivering the overriding theme.
Breakfast is also an option with How Long is Forever? consisting of Thick Cut Pancakes with either chocolate & banana/ marshmallows, Whipped Cream & chocolate Sauce or Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup but we were there for their renowned Afternoon teas!
My two were wowed by the Tick Tock afternoon tea, partly due to the creative and colourful treats on the top plate, but also because it played well to kids’ eating strengths with a selection of Ham, Cheddar Cheese, Tuna Cucumber ‘Eat Me’ sandwiches alongside Cheese Savouries, Cucumber, Carrots and Mini Scones with Strawberry Jam and Butter.
My mother-in-law and I shared an Individual Afternoon Tea with slightly more adventurous options e.g. Chicken Mayo & Pesto, Egg Mayo & Rocket and Ham, Cheese, Chutney ‘Eat Me Sandwiches’ with a Fruit Scioche (that’s scone mated with a brioche – it works), Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam but it is the sensational Seasonal Alice Petit fours that really linger in your memory afterwards with their exquisite attention to detail.
They are all home-made off site and you will find one of the Queen of Heart’s red roses nestled on top of a vanilla and raspberry mousse with pistachio topping as well as ‘Eat Me’ emblazoned on a caramel apple and biscuit tart and 4 O’Clock is the time scribed on the clock decorated on top of the mini lemon cupcake. Take your time to admire them before swallowing them whole.
If you are looking to push the boat out, Alice and the Hatter is a licensed tearoom and offers a small, but perfectly formed, selection of alcoholic drinks including a house red, white or rose wines so we had a glass of Prosecco with our tea plus they have a range of Kentish ciders and beers plus a huge pot of tea within a Queen of Heart’s teapot – of course.
OUT & ABOUT
My children were desperate to visit The Cosy Cat Café next door, which is Kent’s first cat café, but we did not have time on the day nor was it my mother in law’s cup of tea. But if you want to make the day extra quirky, you could make a detour there too! You could take bikes/scooters for the beach front if want to work off your Afternoon Tea, take a dip in the sea if the weather is fine plus Muddy favourite, Wildwood, is just under four miles away so you could tag on Alice and the Hatter for tea after a busy day admiring the bears and wolves on display.
Truly spectacular Alice ‘unbirthday cakes’ can also be ordered from Alice and the Hatter. Available in delicious vanilla, lemon or chocolate sponge, you can choose from the ‘Alice House’, ‘Alice Dress’ or ‘Falling Alice’ or even order an incredible three tier wedding cake!
This is the place to come to celebrate a birthday and Alice in Wonderland and The Hatter are sure to make an appearance if you ask nicely too! Make sure you look at the carefully curated selection of Alice in Wonderland goodies as a keepsake of your visit.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: A fantastic spot to take children as there is so much to take in from a food and setting point of view, plus also a unique spot to take a more elderly friend or relative for some old-school nostalgia – and afternoon tea is always a winner with that generation.
NOT FOR: This would not be my top destination for date night, unless one of you had a penchant for Alice or the Mad Hatter.
Everything was spot-on in terms of pricing especially as there was so much food on offer. The kids’ Tick Tock menus were £8.95 each and an Individual Afternoon Tea is £22.95 per person.