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Basil goes walkabout… to afternoon tea at the Lord Bute in Highcliffe

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Basil the labradoodle checks out afternoon tea at the Lord Bute
Basil the labradoodle checks out afternoon tea at the Lord Bute

With thousands of dogs and their owners in the New Forest and Christchurch, Basil the Australian labradoodle (with a little help from his mum Karen Lindsey) is casting his eye over the some of the most dog-welcoming local venues. This time he leads the way to the Lord Bute in Highcliffe.

G’day, pals!

I may be an Australian labradoodle but I was born in England and am very proud to be British.

I just love the sporting traditions that take place this time of year and as I adore sticks and balls with equal measure, not surprisingly, watching Wimbledon is one of my favourite pastimes.

Dad always says that I like the finer things in life, and to me there is nothing more typically British than an afternoon tea and a spot of tennis. You can imagine then how chuffed I felt when Mum told me that, although Wimbledon may have eluded us, we were going on walkabout to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea.

We arrived at the Lord Bute, a pretty looking, quintessentially British restaurant with rooms and, as I was to learn, a very interesting noble past.

The Lord Bute in Highcliffe
The Lord Bute in Highcliffe

During our short car journey Mum shared with me that John Stuart commissioned Robert Adam to design a seaside mansion called High Cliff. In later years, Lord Bute (John’s grandson) reacquired the land and remnants of the original mansion including the lodges, which now serve as two of the property’s suites and signifies its entrance – no longer leading to Highcliffe Castle but to the award-winning restaurant.

I jumped out of the car and peered up at the lodges. They were certainly grand, alright.

“Hello Basil, I hear you are joining us for afternoon tea,” said the lady who greeted us. “Absolutely, my friend,” I wagged as I trotted into the restaurant.

Our table was set inside the orangery but as it was such a lovely day, Mum asked if we could eat outside on the terrace.

After playing catch on the little grass area of the terrace, I took in some shade and gulped down some welcome water. Crisp white linen was laid with the finishing touches to our table. I jumped up on my seat – all that ball catching made me hungrier than a Tasmanian devil.

Basil enjoyed a tennis ball while the humans tucked in
Basil enjoyed a tennis ball while the humans tucked in

Under the cover of a rather lovely, expansive brolly, a veritable feast was laid out before us.

“Would Basil like a sausage?” Dang, I think so! Jumping down off the chair (well, I prefer to eat on the floor), I devoured my sausage while Mum and Grandma clinked glasses.

With hungry tums, they started with the sandwiches: traditional salmon and cream cheese; cucumber; and ham and mustard. Grandma’s favourite was the vegetarian tomato relish. Mum, always a trooper, gave me a nibble of her ham sandwich.

Scones next: plain and fruit. Mum said they tasted so fresh and crumbly. She topped her scone with Naked Strawberry Jam (apparently, an award-winning Hampshire artisan producer) followed by a cheeky dollop of clotted cream.

As a special treat, strawberries and cream were also offered! I could see the dilemma on their faces: should they choose strawberries and cream or reach straight for the tantalising cakes? Strawberries won hands down – sweet and local.

The afternoon tea menu at the Lord Bute
The afternoon tea menu at the Lord Bute

Mum read out today’s cakes from the menu: orange chocolate brownie (sadly not for me), passionfruit Bakewell tart (sounds promising), cherry jam cake (another promising titbit) and chocolate mousse with raspberries (definitely one for just Mum and Grandma).

What is it with ladies and chocolate? Anyway, strewth, there’s no way Mum and Grandma could eat all that and I was right – they asked for an, ahem, doggie bag.

I heard Grandma say that it was one of the best afternoon teas she had ever had. Fair dinkum, I have to admit my sausage was very tasty and, well, the tennis ball was just the icing on Lord Bute’s deliciously scrummy cakes.

Wimbledon may be done and dusted for another year but if you are a pooch like me, by crikey, ball time is never over. So my lovely pals at the Lord Bute have said that if any pooch wishes to visit with their human parents and take an afternoon tea during July and August then you too will be served your very own tennis ball to keep. Simply quote “Basil goes walkabout” when booking.

To find out more go to www.lordbute.com.

A final word from Karen: The Lord Bute has built an enviable reputation for producing award winning lunches and dinners. Afternoon tea is a relatively new string to their bow and, in my opinion, a very welcome one.

Sadly, places are few and far between that allow for human parent and pooch to sit together indoors and/or outdoors to enjoy an afternoon tea – but the Lord Bute provides a quintessentially British yet unstuffy setting to relax with your four-legged friend.

Afternoon tea is served Tuesday-Sunday inclusive from 2.30pm-5pm. Booking is essential. Pooches are welcomed into the conservatory and on the terrace. They can also stay in many of the 13 bedrooms.

Find more reviews and a directory of dog-welcoming UK hotels, pubs and restaurants with rooms at www.TravelWithBasil.com.

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