Liz has it down to a tea

THERE are four generations of New Norfolk women at the table, and this is the fourth time they’ve had high tea here at Glen Derwent. The tearoom guests today, mostly young women, are in rare company. Liz Virtue’s place at Glen Derwent offers just seven tables, so bookings are essential. The tea arrives in the table’s centrepiece, a tall silver pot generous enough for four or more servings. A silver sugar bowl, milk jug and tea strainer, along with Blue Willow cups, saucers and plates, complete the set. But it’s the edibles on a two-tiered cake stand that get the most attention. The lower level provides savory mouthfuls, the upper level houses delicious sweet treats.

While Glen Derwent’s afternoon high teas are much admired, those in the know might instead come here for a morning treat, a Devonshire tea – the classic scones, jam and cream. A regular guest will tell you the secret is that Liz only bakes the scones when her guests arrive.

This month is the fifth anniversary of these delightful rituals. If you’re in need of company, you might avail yourself of a quiet conversation with Glen Derwent’s artist-in-residence, Ruth. And if you’re in need of avian company, there’s the peacocks who will appear through the poured glass windows of the room’s wide, wood-floored veranda. Beyond the tearoom, two cottages are being renovated to accommodate guests from October this year.

Longer term, Liz would like to cater weddings. A garden lined by narcissus, a one-time tennis court and a garden of English box hedge and 100 roses suggest photogenic backdrops. She’s commissioned local potter, Lee Farrell, to create a kind of walking-talking-nice-to-meet-you plate that incorporates a wineglass rest. They too will be ready this summer. Right now, though, “we get a lot of compliments,” says Liz. “Even from people who’ve sampled high teas around the country.”

She deserves every one of them.