FORGET the Ritz and the Dorchester, for the perfect cup of tea, the place to go is the Bridge Tea Rooms in Bradford on Avon.

The tea room has just won an award of excellence from the National Tea Council for the fourth year running, a feat that even some of the top London hotels have not achieved.

Bridge Tea Rooms was opened nearly 20 years ago by Richard Whale, 55, and his wife Carole, 44, who wanted to create a place were people could go and relax and experience mouth-watering teas and cakes.

Mr Whale said: "I worked in London and there are places you can go during the day, that are real quality places which aren't cafes and bars. Bradford on Avon is a beautiful town and I saw the potential and believed we had something special to offer."

Stepping through the door is like going back 100 years in history. The dcor is Victorian with all the staff dressing in traditional cost- ume, authentic ornaments and pictures on the wall and chamber music playing all day.

Mr Whale said: "The Victorian period represents an age of standards, excellence and quality.

"It is also very nostalgic because people still recognise it from places like their grandmothers' houses.

We get some customers who come in every day. It's a place where people feel comfortable. A lady can come in on her own and feel at ease.

"We use the best Chelsea tea importers to make sure we get the best leaves and the finest ground coffee. Most of the food we use is organic."

As well as 30 different teas from around the world, the shop offers a wide variety of fresh cream cakes and gateaux, which are made on the premises by Mrs Whale. Teas include scented exotic and China green and white teas, which are all served loose leaf.

There are a variety of herbal teas and coffees, the most expensive of which is Pure Blue Mountain, described as the champ- agne of coffee'. Everything is served in Royal Doulton china and also on offer are cream teas with Devonshire clotted cream and a morning menu of crumpets, teacakes and croissants. Mr Whale grew up in Colerne and worked as a sales manager until 1989 when he decided to invest his life savings into opening the tea rooms.

He said: "The building was built in 1675 and when we bought it the place was in a bad state, almost derelict. It used to be a junk shop.

"It was one of the first completely non-smoking establishments in the country. We've never had smoking in here, I think food and smoke is a bad mix."

Bridge Tea Rooms has won a host of awards as well as those from the National Tea Council, including one from Japan.

The tearooms once featured in a TV advert for Ariel washing powder.


  • The Bridge Tea Rooms: 24a Bridge Street, Bradford on Avon
  • Opening hours: Monday-Fridays 9.30am-5pm, Saturdays 9.30am-5.30pm and Sundays midday 5.30pm.
  • Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day
  • Bookings, call (01225) 865537
  • No smoking or dogs allowed
  • Books and souvenirs are on sale