WHEN it comes to afternoon tea there is much more to it than just the food and drink. For the past few years my daughter and I have indulged in quite a few from ones at some of London’s poshest hotels to those in small Wiltshire cafes.

We have drawn up our short list of favourites which still has The Savoy on The Strand at the top. Although several years have passed since we indulged ourselves in its decadent surroundings and enjoyed its amazing service it remains at the pinnacle and is the standard by which we judge all others.

So it was with a mixture of excitement and expectation that we set out for The Manor House at Castle Combe near Chippenham. It was my daughter’s birthday and so we were feeling ready to enjoy an afternoon of luxury.

The weather was on our side and we arrived in the beautiful village famed for its Cotswold stone cottages that have graced many a TV screen with the sun shining.

The Manor House itself cannot fail to impress. You approach it across a bridge over a small river and the landscaped gardens unfold in front of your eyes.

Croquet was being played by some American guests of the hotel who were lapping up the quintessential Britishness of it all.

We had a friendly greeting at reception and quickly shown through to our table in the elegant dining room. The scene was well and truly set for an afternoon to remember and we even dared to wonder if The Savoy might be given a run for its money.

But despite the beautiful country house setting, the idyllic grounds and wonderful weather there was just something missing. The afternoon tea itself just wasn’t quite as special as I was expecting.

The service was friendly and efficient and we were made to feel relaxed and welcome. But the sandwiches just didn’t cut the mustard. They were bland and the various fillings of egg, cheese, smoked salmon and chicken were uninspiring.

If eaten in a blind tasting without the trappings of grandeur they would have scored a two out of 5.

On to the scones, usually my highlight of an afternoon tea. But again they were a little heavy and just lacked something. Even once the jam and clotted cream (yes in that order in my book, but not in my daughter’s) was added they were adequate rather than anything to make a lasting memory.

I still rave about the home made lemon curd at The Savoy that was one a number of little extra touches that made it stand out.

The cakes which included macaroons, a chocolate sponge and a glazed apricot looked lovely and were skilfully created but none of the four was a real knock out. Testament to this was that when asked if we wanted to take the leftover ones home my daughter declined which is rare.

So I have to report that although we had a lovely afternoon and left feeling relaxed and full we will not be rushing back. But looking at on-line reviews maybe our experience was just something of an off day. One couple who dined there gave it five stars and said: “Really lovely food, good sandwiches and a great cake selection including peach Melba cheesecake and pineapple and green tea choux buns.

“A whole page of teas to choose from and, unlike a lot of venues, happy to refill your teapot with whichever tea you’d like to try.”

Our traditional afternoon tea was £32.50 per person and a Sparkling Afternoon Tea, which includes a glass of bubbly, is also available priced at £42. A children’s afternoon tea is also available for £16 and a gin lover’s afternoon tea, which comes with a pot of hendricks gin and tonic for £42