Traditional English tea rooms are somewhat of a speciality in Lincoln. All around the city you will find them in various forms and guises, from the vintage to the modern and everything in between. These establishments are an intrinsic part of the city’s convivial food and drink scene, and a must to try when you visit. So, to help you find your ideal place for a hot drink and bite to eat, we’ve compiled our favourite tea rooms in Lincoln.
Tea rooms in Lincoln
1. Stokes High Bridge Café
We begin with one of the city’s most iconic establishments: High Bridge Café, the home of Stokes Tea & Coffee. One of the city’s oldest and most loved businesses, Stokes has been roasting coffee and blending tea for over a century. It now has several outlets and supplies many hospitality business around the county, but this its oldest and finest, at the fulcrum of Lincoln’s High Street in the lower city centre.
It’s not only the business itself that makes this café special. The building it occupies is one of the most recognisable in Lincoln, and has been part of the city’s story since it was built in the 14th century. The bridge it stand on is even older, constructed in 1160 – in fact, High Bridge is the UK’s oldest bridge with buildings on it.
Aesthetically, the café’s facade and interior has all the hallmarks of a medieval English house. Think black-and-white structure with wooden beams, creaky floorboards, winding staircases, and cosy nooks and crannies. (Even though it’s snug inside, the table layout and little ‘booths’ upstairs makes it comfortable to stay distanced.) An upstairs window seat lets you enjoy your tea and bites while absorbing the bustling ambiance of the High Street outside. This is a spot where you’ll often see street performers on the thoroughfare; my latest lunch was accompanied by the cheerful sounds of an Irish tap-dancer.
But more to the point: the tea and coffee here really is some of the best you will find in Lincoln. The food ain’t bad either! You can get an afternoon tea for two for £24.95, which is a great price compared to the local average and considering the prime location. There’s plenty more to try, too; on my most recent visit I indulged in a toasted sandwich of Lincolnshire sausage, cheddar and apple chutney, rounded off with a scone (jam and clotted cream of course), and washed down with a pot of the famous gold medal blend tea.
As you will read below, there are many wonderful tea rooms in Lincoln to visit. But if you only have time to try one, and you want an authentic slice of what the city offers, you can’t go far wrong with a stop off at Stokes High Bridge Café.
2. Bells Tea Shop
Right near the tippy-top of Steep Hill, Bells Tea Shop is one of the most popular tea rooms in the city, set in a cosy old Grade II listed cottage. With only a handful of tables and busy location at the hub of uphill Lincoln, you may need to queue for a table at peak times if you haven’t booked ahead. Castle Square is a stone’s throw away, and the cathedral just around the corner, so it’s ideal for a stop-in between sightseeing.
Bells is very much a traditional English tea room, with floral table-covers and teacups, and smiling service. Most of the food is sourced locally, from the Lincolnshire sausages in the breakfasts to Jenny’s Jams served with the scones. The menu is stacked with sandwiches, paninis, light bites, cakes, pastries, teas and coffees.
A big old open fireplace really adds to the period-building charm at the back of the main room, but we prefer to sit by the window and absorb the whirr of Steep Hill activity over lunch. One of the neatly presented sandwiches and a house speciality loose leaf tea is always a winning combination.
3. Bunty’s Tea Room
A little further down Steep Hill, Bunty’s Tea Room brings a dash of vintage to Lincoln’s café scene. Walk in and you may think you have been transported back in time several decades, with war-era music spouting from what sounds like a gramophone, red telephone boxes on shelves and old bicycles hanging from the walls.
Like Bells Tea Shop, Bunty’s is set in a quaint Grade II listed building, but with two floors it offers a bit more space. If you can get one of the window tables on the first floor, you’ll have a pleasant perch with an elevated view out onto Steep Hill.
At £4.50, the toasted Lincolnshire plum bread with mature cheddar and caramelised onion chutney is incredible value – it’s on the breakfast menu, but doubles up perfectly as a light lunch. I can never resist trying the house specials, and so always go for ‘Bunty’s blend’ keemun and ceylon loose leaf tea to go with it (but there are many more infusions to choose from).
The tea comes in elegant but oddball vintage china that looks like it has been curated from car boot sales over the years. This just adds to the allure of the jumbled decor at Bunty’s.
4. The T Lounge
Opened in summer 2021, The T Lounge is Lincoln’s newest tea room. Extraordinarily, owner Anne Reeves followed her dream to open this tea room amid the challenging circumstances of a global pandemic, while continuing to work for the NHS as a healthcare support worker at Lincoln County Hospital. You can read more in the full story of The T Lounge.
The T Lounge is located on Burton Road on the former premises of Peony Tea Parlour. Anne has dialled down the vintage look, opting for a more modern feel, with deep blue colours, wooden tables and a chic bare brick wall. The menu features all the classic you would expect of a tea room, such as afternoon tea, light bites and home-made cakes, but there are also a few distinguishing quirks.
A highlight of the menu is a ‘build-a-bagel’, or a ‘pizza bagel’ as Anne describes it, which enables you to choose your own toppings. The ploughman’s platter is also a defining menu feature, with picnic platters also planned to be introduced in the future.
I couldn’t resist the chicken pesto and mozzarella sandwich, always being tempted by something a little different. It has a generous filling, is full of flavour, and a pot of gold medal blend tea is the perfect accompaniment to it. We’ll be in again soon to try one of Anne’s modern-looking afternoon teas!
5. Grayz Tea Room
Grayz Tea Room is somewhat of a hidden gem. Tucked away on a side street just off Bailgate, it’s close to all of Lincoln’s uphill attractions, but as it’s off the main thoroughfare it’s often quiet. I found it with only one of its tables occupied when every other tea room in the vicinity was rammed. It may not have such a conspicuous building or the striking decor that some of the tea rooms in this collection boast, but that has no bearing on the quality of its food and drink.
Inside it’s simplistic and homely, with wooden floors, white walls, and staff coming and going breezily between the kitchen and the cosy café room. The little courtyard out front has another four tables, which I haven’t had the pleasure of trying yet, but I’m sure would be lovely in the sunshine.
The menu is that of a classic English tea room: hot drinks, locally sourced food, sandwiches, jacket potatoes, all-day breakfasts and a selection of home-made cakes. My favourite thing here is the scones – one of the best I’ve had. And at £19.95, the afternoon tea for two at Grayz is the best-priced we’ve found in Lincoln.
If you’re not too bothered about novelty value and you just want a lovely cuppa and bite to eat in town, you really can’t go wrong here.
6. Craftea Cafe
This is a place you are unlikely to find unless you’re looking for it. A little walk outside the city centre, Craftea is situated amid a nondescript row of shops on the side of the busy A15. But once you’re inside you’ll quickly forget about the traffic.
As the name suggests, Craftea has a creative essence to it. Next door is a fabric shop, and there are frequent workshops for crafting, sewing and knitting. Books and magazines adorn the walls, and even the the cakes are more colourful than most. (And delicious too.) It’s the kind of place you could stay for hours with a good book or some embroidery.
The choice of teas in Craftea is a little quirkier than elsewhere. I ordered chocolate and ginger – a popular choice, as the friendly staff informed me – and I could see why. On the table next to me, I heard a woman say “this is the best chai latte I’ve ever had!” We got chatting, and she told me that a hobby of hers is to try chai lattes wherever she goes. So that’s a recommendation on good authority!
The food menu features specials that are changed up regularly. I had a New York deli panini and a hand-made chocolate orange cheesecake. Both were divine; they probably won’t be on the menu next time I pop in, but will be replaced by something equally satisfying.
7. Stokes Lawn Café
This selection in our compilation of tea rooms in Lincoln is another Stokes establishment, this time the Lawn Café. Situated uphill close to the walls of Lincoln Castle, this place has a completely different vibe to High Bridge Café, and it’s also where Stokes’ headquarters are these days. You can even see the coffee-roasting process on-site from a special viewing area.
While the Lawn Café has a distinctly modern vibe, the building does have an interesting back-story; it was once the cookhouse of the Lincoln Lunatic Asylum, dating back to the early 19th Century. But today it is unrecognisable from its beginnings, having been transformed into a contemporary café with a spirit of sustainability. Much of the furniture and decor is fashioned from reused and upcycled pieces, while if you look above you will see a life-size model of a killer whale suspended from the ceiling, made from old coffee machine and car parts.
It’s not just the atmosphere at the Lawn Café that differs from High Bridge; the food menu is also quite different, with more of a sit-down-restaurant feel inside. You can choose from various wholesome lunches, and there are sandwiches and wraps too, served on a wooden board complete with skin-on fries and coleslaw.
The outdoor seating area is lovely in summer – just right for an afternoon cuppa and cake in the sunshine when you need a break from sightseeing. There’s a cabinet of cakes to choose from, freshly made, and featuring something different every day. Try a rockslide brownie if there are any left… they’re incredible.
8. Margaret’s Tea Rooms
When you walk into Margaret’s Tea Rooms in Lincoln, you are greeted by the sight of a huge ‘unique tea menu’ on the wall as well as a friendly smile from the owner, Des Davis. The business was opened back in 2017 and named in memory of his late mother. It has a location that is both central and pleasantly quiet, just off the top of the High Street near the foot of Steep Hill.
Des has created an original collection of teas that is delightfully imaginative. There is ‘Scotch Mist’, for example, infused with floral aromas that invoke the freshness of the Scottish Highlands, and ‘Black Forest’, which combines flavours of cherry and chocolate, recreating memories of his first family holiday in Germany.
Back in the days of lockdown we tried an Afternoon Tea 2Go from Margaret’s (hence the photos below were taken at our home, not inside!). It was intricately packed together in tiered boxes with a floral wrapped finish, and handwritten instructions for how long we should steep each tea. That was a lovely touch. We went for the Lavender Macaron and Mucky Wellies teas after Des gave some helpful recommendations – it was refreshing to try something a little different to the norm.
The treats included in the afternoon tea were lavishly generous, packed with more than enough finger sandwiches, savouries, scones and cakes to satisfy our appetite. We’ll definitely be visiting the tea rooms soon to try another one on location! The Afternoon Tea 2Go idea has also been kept on since reopening due to its popularity, so you can still choose to enjoy it in the comfort of your own home if you like.
9. Smiths Tea Room
Smiths Tea Room is a little way out of town, in the Boultham Park area of Lincoln. It also happens to be the closest tea room to our home, so I had to pop in and give it a try! It won’t be the last time, that’s for sure.
There’s a bit more to Smiths than your average tea room. It also doubles up as a traditional sweet shop, and hosts regular quirky events such as themed live music nights, flower arrangement classes and clairvoyant evenings. The owners clearly give a lot of dedication to keeping everything fresh, from the menu to the entertainment schedule.
The decor inside combines the moodiness of dark wooden tables, flooring and a bare-brick wall with uplifting colourful bunting, vintage features and bright lights. It’s a balance that somehow works really well and creates an intriguing yet welcoming atmosphere.
I tried the chicken and smoked bacon mayo sandwich, which arrived deep-filled and garnished with generous helpings of crisps, salad and tasty home-made coleslaw. A lovely lunch washed down perfectly with a pot of English tea, and followed by a scone with clotted cream and jam.
The variety of home-made cakes on offer are also impressive, you might even say irresistible. Lisa couldn’t make it to lunch that day, so I brought one of these home for her – a Snickers brownie. She is happy to confirm it was amazing!
Tea rooms in Lincoln: map
Take a look at the map below to see the locations of the various tea rooms in Lincoln we’ve highlighted in this article:
For more inspiration, check out more of our articles on food and drink in Lincoln.
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