Monday, 13 April 2015

Lauren loves ... Bluebells Café Tearoom, Battle, East Sussex

When you think of Afternoon Tea you would be forgiven for your mind wandering straight to good old London for your traditional scones and tea fix. But sometimes it's those hidden gems dotted around the country's historic hotspots that provide the best setting for a perfect cake-filled treat. Afternoon Tea Club guest blogger and newest addition to the ATC family, Lauren Barber, recently visited Bluebells Café Tearoom in Battle, East Sussex. Here's what she thought ... 


More cake anyone?
"I visited Bluebells last month with my two sisters and my Mum. The tearoom is located in the town of Battle, where the Battle of Hastings, 1066, took place. Bluebells tearoom overlooks the Historical Norman Gatehouse, the heart of the town and is a beautiful setting to spend the afternoon indulging the sweet tooth.

Bluebells is owned by Tina, and run by herself, her partner and daughter. At once when you enter the tearoom, you get a lovely ‘home comfort’ vibe. The family remain professional with each other but give off a very relaxed and friendly ambience. The tearoom is small and dainty, with two rooms, one significantly more inviting than the other. The front room, with the gorgeous Georgian style window, overlooking Battle Abbey, has a real ‘Shabby Chic’ charm. I was drawn to the gorgeous wooden cabinet with the array of vintage glass cake domes sporting a variety of mouth-watering bakes. In the same room there is a cosy fireplace which added to the ‘homey’ feel, with cute baking plaques hanging - a lovely touch. The back room, where our table was, unfortunately lacked the same atmosphere. Although it was connecting with a reasonably wide corridor so didn’t seem completely separate from the heart of the tearoom, it did feel a bit bland. Apart from one canvas with a photo of bluebells on, the walls were plain so it was a bit disappointing to be led through the charming front room into the back to our table. 

We settled onto our table and were given the choice of breakfast tea or coffee. Three of us requested the tea, my sister asked for a soft drink instead and the staff listed the available drinks and said that the replacement wasn’t a problem. Two delicate vintage teapots with matching teacups, sugar cube and milk pots arrived shortly after our order. I noticed the detail of the flowers painted on the china was of course bluebells - a lovely personal touch.
I realised quickly when the tea arrived, the lack of space on the table there would be for the cake stands. Due to it being a busy Mother’s Day service, the tables were quite full and so four of us on a table that ideally would be fit for two, especially for Afternoon Tea, was going to be a struggle.

Cute wall decorations.

When we had been given our drinks, our server explained that every afternoon tea is freshly prepared for a customer’s order. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this, knowing that our food will be made fresh, and ‘just for us’ was teasing my wait for the delicious food I was about to indulge in!

We didn’t have to wait long at all, we were presented with two three-tier cake stands both full to the brim with an array of sandwiches, scones and baked goods. My first impression of the whole stand was how generous the portions were. The sandwiches were not your typical small finger slithers, oh no, they consisted of what seemed like a slice of bread for one sandwich, of which we had three each. The fillings were very appetising too: ham & pickle, cheese & coleslaw, and salmon & cucumber. The ham & pickle and the salmon & cucumber both came on soft wholemeal, floury fresh bread. The cheese & coleslaw sandwich was made with a soft white bread. All three varieties of sandwiches were very delicious and moreish. The cheese & coleslaw, a combination that I hadn’t had since my childhood, was my favourite of the three. Never before have I enjoyed that first layer of an afternoon tea as much as I did at Bluebells!


After already filling ourselves with sandwiches it was onto the scones. We had two each and there were a variety of types of scone that the four of us could choose from (or fight over!) including raspberry, blueberry or plain. Once again, the sizes were very generous and pleasing to the eye. They were clearly freshly baked, still soft on the inside but with a crisp glaze. The raspberry scone along with the tangy raspberry jam and thick clotted cream was just heavenly.


Afternoon Tea close up.

After demolishing the scones we were really starting to feel full but the cakes and biscuits awaiting us looked just too good to refuse. On the top layer was a plateful of different baked goods. For each of us there was a chocolate brownie, a raspberry cupcake with a beautiful piped vanilla swirl and wafer flower on top, a few chocolate dipped strawberries, a shortbread round and a slice of lemon drizzle cake alongside a large slice of apple cake to share. We ate the brownie first - they were gorgeous. Crisp and cracked on the outside yet chewy and melt-in-your-mouth on the inside. The shortbread had a good crunch but still buttery and lovely.  We were really struggling to eat everything by now but luckily we were offered the Bluebell’s takeaway box to put the rest of the bakes in.

After finding enough room to finish the tea, I can confirm the cupcake was a light vanilla sponge cupcake with a raspberry inside. I didn’t try the apple cake but my mum said it was delicious and the lemon drizzle cake had just enough tang to it and was lovely and moist. Overall the top layer of the tea offered plenty of variety to cater for different types of sweet tooth. All the bakes were clearly freshly baked, very good quality - just mouth watering.

The service we received was fantastic. The three members of staff clearly care very much for each and every customer and go above beyond to give good service. From replacing the drinks from the menu to suit our needs, asking for more milk for our tea and providing us with the takeaway boxes, the service we received was top notch. The staff are welcoming, friendly and easy to talk to adding to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere Bluebells offers.

I am already making plans to return to Bluebells. From the first impressions of their home baking, cosy family vibe to their freshly baked delicious food, I can hardly find a fault in this charming Battle tearoom."

Bluebells Café Tearoom is located in Battle, East Sussex. Afternoon Tea is served daily at £12.95pp. For more info visit www.bluebellstearoom.co.uk.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Mother's Day Favourites with Whittard

With Mother's Day fast approaching, I got my mum to try out some of Whittard's gift selections. This is what she thought!


From our mutual love of the theatre to our longstanding obsession with Guinea Pigs, my mum and I have always had a lot in common, but one of our defining similarities is our love of tea. 

Not a morning goes by where we don't sit together with a cup, chatting about our days ahead and sharing gossip from the day/night before. It's a ritual in our house, and one which I'll miss a lot when I find a place of my own.


When it comes to tea, I have to admit that she's a lot more adventurous I am, always happy to try out the various fruit and exotic varieties, that I'm less keen on. So when this lovely Mother's Day selection from Whittard dropped through the door, I knew she'd love it. Now I won't go into too much detail about the different varieties available, because you can see that for yourself here, instead I'll just pick out a few of her faves and let you know what she thought.

Pretty Tins with Whittard

Darjeeling

"I've never tried Darjeeling before, usually opting for breakfast teas when I'm out, but this was lovely. I'd definitely choose it again - a nice refreshing cup of tea."

Goji & Acai Berry 

"The first thing that hit me about this tea was its lovely rose pink colour. There wasn't much in the way of perfume, but I appreciated its subtlety and loved the refreshing fruity rang on the taste buds."

Mango & Bergamot


Mango & Bergamot 

"I love mango, so this was a real treat to try. The delicate fruity flavour of the blend comes through nicely and is balanced well with the subtle bitterness of the Bergamot tea. A lovely tea!"


So, that's what my mum thought. What will you be getting your mum for Mother's Day?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Afternoon Tea Club: Mother's Day Competition!

Mother's Day is just around the corner so if you're still on the lookout for the perfect gift, we have just the thing ...


Last week we were lucky enough to receive the best kind of junk mail we have ever received through our letterbox - chocolates! Designed by The Happy Mail, a London based 'bake and deliver' company, these beautiful packages are just as much a treat for the eyes as they are for your sweet tooth - think marshmallows, popcorn, mini Smarties with a sprinkling of rainbow confetti and pinstripe tissue paper - so cute!


The treats were so good in fact that we teamed up with the lovely people at The Happy Mail to give you the chance to win a very special prize to celebrate your wonderful mum this Mother's Day (March 15th FYI)! 

Up for grabs we have a fabulous Afternoon Tea themed Mother's Day Box delivered to your door complete with all the treats and tea you need for a perfect Mother's Day afternoon in - don't worry, there's enough for you to tuck in too!

We'll let The Happy Mail do the talking: 

A perfect gift for Mothers Day or just to let them know that you are are sorry you can't be there today but no doubt you'll be thinking of them (especially when they are tucking into those tasty treats!)
This package contains all the fun for a perfect afternoon tea. Packaged with a little vintage style spoon and Rose Garden tea bags, you would definitely have made the right choice.


Sound good? To be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is follow @the_happymail on Twitter via our competition link below.
The competition closes on Saturday 7th March at Midnight and the winner will be announced on Sunday. 

Good luck!
Laura & Caroline x

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Open to UK residents only. Only one entry per person. Competition will close at midnight on 07/03/2015. The winner will be chosen and announced on 08/03/2015. The Afternoon Tea Club's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The Afternoon Tea Club is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied by third party connected to this competition. There will be no cash alternative. Winner will be notified via email. By entering the competition the winner agrees to participate in such promotional activity on our website and Twitter. No responsibility can be taken for any entries which are not received for any reason.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Afternoon Tea Club Cuts the Cake

Ah January, detox month – time to ask for gluttonous forgiveness and get over those overindulgent chocolate binges and festive drinks.
Whittard's Green Tea.

But if you’re anything like us, the chocolate pile from Christmas, doesn’t just disappear come the last verse of Auld Lang Syne. With all the good intentions of gym memberships, substituting orange Matchmakers for carrot sticks and fitting that 20 minute run into your lunch hour, it just seems a little bit sad, wasteful, criminal even, to throw away those untouched boxes of Malteasars.
So rather than punish ourselves, we declared February would be our realistic detox month – time to ditch the cake and start the detox!

Goodbye cake, hello fruit ... tea.

The lovely people at Whittard got us into the spirit with a detox package perfect for tea lovers like us. Bundled together with the Whittard seal of approval was a beautifully presented tin of green teas, caffeine free fruit tea and our very own Pao mugs equipped with infusers – suddenly, detox didn’t seem so scary!

Superior Green Tea selection.


Putting our new mugs to the test, we went for the loose fruit tea. There’s something about the smell of the Strawberry and Kiwi tea that just wakes you up. It’s refreshing and airy and though we did leave it to brew for quite a long time, it doesn’t hit you in the face which is good if you’re feeling a little bit un-enthused about the whole cutting-down thing.

Gotta love accessories.

From the green tea selection our favourites had to be the Strawberry and Rhubarb and Gunpowder flavours. On completely opposite ends of the tea spectrum, the Rhubarb flavour was subtle but pleasant, something to wind down with, whereas the Gunpowder was, as you would imagine a little heavier and smoky.
The verdict? If you’re hoping to battle the February fitness climb, these teas are the perfect companion to give you a little sweet fix and feel good about it. 

For more info visit www.whittard.co.uk and let us know how your tea detox is going at @TeacupReview!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: Manchester House, Manchester

A few weeks ago, we donned our finest attire and headed to one of Manchester's most exclusive restaurants and bars to sample their afternoon tea menu. Here's what we thought:



Manchester House is one of those places that always has rave reviews. From its towering city views, to its impressive menus, this restaurant has quickly become the talk of Manchester's dining scene, with everyone and their mother wanting a piece of the action. 

As the restaurant is almost always booked up, we were delighted to hear that their Afternoon Tea was something that we'd be able to get in for on relatively short notice - and boy were we excited!



Upon our arrival, we were greeted by one of the bar's lovely hostesses who was ready and waiting to show us to our table - even in spite of us being around 10 mins late - so sorry to keep you waiting!



We were very excited at the prospect of trying food from Manchester House and really wanted to love it, and whilst we didn't hate anything that was put in front of us, we couldn't help but feel let down by its quality. The sandwiches in particular were disappointing, presenting a simple trio of cucumber, cheese and egg, alongside a ham bagel/roll, which I found to be quite limited and not what I'd anticipated. The cakes were better, offering a good selection of Northern inspired treats such as the Eccles Cake and Manchester Tart, however, again I still felt slightly uninspired by the colour schemes and options available - I'd rather have had something a little more delicate and patisserie style. 




Whilst the Manchester House afternoon tea didn't exactly rock my world, their full menu is still something that I'd definitely like to try. Their reputation in the city is second to none and I don't doubt, that I would be impressed if given the chance to sample their savoury delicacies.

When spending money on a premium afternoon tea, I like to be wowed - perhaps with an original presentation like the IC Westminster's recent Chelsea Flower Show Green House, or an unlimited supply of food like the Milestone hotel - but unfortunately on this occasion, I wasn't.

I had very high expectations of Manchester House, and whilst their offering was by no means bad, it definitely didn't live up to my imagination. 



On a brighter note, the views and surroundings are definitely some of the finest that the city has to offer, so if you're looking for a comfortable and elegant surround then you will be impressed by what Manchester House has to offer.

For more information and prices, please visit their website here

Have you tried afternoon tea at Manchester House? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!