Friday, 3 November 2017

Afternoon Tea at The Chester Grosvenor



London tends to steal the limelight in a conversation about the best places for a classic afternoon tea experience. But we would argue, we’re quite lucky here in the North West to have some distinguished venues that offer a traditional tea experience, such as Crewe Hall or The Midland in Manchester, that don’t require a two-hour Pendolino trip down south. One that seemed to fit the bill and had been on our list for a while upon recommendation from friends (aren’t we supposed to be the tea experts around here?), was The Chester Grosvenor, so we decided to check it out last month. 



You can’t get much more central Chester than this hotel, situated right in the middle of town amongst the flurry of shoppers on Eastgate Street and practically on my doorstep, it wins at the location game. Afternoon tea is served in the The Arkle Bar, a sophisticated lounge seeped in deep greens and mahogany, offering a similar atmosphere to that of our favourite London tea venue, The Milestone. Good start. 

There are three types of tea to choose from: Traditional, Gentleman’s and Indulgent. We went for the Indulgent (because why not?), which comes with a glass of champagne and strawberries with clotted cream. As regular afternoon tea-goers, those kinds of touches always stand out for us and the fresh strawberries were delicious. 



Soon after, tea arrived on a three-tier silver stand, a pretty selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes but nothing too thrilling. We tucked into the sandwiches, flavours included, beef and horseradish, ham and tomato, salmon, and cheese and onion. A good choice of flavours and once finished, we were offered a refill so eagerly topped up on the salmon.

Then on to the scones of which there were two each; one fruit, one plain. The scones were quite small but in my opinion - and as someone who's eyes are usually bigger than their stomach - this is a good thing because you never want to overload on scones and leave no room for cake. 



Finally the cake selection, which while absolutely beautiful, did feel a little lacking. We noticed a few tables around us seemed to have a slightly different variation of cakes to ours but that said, the ones we did have were very good and faultlessly decorated. This included a strawberry cheesecake topped with white chocolate and fruit, a raspberry pie, chocolate and lemon on a biscuit base, and polenta cake with pistachio. It’s quite common with afternoon tea to not get two of everything, and that’s fine unless you both end up fighting over the chocolate cake, but I think for an ‘indulgent’ afternoon tea, two cakes each just didn’t feel enough and perhaps a couple more would have done the job. As a side note, we did spot a table next to us were offered a refill, whether this is usual for this afternoon tea or because we were the last sitting of the day, we can’t say for definite but unfortunately we were not offered a cake top up. 



To drink we went for Earl Grey and coffee which came served in one of the most beautiful tea sets we have seen. The coffee pot in particular had an almost steampunk vibe to it which gave the setting a little quirky kick.



This is undoubtedly a ‘traditional’ afternoon tea from the venue right down to the sandwich fillings and while that can be a good thing, it can also mean it misses the wow factor. This is often why ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ is a tricky game to play. Not everyone needs punk fries or brioche with dipping chocolate to stand out from the crowd but there still needs to be something that makes it special. At £45pp the Indulgent Champagne Afternoon Tea is not the cheapest and therefore I would have expected a little more, particularly when you compare to some London venues which are on parr with the price and offer a lot more for your money. But if classic is your style and you’re looking for a luxury tea setting up North, then this could be right up your street.

Words - Laura
Photography - Caroline

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Royal Afternoon Tea at The Midland Hotel, Manchester



Birthdays always call for afternoon tea, and what better way to celebrate than with a trip to the Midland's recently opened Tea Room in Manchester.

This is one that's been on mine and Laura's radar for some time, particularly because of their fresh approach to dietary requirements (not only do they have champagne and traditional afternoon tea, but they also offer vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and children's options as standard - a massive plus when one of your group is a veggie) so when my friend Caroline suggested that we visit for her birthday, the answer was a resounding yes.




Although relatively new to the afternoon tea scene, their reputation is already strong across Manchester, with bookings for our weekend filling up six weeks ahead of time - a clear sign business must be booming. It was so busy in fact, that we couldn't even manage to sneak in ten minutes earlier on the day and had to wait for our reservation time in the lounge.

Once we managed to sit down, the tea experience began. As I mentioned, the main USP of the Midland is its focus on catering for dietary requirements (I've heard that the Tea Room's manager has tried out every tea in the city, with the aim of creating the best that Manchester has to offer) and as a group who have often struggled to find restaurants and tea venues that are 100% clued up when it comes to vegan, vegetarian and pescetarian menus, I have to say that this makes for a most welcome change.




As standard, you are presented with a "Traditional" and "Royal" afternoon tea menu, with dietary requirements listed in a separate listing. As much as possible, the Midland have tried to make all of the teas as reflective as possible across the board, substituting ingredients well to create similar experiences for diners to enjoy together, regardless of their dietary needs.

For the traditional afternoon tea, the menu currently consists of the following: 

Sandwiches
Goosnargh chicken & BBQ sweet corn on a brioche bun, goats cheese with beetroot chutney on walnut bread, honey baked gammon with garden pea mousse on granary, smoked salmon on dark malt bread, duck egg & mustard cress on white bread

Scones
Plain and sultana scones served with devon clotted cream and Mrs Darlington's Jams - as an FYI whilst you get a dish of clotted cream for the table, the jams are silver served directly onto your plate by the waiting staff, which I found to be a little unusual, but I suppose cuts down on wastage.

Cakes
Dark chocolate delice, passion fruit & white chocolate tart with Italian meringue, pistachio & olive oil cake with orange curd and Scottish strawberry, champagne mousse and Victoria sponge.




My favourites on the day were the chicken on brioche and the chocolate delice. For the sandwiches, it was very pleasing to see such a good variety of bread types (including walnut bread!) as all too often you find that finger sandwiches are neglected when it comes tea planning. The cakes were similarly well balanced in flavour, if erring slightly more towards the mousse direction - which wasn't to the taste of my friends - but that's more of a preference thing. If I'm being critical, I think that there could've been another interest point in the desserts, perhaps a macaron or something of a crunchier nature, to balance out the mousse based treats a little more.



Overall, I was pretty impressed with the Tea Room at the Midland, but would say that they still have a little way to go before they can be crowned as the best afternoon tea in Manchester. This isn't for any particular reason, but I believe that there are a few elements that can be refined and polished even further to create the perfect experience.

It's early days, so I have no doubt that they'll get there, and whilst they do, they are still more than worth a visit - a booked out calendar of reservations can't be wrong!

For more information and booking, please visit:

- Caroline

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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Afternoon Tea at Home Sweet Home, Manchester



Over the years, we've found ourselves wondering on more than one occasion, why Home Sweet Home have never done an afternoon tea. Famed for selling the most extravagant cakes in town, their desserts have been the stuff of legend for as long as I can remember, so you can imagine my delight when I heard that they were now serving afternoon tea.

In order to investigate further, I pencilled in some time with my blogging buddy Sarah of Sequin This, to pay them a visit and sample ALL the cake. As an FYI, the lighting in Home Sweet Home is super low (or atmospheric depending on how you look at it) so the photos for this one aren't as bountiful as usual, but don't worry, you get to see the cake and we all know that's what you came for!




As you'd expect, the afternoon tea at Home Sweet Home is very rough, ready and ridiculously over the top, with about as much decadence as you can pile on to the plate. If you're in the market for a delicate afternoon tea then you won't find it here, but what you will get is a full on sugar rush to keep you buzzing for days.

Starting off the sweetness overload, you're presented with a trio of mini bagels (Maple syrup BLT (YUM!) smoked salmon, and smoked cheddar & vine tomatoes) and BBQ crisps, followed by churros with 'dream-cheese' and Nutella dips, which are a replacement for scones. At the time, Sarah asked me how I felt about the absence of scones and to be honest I wasn't sure. I think I'll always miss scones when they're not there, but I do LOVE churros, so can get on board with the swap in this instance - and the dips were delicious too, which made it even better.



Moving on upwards, I have to say that the cake tier wasn't the easiest thing to share and when you consider that prices are listed per person, I would have ideally liked two of everything, to avoid any uncomfortable cake disputes. However, that said, there is more than enough of the sweet stuff to go at, with three cake truffles, a lemon meringue pie, trio of chocolate cheesecake brownies, a chocolate espresso mousse and cupcake of the month to keep you going. Out of this selection my favourite had to be the red velvet cheesecake brownies which had a delicious creamy taste, with the chocolate cake truffles coming in a close second.

Overall I was pretty pleased with the Home Sweet Home afternoon tea. Knowing what their usual cake fridge is like, part of me was hoping for something even more OTT, but in hindsight I think something sweeter would've perhaps been a step too far. As it stands, this afternoon tea is on the perfect side of decadent with a good mix of tastes and textures to offer variety. Definitely one to try if you're a Home Sweet Home fan!

For more information and booking, visit their website:

At time of writing, Afternoon Tea is only available at their Great Northern restaurant, but be sure to check out the website for any further updates!

- Caroline

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: The Principal Hotel, York



As someone who lives in Chester and regularly has to deal with the masses attending Chester Races, what could possibly be the worst imaginable day to join the crowds on the train and pay a visit to one of your favourite UK cities, York? A York Races day of course! Thankfully for Caroline and I, there was light at the end of the suits-and-dresses-filled tunnel, and that was cake at The Principal York, Hotel.

Ideally located right next to York Station, you can literally hop off the train and into the Garden Room where an elegant tea oasis awaits adorned with neutral tones, highlighted by huge windows with views across the lawn - all the more spectacular on a summers day.




We started with a glass of champagne each before digging into the first course. The tea is served in two parts, first a small plate filled with three savoury miniatures followed by the main event. Bites included; Sweet potato, chorizo and sherry vinegar velouté, smoked mackerel mousse, and Yorkshire rarebit, fruit chutney. It’s very unusual to find anything soupy on an afternoon tea menu but the sweet potato velouté worked really well and was definitely a favourite. A strong start!

Moving to the first tier of the main stand, there aren’t as many sandwiches as you would normally expect but you won’t need them after the first trio. Here you will find an egg mayonnaise and watercress sandwich alongside a Yorkshire ham and pickle sandwich. Both really tasty, generous fillings and served on two types of bread, always a plus.




Moving on to the scones, which also come as a trio and offered up something a little different to your usual afternoon tea fare. You have your plain and fruit scones and then an additional cherry and almond served with raspberry jam and clotted cream. Cherry scones have always been a favourite of mine so I was excited to see these on the menu and they tasted delicious with lashings of cream. And just in case you’re wondering how you’ll manage three scones AND a plate of pastries, the scones are only small so you shouldn’t have to worry about saving room!




On to the last tier which features a pretty mix of colours and flavours - but there is only one of each kind so be sure to share/pick your favourites quickly! Sweets include a Yorkshire curd tart, salted caramel chocolate pot, passion fruit macaron, rhubarb gin cheesecake, Parkin loaf, and raspberry and white chocolate éclair. This was one of the best dessert selections we’ve come across thanks to its imaginative choice of flavours used in popular afternoon tea sweets - the rhubarb gin cheesecake and macaroon were our top picks both for their pastel palettes and great taste.

To accompany the food, The Principal serves Rare Tea Company loose-leaf tea, hand picked by ‘Tea-Lady’ consultant Henrietta Lovell. We opted for the Single Estate English Breakfast and Earl Grey, both sourced from the Satemwa Estate, Malawi.




We really enjoyed our afternoon at The Principal, York. It’s a beautiful hotel and in a prime location for anyone travelling from out of town. The tea menu is great, fusing the old with the new and features plenty of unique touches to make it stand out. If you’re planning a trip to York this Summer and looking for a quiet hideout from the crowds, be sure to put The Principal York on your list. 

Afternoon Tea is served daily between 11.30am-6pm at £22.95pp or £29.50pp with champagne. For more info and to book visit: https://www.phcompany.com/principal/york-hotel/
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Monday, 14 August 2017

Afternoon Tea at Liverpool One - #TrulyScrumptious

Bills

Liverpool has always been a second home to The Afternoon Tea Club, so when we heard about the new #TrulyScrumptious campaign from Liverpool ONE, we decided to get involved and write a round up of the top three teas to look out for the next time you're in Merseyside - and with today marking the start of National Afternoon Tea Week, you have the perfect excuse to venture out and eat cake!

Browns - Afternoon Tea

First up is Afternoon Tea at Browns Brasserie. Browns was actually the first ever 'proper' afternoon tea that we visited as a club and will always have a special place in our hearts. If you look back far enough, you'll probably be able to find the review (with our terrible iPhone 4 pictures) but where the photos failed us, the food didn't and we can definitely recommend it as one to look out for when visiting Liverpool ONE bars and restaurants this summer.

Bills - Cream Tea

Next on the list is Bills, a homely but hip restaurant, which probably isn't the first place you would look to in search of cream tea but look you should, as Bills offers a great value selection of sweet treats with its 'Teatime' menu. Choose from scones with Bills jam and clotted cream (served warm, and absolutely delicious) to toasted teacakes or sticky toffee pudding and beyond to get your mid-shopping afternoon boost.

The Exchange at Hilton - Afternoon Tea

Towering over L1 and just a few short minutes away from the Albert Dock, stands the Hilton, Liverpool City Centre and inside, The Exchange restaurant which offers a modern afternoon tea in a minimalist setting that's popular with guests and daytrippers alike. We first visited years back (in the much missed days where every Monday for us, was an afternoon tea day!) but this tea remains popular due to its central location and traditional yet sophisticated afternoon fare served daily between 1-4pm.

Have you paid a visit to L1 for afternoon tea? Be sure to give us your thoughts and recommendations in the comments or over on Twitter @teacupreview using the hashtag #TrulyScrumptious.


#AD - This post is in collaboration with Liverpool ONE, but as usual all thoughts and opinions are our own!

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