Thursday, 31 January 2013

Lunch Break: John Lewis Espresso Bar, Trafford Centre

Flapjacks and Coffee

Whenever I go to the Trafford Centre, I always head for the John Lewis Espresso Bar. Tucked away at the back of the store's ground floor - adjacent to the men's department - this little café offers quiet, peaceful surroundings and yummy flapjacks in abundance. Although only small in size, this café is still relatively undiscovered, with many people opting for the larger 'Place to Eat' upstairs (they‘re definitely missing out.)

Ham Sandwiches

- If you're looking to escape from the shopping rush for a few minutes with a light snack and coffee, then you can't really go wrong!

(Caroline)

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Monday, 21 January 2013

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: The Lowry Hotel, Manchester


Last Monday, The Afternoon Tea Club were invited by Manchester's premier five star hotel, the Lowry,  to come and sample their brand new afternoon tea menu - We were in for a treat!

Delicious Cake Stand

Environment

Caroline
Furnished to a high standard and with views overlooking Manchester’s River Irwell, the Lowry Riverside Restaurant is a place of modern elegance. Minimalistic but fully equipped with comfortable leather chairs and art lined walls, this restaurant has a vibrancy which is most refreshing - particularly on a dreary Manchester day. Personal highlights included their lovely collection of pencil and ink drawings, which were clustered around the room, offering a particular talking point for both of us. The simplicity of the pieces is very reminiscent of Lowry’s own work, making it especially relevant within this particular hotel.
- All in all, a lovely place to spend an afternoon!

Blood Orange Trifle

Laura
There’s a lot to be said about a tea room that not only looks special but makes you feel special and The Lowry definitely ticks both boxes. From the moment our coats were taken, to the very last drop of fusion tea, we were treated like royalty – well we do like to think of ourselves as the Queen’s of afternoon tea!

Situated in the urban surroundings of Manchester's River Irwell, the stunning views on this beautiful snowy afternoon made you forget you were only a stone throw away from the busy centre of Manchester.
The décor is admirably understated, with mint green and pale bronze hues but the delicate linear artwork on the walls and gorgeous floral centrepiece subtly give it an elegant dose of life. A soothing choice of music too - the perfect setting for a lovely afternoon tea.
The Riverside Restaurant

Food

Caroline 
Carefully formulated and presented with absolute precision, this tea is easily one of the best in Manchester. The Lowry’s desire to create a special experience is evident throughout their menu, which offers a modern twist on old traditions, steering away from the generic fruit scones and tea loaf, and opting for something a little more extravagant.


Oh the choice!

The menu we sampled on this particular occasion was a champagne tea, consisting of a selection of edible delights, which included: a prawn cocktail and rhubarb meringue amuse bouche, a selection of dainty finger sandwiches (Cucumber and Cream Cheese, Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche, Egg Mayonnaise with Watercress, Ham and Wholegrain Mustard and Cheese and Chutney), Scones (Plain and Apple and Cinnamon) served with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam, a zesty Blood Orange Trifle and selection of cakes and pastries (Hazelnut and Chocolate Financier, Apple and Blackberry Bakewell Tart, Chocolate and Pomegranate Macaroon)

For me, the particular highlight of this wonderful selection was the Apple and Cinnamon scones which were, quite frankly, a delicious revelation. When making scones myself in the past, I’ve never considered such a flavour pairing, but it really really works. They were light, airy and perfectly delicious. Similarly the Chocolate and Pomegranate Macaroons were delightfully fruity - a real treat for the taste buds.

As part of the experience, we were also given the opportunity to sample a selection of the teas and coffees available. The Lowry offers a very impressive range of Jing Teas and Herbal infusions, which include: Earl Grey, Morning blend (three blends of Assam), Afternoon blend (50% Assam and 50% Darjeeling), Organic Maojian Green tea, Organic whole hamomile flowers, Blackcurrant and Hibiscus fruit infusion, and Whole Peppermint leaf infusion. Being a stickler for tradition I initially opted for the classic Earl Grey, before moving on to the Blackcurrant and Hibiscus fruit infusion. This fruit tea was one of the nicest I’ve ever had - Delightfully fruity and well balanced - and the perfect way to end the afternoon!


Champagne

Laura
Oh wow – where to begin? We were treated to a spectacular champagne afternoon tea which, I have to say, exceeded my expectations in every possible way.

Why? Well to start, our champagne flutes arrived accompanied by a mini shrimp cocktail, beautifully presented and smothered in gorgeously creamy sauce. To accompany was a lovely fresh rhubarb meringue.Oh my - It was gorgeous and honestly, I could have left satisfied at the first dish. Yum.
But of course, we were here for an afternoon tea treat – and what a treat it was! I applaud The Lowry for their unique presentation. A stylish tea stand, loaded with plenty of fabulous treats for us to sample.
The sandwiches were wonderful. Different types of bread for every palette with a selection of egg, ham and mustard, cucumber, salmon and cheese fillings. I’ve got to say, my favourite was the ham as it was quite different to the usual choice of afternoon tea sandwiches.
Next up, and possibly the part I was looking forward to the most –scones with jam and cream. But of course, as the Lowry doesn’t appear to do anything by halves, these were no ordinary fruit scones. We were spoiled with two types – classic plain and apple and cinnamon. Layered with beautifully rich jam and cream they were actually the best scones I’ve ever tasted - you can quote me!
And finally, the impressive selection of miniature sweets were just amazing. Prepare yourself: you will drool ... A cute pink chocolate and raspberry macaroon, a slice of hazelnut chocolate brownie and a mini bakewell. And that’s not all – we were treated to individual real orange trifles too – I did warn you!

Meanwhile, we indulged in their wonderful selection of fusion teas – my personal favourite was the blackcurrant and hibiscus – such a calming scent and deliciously fruity.
All in all – impressive.

Champagne Tea

Service

Caroline 
I can say without hesitation that the Lowry’s service is by far the most sophisticated that we have ever received. Like everything else at this restaurant, their attention to detail is impeccable, being prompt and efficient, without losing any of their charm and enthusiasm. We were made to feel very welcome throughout our entire two hour visit, being offered everything from extra cushions, to a very informative tea demonstration. If you’re looking to be spoilt for an afternoon then this is definitely the place to go.

Laura
Attentive and polite staff are all we ask for here at the ATC – but the staff at The Lowry proved what a difference that extra bit of oomph can bring to a traditional afternoon tea. We were greeted at the door bya lovely chap named Sherman who made us feel incredibly welcome and went the extra mile by guiding us through each of our courses oozing knowledge on allof the different teas and tips for a perfect brew. It’s great when staff have avisible passion for their work and all of the team at The Lowry exerted this generous spirit.



Overall Thoughts

Caroline
The Lowry is one of those places that not only offers good food, but also creates unforgettable experiences. From the comfort of their surroundings, to the sophistication of their staff, this restaurant is a perfect ten all ‘round - So much so in fact, that we’ve had to invent a whole new level of classification, just to accommodate it - The Golden Cupcake!

Laura
As much as I love a good cake, the best thing about the Lowry for me was the wonderful team. Attentive, approachable, knowledgeable and just all around lovely people. They created the atmosphere for me and managed toprovide a top class, formal setting but were happy to engage in conversationwith us, making us feel at home.
If you want utter indulgence and in search of the perfect spot for tea then look no further than the Lowry – utter class.
Cupcake Rating:

Plus! We are awarding the Lowry with The Afternoon Tea Club's extremely elusive Golden Cupcake Award - only given to those who have truly shone in the afternoon tea department. Congrats, champagne tea for everyone!


The Lowry Hotel is located at Chapel Wharf, in Manchester City Centre. Afternoon Tea Prices range from £22.50 - £33.00 pp and are served weekdays from 2.15pm, Saturdays from 12.00pm and Sundays from 3.15pm. For more information and menus please visit their website HERE

As is common in the catering and leisure industry, we were provided with complimentary services for review purposes. Whilst this has not influenced our review, we believe in the full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.  
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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Happy Birthday to The Afternoon Tea Club!


It's hard to believe it's been a entire year since The Afternoon Tea Club began - and what an exciting 12 months it has been! 

Since January 2012 we have sampled some of the best afternoon treats from Manchester and beyond, taking us to the quirky little boutiques of the Northern Quarter, the iconic Central Perk sofa and York's famous Betty's Tea Rooms. 
We celebrated our first birthday with an invitation to afternoon tea at Brown's Manchester which has inspired us to indulge in a monthly spot of traditional afternoon tea at various tea rooms across the UK - of course we will report back to our fellow tea-lovers - Send us your recommendations!

Thank you so much to all of our readers and the lovely people of our Twitterverse for your support and suggestions.
Here's to another cake-tastic year!

Laura and Caroline x

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Friday, 11 January 2013

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: Browns, Manchester

Last week, The Afternoon Tea Club was invited for an afternoon of champagne and sophistication at one of Manchester's premium restaurants, Browns Bar - what better way is there to spend a birthday!

Epitome of Sophistication

Environment

Caroline
Whether you’re ladies who like to lunch or on a business brunch, Brown’s is an idyllic location. Wonderfully calm, but bubbling with ambiance, this sophisticated Brasserie treats its guests to a little taste of the Art Deco past, whilst being firmly footed in the twenty-first century. Their dining area is comfortable and elegant offering just the right balance of historical charm and modernity, with the inclusion of some very impressive chandeliers and mirror lined walls which exude a ‘high class’ feel. The background music was appropriate for the surroundings, adding an extra element of atmosphere to the dining experience - Paolo Nutini is always a winner. I have no doubt that this restaurant can, at peak times, become as lively as every other in town, but for tea and scones in an afternoon this comparative serenity gives Browns that extra added charm - Perfect for escaping the city centre blues for an hour or two.

Dining Room

Laura
The overall design of Brown’s is all about grandeur. High ceilings, marble pillars and statement chandeliers are all elegantly put in place to produce the perfect get-away from busy Manchester life.

The aroma from the top class kitchen hits you the moment you walk through the doors of the former banking hall and the shine from gold accents and Edwardian signature pieces make you feel like you’ve just stopped for tea in the first class lounge of the Titanic. However, let us say, Brown’s is no sinking ship and has its feet firmly on the ground with a high class feel that compliments rather than overpowers its welcoming atmosphere. 

Food

Caroline 
Browns offer a selection of Afternoon Teas which include, ’Traditional’, ’Champagne’ and ’A Most Unusual Afternoon’ - which comes with a ’stylish glass of Hendrick’s & Tonic with a slice of cucumber’ - All sounded lovely, but on this occasion we both opted for the Champagne! 

High Tea

I must say that I was very impressed with the standard of all of the food which we were presented with. The tea itself consisted of a selection of finger sandwiches (Cucumber, Salmon & Cream Cheese and Egg & Watercress) presented on a lovely cake stand, with fruit scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, a selection of mini cakes (Rich dark fruit, Chocolate Mousse and Lemon) and a choice of tea or coffee, with a glass of champagne on the side. The sandwiches were very fresh and made to order on good quality bread - complete with trimmed crusts - whilst the cakes were lovely and moist. My particular favourite was the rich dark fruit cake which was brilliantly dense and fruity and left me wanting more. 

As an added treat, we were given the opportunity to sample the Chef’s special of the day - a Passion Fruit Panna Cotta - which was a definite highlight of the afternoon and well worth trying if you pay them a visit in the near future!

Afternoon Tea

Laura
As you may be aware, we’re rather partial to a spot of tea and cake (and if you didn’t well … welcome!) so we were quite excited at the prospect of afternoon tea at Browns. Given the choice between Traditional Tea, Unusual Afternoon and Champagne Tea, we of course did not hesitate to select the champagne option.


Our champagne came presented with a slice of strawberry on the side – subtle but finishing touches like that really make the difference.
I chose to go wild and select coffee instead of tea for the afternoon – good choice too as it was noticeably great quality coffee accompanied by hot milk.

As Caroline said, the selection of sandwiches on offer was a trio of traditional favourites. Perfectly cut afternoon tea staples on particularly fresh bread - top marks for the salmon!
Moving down the stand were some lovely fruit scones complete with jam and cream. They were an absolute treat and if it didn’t break tradition I would have happily had several!
The final tier offered something for every palette with a choice of three miniature cakes – rich chocolate,zesty lemon and good old fruit cake. Of course, my favourite was the chocolate slice which had a lovely mousey texture and thick chocolate topping.

And as if all that wasn’t enough -  we were kindly offered the chance to try the chef’s daily dessert special – a passion fruit Panna Cotta. Delicious! So creamy and tangy at the same time –definitely worth a return visit.


Passion Fruit Panna Cotta

Service

Caroline
Service at Browns was very swift, friendly and professional, taking care of you without being over facing. We were made to feel incredibly welcome by all staff members from the second we stepped in through the door and couldn‘t have asked for more. 

Laura
Upon arrival we were greeted and offered a beverage whilst we chose our tea options. The lovely lady who looked after us was kindly attentive and as Caroline said was observant without being intrusive. Just the right balance.

Champagne

Overall Thoughts

Caroline
I had a very enjoyable afternoon at Browns Manchester and will definitely be returning in the near future to sample their a la carte menu and experience the evening ambiance. Full marks!

Laura
It would be easy for Browns touse its beautiful guise of grandeur to set itself aside with a sense of elitismbut this just isn’t the case. For me, that was its winning factor as it manages to separate itself from most establishments by simply providing a genuinely lovely experience. Browns is beautiful yet comfortable and if we could stop for afternoon tea here every afternoon, the world would be a wonderful place – now, just have to try and convince the other half to take me there for their Valentine’s special!

Cupcake Rating: 

Browns is located in Manchester City Centre near Rosso, on the corner of York Street and Spring Gardens. Afternoon Tea Prices range from £9.95 - £23.95 and are served daily from 2.30pm. For more information, menus and how to book a table please visit their website HERE 

As is common in the catering and leisure industry, we were provided with complimentary services for review purposes. Whilst this has not influenced our review, we believe in the full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. 
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