Monday, 30 September 2013

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: Harvey Nichols Second Floor, Manchester

Harvey Nichols 'Second Floor' afternoon tea has long been on our list of places to visit, so the other week we finally decided to bite the bullet and pay them a visit. Here's how we got on:

Strawberry Tart and other Sweet Treats

Environment

Caroline:
Expansive views over Manchester's Exchange Square offer the perfect afternoon tea vantage point, whilst striking black themes complete the look at Harvey Nichols 'Second Floor' Manchester. Personal highlights included their lovely black velvet chairs which added an arty touch to the surround, perfectly complimented by the striking abstract art decorating the walls. A lovely environment in which to take tea!

Inside

Laura:
For city girls with a penchant for designer and mini pastries, Harvey Nichols Second Floor Restaurant is a complete dream. A modern oasis of sharp décor complimented by crisp white tablecloths makes this the ideal place to sample one of the city’s fantastic afternoon teas and certainly one of the best views too.

The monochrome palette with just a few splashes of colour, give the restaurant a real touch of exclusivity. It doesn’t feel as though you’re in a department store - however there is definitely something to knowing you’re sipping tea only metres away from a fabulous display of designer shoes!

Stunning views

Food

Caroline:
Small in size but delicious in every way, the Harvey Nichols 'Second Floor' afternoon tea is perfect for anyone wanting a mid-day treat in the city. Presented neatly on slick ceramic stands, the menu contains all of staple classics catered to a high standard. The sandwiches available during our visit offered a choice of Egg, Prawn, Beef, Salmon, Cucumber and Ham, served on a variety of different breads, whilst the second tier presented the classic fruit scone prettily dusted with icing sugar.

As ever, cake was the focal point of the afternoon, offering a quirky choice of summer flavours which included: a Strawberry Tart, White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake, Carrot Cake and Lemon Macaroon. Being a stickler for a good cheesecake, my favourite out of this selection had to be just that - a fruity and light addition, prettily presented with a white chocolate disk - perfect for enjoying on a late summer afternoon!

Sandwiches
Laura:
Continuing the contemporary theme, our Afternoon Tea arrived on a minimalistic silver tea stand featuring vibrant pops of colour from the pretty array of cakes served on top. As Caroline said, this tea was slightly smaller than some others in the city but personally I found it to be just right, especially for a late afternoon bite.
To start we had a generous sandwich selection with six different fillings (Egg, prawn, beef, salmon, cucumber and ham). These were served on a decent range of breads and cut to just the right size. As I am absolute fiend for salmon finger sandwiches as of late, this was my favourite – light, soft and gorgeously fresh.
Moving on, the scones were really yummy, dusted with sugar and served with Harvey Nick’s very own raspberry jam and clotted cream. Normally I do like a mix of plain and fruit scones but on this occasion I will forgive as the desserts to follow most certainly filled the gap!
I always love having macaroons at Afternoon Tea and the lemon flavour here was a real fresh palette cleanser but like Caroline, my favourite dessert by far was the White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake. It was quite an odd take on the staple dessert with a mousse-like texture and a sprinkling of biscuit on top but this worked perfectly in a bitesize portion. Fab!
Perhaps the only thing I would add to this menu would be a selection of fruit teas. We were given the choice of simply tea or coffee, however I think a fruit based menu like this would have gone down a treat coupled with more exotic tea options.

Afternoon Tea Scones
Sugar Dusted Scones

Service

Caroline:
The service at Harvey Nichols was tip top, with out every need being catered for with the greatest of attention - well done!

Laura:
The staff were very courteous and made us feel welcome - could not fault them!



Overall Thoughts

Caroline:
A great place to visit if you're looking for a good quality tea in the city - and the perfect respite from a hard day's shopping!

Laura:
If you’re all shopped out and looking for a place to drop then Harvey Nichols Second Floor Restaurant is the perfect place to treat yourself to a bite to eat. Style, sophistication and yummy sweet treats – need I say more?

Harvey Nichols Second Floor Restaurant is located in the heart of Manchester's Exchange Square. Afternoon Tea is served between 3-5pm Monday to Saturday and 3-4.30pm on Sunday. For more information and to book, please visit their website: http://www.harveynichols.com/
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Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Afternoon Tea Club at the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards


The Afternoon Tea Club at the Cosmos

This week The Afternoon Tea Club are heading off to London for the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards. Be sure to check in with us on Wednesday for live twitter updates from the big smoke and stop by here once it's over for a full round up of the night.

A massive thank you to everyone who's voted for us to win 'Best Food Blog', we really appreciate your support - wish us luck!

Love,
Laura & Caroline
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Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: Hotel De Orangerie, Brugge, Belgium


Time for tea

The one time holiday destination of Mark Owen (I kid you not) Hotel De Orangerie is one of Brugge's premier residences. Decadently styled in rich plum themes, this boutique hotel offers guests a slice of sophistication at a very reasonable price.

Welcome

Upon entry we were presented with a mini tray of aperitifs (incl. cakes, chocolates and biscuits) to whet our appetite for the meal to come. I always love it when you get extra surprises along the way, so this was a very welcome addition and really helped to take the edge off our hunger in preparation for the main event.

Palms

When the tea came, I was once again impressed. Served on crustless brioche bread, the sandwiches were lovely and light, coming in several varieties: Egg & Mustard; Salmon & Red Onion; and Cucumber. I very much enjoyed the addition of brioche to the sandwich menu, snaffling my way through them all quite happily - and perhaps a little too quickly  - oops.

Brioche Sandwiches

The scones, again, were delightfully light, served with an abundance of Strawberry jam and cream, which is always a winner, particularly when presented on a pretty silver tray.

Now the cakes. What can I say about the cakes? - Yum. 

I sometimes find that afternoon tea can offer too much of a good thing. Whether it's pastry, creamy fondants or cake, there is often a noticeable bias towards one particular aspect of patisserie, which can be overwhelming. However, this is not the case at De Orangerie Hotel, with a menu that includes: Summer Fruit Tart; Chocolate Cream Meringue; Chocolate Pistachio Coconut Fondant; Apple Cake; and Toffee Nut Tart. Needless to say, everything was as delicious as it looks - especially the Chocolate Meringue which was lighter than air!

Tea and Cake - What more could a girl ask for?
There's lots more that I could say about this place, but I think it's one of those you need to experience yourself before you can fully appreciate it. If you're ever in Brugge, go. You won't regret it!

To find out more about Hotel De Orangerie, please visit their website here:
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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Charlotte in the City: The Ritz, London

Often cited as one of London's top afternoon tea destinations, the Ritz's reputation for excellence is second to none. Read on to find out what our City girl, Charlotte Vowden, thought when she visited last month! 

Welcome to the Ritz

Afternoon tea at The Ritz is a grand affair where traditional formalities create an atmosphere of occasion and glamour. Gentlemen are required to wear a jacket with a tie and women attend in their finest frocks. Absolutely no denim is allowed. 

The hotel’s Palm Court is where the magic happens, and it is here that my love affair with the quintessential ceremony began almost ten years ago. I returned this summer with my grandfather, accompanied by the same anticipation and awe that my first visit mustered.

Cake Collection

Little has changed since then; the service is still precise, the opportunity to have your sandwich and scone plates refilled remains and the clotted cream is just as thick as it used to be. However, there is one noticeable addition - a pudding trolley. 

Oh yes, much to our delight a four-wheeled dessert mobile now circulates The Palm Court. It’s purpose is to tempt you with even more elaborate creations and despite having a tea stand filled with tiny sugary show stoppers we kept a close eye to make sure the trolley made a stop at our table-side.

Our taste buds were tickled by slices of pistachio and cherry cake topped with vanilla cream and a miniature trifle with perfectly proportioned layers - not too much custard and a good few spoons worth of jelly. The tea stand delectables featured a salted caramel macaroon with a perfect crunch and the famous four-layered chocolate cake had a glaze so faultless you could see your reflection.

Sandwiches

When it comes to the evaluation of the finger sandwiches I quote my grandfather; ‘They are so very nice, you must have another before I eat them all up.’ The mix included ham, grain mustard mayonnaise on White Bread and my favourite, Scottish Smoked Salmon, Lemon Butter on Rye Bread. The scones were served warm so the cornish clotted cream began to melt as soon as the dollop hit the dough. Finished with a spoon of strawberry preserve they were suitably gluttonous.


Catering for plenty of tastes the tea menu has familiars such as Earl Grey, and more fruity blends such as Passion Fruit and Orange, which makes a winning cup. The Ritz Royal English, a light blend of Assam and Ceylon, is a soothing accompaniment. Just remember to sip politely. 

Perfection!

Over 400 teas are served in The Palm Court every day so sittings are limited to 95 minutes and my only criticism is that we would have loved more time to savour the experience. Instead, we retired to the Ritz’s Rivoli bar for a cocktail. Such a tough life. 



Traditional Afternoon Tea at the Ritz is £45 per person, booking is required: http://www.theritzlondon.com/tea/

Charlotte Vowden is a travel & lifestyle journalist who is as happy in the mountains as she is sipping champagne and indulging on cake. Writing for The Sunday Times and other national publications keeps her busy but she’s always looking for her next adventure or afternoon tea destination.

Twitter: @charlottevowden

DISCLAIMER: 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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Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Afternoon Tea Club Reviews: The Stafford Hotel By Kempinski, London


A few weeks ago, the Afternoon Tea Club headed to London for a day of luxury at one the Stafford Hotel by Kempinski. Here's how we got on!

Welcome!
Environment

Caroline:
When we walked into the Stafford Hotel, I was immediately impressed by its grandeur. Light and airy, with plush velvet arm chairs as standard, the lounge where tea is served offers everything that you‘d expect from a five star hotel. I particularly liked the large floral presentations which were scattered about the room - especially the sizable bouquet which directly faced our table and offered a fantastic focal point to the room.

In fact my only criticism of the environment would be its lack of atmosphere. Now, by lack of atmosphere, I don’t mean to say that it was boring, or that it detracted from the afternoon’s enjoyment - because it didn’t. However as one of London’s quieter afternoon tea venues, I do feel that it could have benefited from a little background music to liven up the dining experience. Nevertheless it was still a very lovely room in which to enjoy tea and had many features to recommend it!


Laura:
Tucked away in the exclusive St Jame's Park corner of London, The Stafford exudes a classic London town house look with a grand kerbside  entrance complete with courteous doorman and timeless stone features that fuse the old with the new.  
Inside, the colour scheme is quite minimal with pale grey hues and creams taking over accented with dashes of lilac and dark wooden furnishings. There's a good range of seating for various party sizes and the tea room itself is rather sizeable. I particularly enjoyed admiring the subtle decoration in the hotel and like Caroline, I really liked the large floral centrepiece which somehow pulled off subtlety despite its large scale. 
I did notice however that the room itself was fairly quiet and conversation seemed to be muted amongst fellow diners. This did detract ever so slightly from the overall Afternoon Tea experience as it was difficult to get a real sense of atmosphere. However, it was a very pleasant venue for dining and I felt completely relaxed and spoiled during our stay. 



Food

Caroline
Presented prettily on a silver stand, the Stafford’s afternoon tea is one of pure decadence. Rich and everso slightly intoxicating, their food selection is perfect for those wanting a touch of luxury with at tea. The sandwich choice offers a variety of bread-types and toppings to excite even the most experienced of palates (incl. coronation chicken on brioche; Crayfish, tarragon on soda bread; Ham, English mustard on white bread; Roast Beef, horseradish, watercress on granary bread; Cucumber and cream cheese on white bread) and was a very welcome variation from the usual white fingers. My favourite by far was the Crayfish, which having never tried it before, was a taste revelation and definitely something which I’d like to see on afternoon tea menus in the future.

The cakes were again quite different to those normally on offer at other afternoon tea venues, and included a white chocolate and ginger mousse chocolate teacup; an aptly named ‘tipsy’ cake and the hotel’s signature ‘Basphorale’ dessert. All were lovely, but my favourite was the chocolate teacup which was light yet incredibly moreish and had me hankering after another. Lovely food!


Laura:
The Stafford offers their very own signature Afternoon Tea inspired by traditional British baking with its own personal brand of cleverly crafted patisseries. The Lady Lyttelton Afternoon Tea is both elegant and indulgent with petite finger sandwiches and desserts that aren’t afraid to be naughty.
To start with we had a rather fabulous selection of sandwiches. There were five fillings to choose from including: roast beef and horseradish on granary bread, cucumber with cream cheese, ham and English mustard, an exotic crayfish and tarragon on soda bread and my favourite, Coronation chicken on brioche. I’m always on the lookout for a good range of breads and complete freshness at Afternoon Tea and this one certainly ticked both boxes.

Continuing the momentum, particular praise must be given for the scones. These were some of the most perfect looking scones I have ever seen. Gorgeously smooth and evenly baked and served in a folded napkin bed to keep them fresh and warm. Fantastic!

I soon found myself tucking into The Stafford’s signature desserts; a trio of chocolate, apricot and a dash of alcohol. I was very excited by the prospect of the ‘Tipsy’ cake but I have to agree with Caroline, the chocolate filled teacup was my favourite – the perfect complement to quite a heavy dessert selection and incredibly moreish. I do think that this tea would benefit from a fruit or perhaps jelly based dessert in order to balance out the richness but overall I really enjoyed this selection. 


Service

Caroline:
During our visit we were served by two members of staff. Both were pleasant and made every effort to make sure that our visit was an enjoyable one - well done!

Laura:
The service at The Stafford was really lovely. Both members of staff who served us were very knowledgeable on the various layers of our Afternoon Tea and talked about the various tea choices with genuine enthusiasm. 
I also really liked the added bonus of being greeted by a suited and booted doorman upon arrival. It really accentuated the exclusivity of the hotel and made me feel like I had just stepped back in time! Just lovely. 



Overall Thoughts

Caroline:
The Stafford by Kempinski provides the ideal environment for relaxation and is well worth a visit if you’re looking to escape the city madness for an hour or two with a high class tea.

Laura:
I thought the food at The Stafford was really great. There was plenty of variation and enough signature bites to make it stand out in a city where you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to the famous pastime. I would like to have felt more of a sense of occasion during our afternoon but I think that this could easily be achieved with subtle music and perhaps pre-prepared table settings for taking tea. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon and I would not pass on the opportunity to return for some more chocolate teacups! 

The Stafford is located in the heart of St James, London. Afternoon Tea is served between 3-6pm daily with prices starting at £28.50pp. For more information and to book please visit the hotel's website: www.kempinski.com/en/London 



DISCLAIMER: 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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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Bedfordshire

Happy Birthday to our favourite Lady!


On this day back in 1783 the inventor of afternoon tea was born. So in celebration, lets all raise a glass to Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedfordshire - queen of the finger sandwich!
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Sunday, 1 September 2013

Afternoon Tea News: Montezuma Chocolate Afternoon Tea by Eric Lanlard,Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London

He's gone and done it again. Yes, our favourite patissier, Eric Lanlard, has launched a brand new afternoon tea at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel. Inspired by all thing Chocolate, the Montezuma menu consists of a selection of sweet treats fit for the gods... We know you'll want to try this one!


"This innovative chocolate inspired menu starts with a selection of savoury treats including a Cocoa crusted roast beef taster and a White chocolate, sweet carrot & blue cheese tart topped with turnip angel hair. Guests will then enjoy elegant desserts including a Cassis imperial chocolate cupcake with balsamic blackcurrants, a Conquistador shot of passion fruit and white chocolate cream with basil seeds, topped with coconut jelly, and a Dark mini chocolate loaf with a liquid salted butter caramel filling."

Are you heading over to the Jumeirah to sample Eric's new menu? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on twitter at @TeacupReview!

For more information and prices, please visit the Jumeirah Carlton Tower website HERE
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