Saturday, 2 December 2017

Afternoon Tea at Sculpture Hall Cafe, Manchester Town Hall


If you’re in Manchester around Christmas time, its famous Christmas markets are compulsory visiting - the smells, the lights, the push and shove, are all part of the annual experience. But not to be all bah humbug, this year the crowds seem to have gone into overdrive and you’re a more worthy fan of pulled pork than us if you manage to fight your way to the hog roast station without an umbrella to at least one eye.


Luckily for Christmas market veterans like ourselves, there is an oasis away from the madness that rests just behind the wooden huts and below where the giant illuminated Santa perches from November to December. Inside Manchester Town Hall nests the beautiful Sculpture Hall Cafe and our choice of afternoon tea venue this past weekend.


For starters, little tip, if you plan on visiting the Sculpture Hall, go AROUND the markets and use the Lloyd Street entrance - we didn’t and felt like we had well and truly earned our champagne by the time we battled our way through. It’s an elegant setting surrounded by stunning architecture, but a casual affair which was honestly quite a pleasant change. Guests are allowed to choose their own table and we would recommend a window seat so you can still take in the markets from a safe distance.


From now until December, the cafe is serving up a festive twist on its traditional afternoon tea served on a simple stand where you’ll find a checklist of all of the season’s well-known flavours. For starters there was a selection of savouries including prawn and marie rose sauce finger sandwiches, turkey and stuffing wrap, brie and cranberry on ciabatta, and roast chestnut and blue cheese tart. Unfortunately neither of us are fans of seafood, so the four prawn sandwiches were a little disappointing, and for two non-cheese connoisseurs, the blue cheese was mighty strong in the tart, overpowering the wintry chestnut. However, the wrap was good and overall the selection was a nice nod to some typical Christmas fare.


Next the scones were small but super tasty - packed with cinnamon and cranberry flavour and served with clotted cream and jam or butter. We lobbed on the jam and cream and honestly I could have eaten three more, they were lovely. Finally the festive theme continued throughout the sweet selection the with a Christmas sponge cake, mini macaroons, rich chocolate and orange mousse and bitesize mince pies. I loved all of them, particularly the sponge cake, a really good mix and just the right size too. 


This afternoon tea comes as either standard or with champagne for an extra £5 and we must say, it was a generous pouring of fizz so worth splashing out - Christmas comes but once a year afterall. Plus you have your standard choice of tea or coffee, of which we had one each, a latte and breakfast tea. We visited quite late in the day so can’t confirm if this was refillable but I would assume, given the price, it is not.


If we were bigger fans of prawns and cheese, perhaps we would have enjoyed this tea more - still it is rather unusual to get four sandwiches with the same filling during afternoon tea. Nonetheless, the sweeter side was great and the environment itself wins back some serious points - how often do you get to slump back in a studded leather armchair surrounded by sculpted busts and Christmas trees pretending you are the Lord or Lady of the manor? 

I would definitely like to go back in the new year to try the Sculpture Hall’s traditional tea menu - at £14.95pp (£19.95 with champagne) you really can’t argue with the price. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for somewhere to experience the quieter side of Christmas in Manchester, the Sculpture Hall Cafe is a good place to start. 

Words - Laura
Photography - Caroline 
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3 comments

  1. I think you would like the normal afternoon tea more.it had a great selection of savouries.

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    Replies
    1. It's definitely one we want to try in the new year - the traditional menu sounded fab!
      -C x

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  2. It's probably my favourite in Manchester. If only it was a bit warmer.

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