Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Top Tips for Afternoon Tea Week

Heading out for tea and cake this Afternoon Tea Week (13-19th August)? Let us be your guides. Whether you're off somewhere special or looking to kick back with a cake break, here are our top tips for enjoying a great afternoon tea ...

1) Be adventurous
Now, the amount of times we've used the words 'breakfast tea' on this blog may make this first tip seem a little hypocritical but hear us out! If you're not a regular tea-goer, use this as your opportunity to try something new. You might discover you're a fan of fruit teas or perhaps a smoky ceylon blend will ignite your senses with its smoky tones. It's Afternoon Tea Week and there are plenty of places bringing out the big guns with special limited edition menus, so make the most of it.

2) Do try the alternatives
French fries might not sound like they belong on an afternoon tea stand but with a world of fabulous alternative afternoon tea menus on offer, you'll have forgotten those treasured scones were meant to be there in the first place. Keep your eye out for themed teas too like the quirky Punk Afternoon Tea at The Baltic Social or do away with dainty finger sandwiches and try The Milestone Hotel's Gentleman's Afternoon Tea complete with mini whiskey selection.

3) But also, don't knock the classics
Victoria sponge, carrot cake, battenburg; they're classics for a reason and sometimes, if done right, a good collection of old favourites will do just the trick. There are a whole range of traditional afternoon tea menus out there at landmark venues such as Fortnum and Mason and The Ritz but there are also plenty of favourites to be found elsewhere around the UK for less than £20 at places like The Chancery in Liverpool and The Courthouse in Knutsford.

4) Dress to impress?
Afternoon tea may not be the formal affair it once was (though it can be a good excuse to dress up if you feel like it) but it's worth checking if the venue has any sort of dress code beforehand. If the Cat Cafe is on your list (which it should be) think casual and comfort, but if you're heading somewhere a little more fancy like The Grosvenor in Chester, maybe give the trainers a miss. But above all else, be comfortable!

5) Too busy for tea?
Afternoon Tea Week comes but once a year and if you've got a busy week ahead, fitting in a couple of hours in the middle of the day for cucumber sandwiches and fruit scones, may seem like a write-off. We feel your pain. However, fear not, if you still want to join in the fun, there are an increasing number of places around the UK serving "Evening Tea" as an alternative. It's got all the goods of afternoon tea but means you can get your cake fix after a busy day at work and throw in a cocktail or two for good measure. Try The Midland in Manchester for classic afternoon tea fare with a pairing of gin and tonic.

Bonus Tip - Double afternoon tea sounds like a good idea - it's not
Living up North with increasingly busy lives, our afternoon tea trips to London have become more of a treat than a monthly tradition. So, on occasion, when we have boarded a train to the capital for the day, we have optimistically opted to make the most of our time by booking two lots of tea. On paper, this sounds like the best day ever. In reality, the cake becomes a struggle. Learn from our mistakes, don't do it.

What are some of your top tips? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Happy Afternoon Tea Week!

West Ivy, Bury

For our fellow afternoon tea lovers out there, Christmas has come early in the form of Afternoon Tea Week, giving you the best excuse ever to indulge in tea and cake (come on, like we ever needed the excuse).

Taking place on 13-19th August, there are plenty of great new menus and venues to try and all this week we will be bringing you plenty of inspiration to get you in the mood to celebrate. Plus we've got lots of new reviews from our recent travels up on the blog so go check them out too.

Follow us over on Twitter and Instagram for all of the latest, then go grab your friends, choose your tea, and have a fab Afternoon Tea Week.

Love Laura & Caroline x 

P.s. Let us know how you're celebrating in the comments!

Afternoon Tea at The Chancery, Liverpool

Sometimes artisan pastries, fancy chocolate work and dainty macaroons seem like the most sure fire ways to make an afternoon tea that little bit special. But every now and then, it can simply be about home comforts, traditional flavours and good stodgy slices of cake. At The Chancery, Liverpool, the latter is the order of the day.

We visited The Chancery on a quiet rainy afternoon a few months back after spotting a last-minute deal which we figured would be rude to pass up on. Set just across the road from Liverpool's L1 shopping centre, The Chancery is in a central location but tucked back just enough to make it a good hideaway from the bustle of weekend shoppers.

The restaurant was apparently inspired by a trip its owner took to New York around ten years ago which sparked the idea to combine casual style fine food in a bistro setting alongside a coffee and wine shop. You can definitely get a sense of that here. The huge windows feel very much like a Brooklyn loft and the collection of curious furnishings such as the church pew seating, nautical features and giant mural (an ode to Liverpool's naval past?) bring an injection of character that's unlike anywhere else around.

Afternoon tea is presented on a cute two-tier polka dot stand complete with a hodgepodge of teacups and saucers and vintage-feel teapot filled with our go-to breakfast tea. We do love a mismatched tea set - so very Mad Hatter.

You'll notice this isn't your typical delicate finger food assortment but rather a generous selection of classic flavours and styles. Starting with the sandwiches, cut into triangles, they are bursting with fillings including ham and tomato, egg mayonnaise, and cheese and onion. And there are plenty to go around so be sure to skip any pre-tea snacking.

Next up, the scones were a good chunky size, sprinkled with sugar and with a rustic fresh-out-of-the-oven feel. Served with lashings of jam and cream, they were absolutely delicious.

Sharing the same tier, the sweet selection features a range of well-loved favourites cut into sizeable slices including carrot cake, chocolate sponge and macaroons. To the regular afternoon tea goers out there, this might seem like The Chancery is playing it safe, but believe us, it's much more difficult to do the classics right and these versions were incredible.

Overall this was a really nice afternoon tea, it ticks all of the right boxes and if you book in soon, it's a steal at £30 for two people. If you're looking for no gimmicks but plenty of good food, you can't go far wrong with The Chancery.

For more information and to book visit: 

Have you ever been to The Chancery? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Afternoon Tea at West Ivy, Bury

Despite only being an hour up the road, until this past week I had never been to the Greater Manchester town of Bury. Yet this weekend I somehow ended up there twice, first for Chinese food and retro video games and second for afternoon tea. Even with my impressive Ms. Pac-Man skills, the tea may just have the edge.

We first spotted West Ivy's afternoon tea whilst perusing our Twitter timeline for our next cake adventure and were instantly intrigued by its fun picnic-like presentation and pink strawberry milkshakes.

Opened earlier this year in a bid to deliver city centre dining without the price tag, the restaurant is adjacent to a range of high street eateries which form part of The Rock shopping complex, complete with an outdoor decking area for soaking up the sun. This al fresco feel continues inside where greenery cascades from the ceiling and light pours in through wall-to-wall full-length windows. We wore sunglasses inside, don't judge.

Word has clearly spread about West Ivy's unique offering as the restaurant was chock full with plenty of people enjoying afternoon tea, which added to the busy city dining ambience. When seated at our sun drenched window table, we were offered the option of prosecco, tea or coffee. It seemed odd that this was presented as an either/or choice - not a huge deal for us having only planned on hot drinks but might be one to check for those fancying some tea with a side of candy floss prosecco (yep, it's a thing).

Tiny criticism here with the tea, but one our eagled eyed Twitter followers haven't failed to pick up on. Tea is served with the bag still in the cup and nowhere discreet to place once used. It's certainly not a deal breaker but it would have been better to have drinks served in a pot to allow enough time to brew and avoid any unsightly (read: non-Instagram worthy) tea stains.

Food comes served in a wooden picnic style basket which opens out into three tiers on each side to reveal a huge selection of food, glorious food. With a bowl of fries thrown in for good measure (similar to The Baltic Social's Punk Tea), this is undoubtedly an alternative afternoon tea - scone lovers, be warned, you won't find them here.

What you will find though is a great variety of flavours and miniatures that will leave you feeling full but not in need of a forklift to take you home (if you've ever partaken in double afternoon tea, you'll know the feeling - will we ever learn?). To start, we had mini chicken salads served in individual dishes which were absolutely delicious, shortly followed by crushed avocado, tomato and radish on toast and chunky halloumi fries. Not to be a millennial cliché but the avocado on toast was amazing and the halloumi fries dipped in sweet chilli sauce were incredibly moreish.

On to the final tiers, and the part that earns this tea the moniker of the "sweetest tea" we've ever had, the dessert selection will send you into a sure sugar coma. Mini donuts dipped in Hersheys chocolate sauce (one of our favourite things ever), slices of caramel cheesecake, miniature jam jars filled with toffee popcorn, and a giant, lightly toasted, marshmallow and chocolate brownie skewer. It's all so good. Plus, to top it off, you have a strawberry and cream milkshake on the side decorated with more marshmallows, otherwise known as "the pink unicorn shake". Heaven.

It's been a while since we've sampled an alternative afternoon tea and the West Ivy may have just reignited our love, though for the traditionalists out there, it might not satisfy your classic afternoon tea cravings. At £19.95 per person, it's a good price if you're after something a little different and the environment itself is perfect for a modern take on afternoon tea. If you're a bit of a sweet tooth, the West Ivy is an absolute must.

For more information and to book visit: 

Have you been for an alternative afternoon tea? Let us know in the comments. 

Words: Laura
Photography: Caroline

Monday, 6 August 2018

Afternoon Tea at The Townhouse Hotel, Chester

A stroll along Lower Bridge Street towards the River Dee is one of my favourite things to do on a lazy Sunday. Throw in a pit stop for pastries and prosecco on the way and you've pretty much described my ideal afternoon, which is exactly why we stopped by The Townhouse Hotel in Chester last month for a spot of afternoon tea.

Set in a Georgian style townhouse building, the hotel has a luxe feel right from the start with a teal colour scheme signposting your way in, which continues inside with a more contemporary feel accompanying its Victorian features. Afternoon tea is served in the bar area which bridges the lounge with the dining room. The latter may have been a slightly better location for tea but as it was a particularly quiet afternoon perhaps the bar area was preferable for service. Nonetheless, it's a pleasant setting, kitted out with velvety grey dining chairs and dark wood furnishings.

There are three options for tea; traditional, sparking and bottomless prosecco. We opted for sparkling which comes with a glass of prosecco each (as not to overindulge) but given the price of bottomless (£29.95pp), it's well worth upgrading if bubbles are your thing.

Tea is served on a two-tier slate stand and is chock full of different flavours, shapes and sizes. To start, the range of sandwiches include both finger sandwiches and brioche buns with fillings such as; roast Ham with fruit Chutney, roasted red pepper and hummus, egg and cress, cucumber and cream cheese, and smoked salmon and crème fraiche. The red pepper and hummus brioche was amazing and the overall selection was equally impressive and catered to just about every kind of palette. We're not particularly fussy so successfully scoffed the lot in no time at all and would have happily made room for more hummus.

Next up, the scones aren't exactly presented as the main event here, nestled in amongst the rest of the patisserie selection, however they deserve their own little place to shine due to being deliciously soft served with a handsome dollop of jam and cream.

The sweet selection was probably our favourite part (let's be honest, when is cake ever not our favourite part of anything?). Balanced out with exactly the right amount of chocolate, traditional flavours and fruit, the selection earns itself a big thumbs up. On offer was a chocolate and pistachio layer cake, white chocolate and coconut sponge (sooo good and unusual), ginger cake, and macaroons. It's been said a million times before, but we love a macaroon with afternoon tea, not least because they Instagram so well, and the blend of traditional with some unusual flavours made for a memorable top tier. 

Overall we had a lovely afternoon at The Townouse Hotel. There wasn't a great deal of atmosphere as we were one of only two groups dining at the time but that's a real shame, and hopefully not usually the case, as this is definitely a tea worth putting on your list. At £23.95 per person for sparkling, it's reasonably priced for a city centre tea, and if you're a prosecco lover, for £6 extra, two hours worth of free-flowing fizz makes its a no brainer.

For more info and to book: 

Have you ever visited The Townhouse Hotel? What did you think?

Friday, 18 May 2018

Getting Chocolatey for the Royal Wedding

Just a quick one from us on the eve of the Royal Wedding, to share these beautiful chocolates that dropped through our letterbox this morning. Inspired by the happy couple themselves, Choctopia's master chocolatier Matt Hancock has created a special selection of hand-crafted chocolates to celebrate the big day.

The blue 'Harry' is a banana and hazelnut caramel flavour, whilst the white chocolate 'Meghan' is flavoured decadently with rosewater and coconut. We tried both this evening and honestly couldn't pick a favourite, they were that good. 

Matt's style is quite unlike anything we've come across before and we're absolutely LOVING the bright colours of his creations - we've even heard that his other treats include chocolate portraits and glow in the dark chocolates - amazing, right? Check him out online.

Which is your favourite flavour combination - The 'Harry' or the 'Meghan'?

If you're still on the lookout for last minute Royal Wedding tea party inspiration, take a look at our last post here.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A Royal Wedding Tea Party At Home

With less than a week to go until the Royal Wedding, it's time to start planning your celebrations - and what's more fitting than a Great British Tea Party?

In case you're stuck for inspiration or are wondering where to begin, we've pulled together our essential Royal Wedding afternoon tea guide, to help you plan a party fit for the Queen.

The Decorations

Celebrations like this are as 'extra' as they come, so get creative and show your colours - crack out the balloons, hang up some bunting and wear your Prince Harry mask with pride.

It's important to remember that you don't need a big budget to make your party special, you can get multipacks of balloons from Card Factory and a rather snazzy Harry and Meghan flag from Amazon for a couple of pounds. However, if you're in the market for something a bit more special, then Bubblegum balloons, have an incredible range of ready to go decorations specially created for the big day. With beautiful tasselled tails, and a suitably apt slogan, their 'Sparkle Like Markle' balloon is an absolute must for any Royal Wedding tea party.

As for crockery and table decorations, there are a couple of options. However, as the Royal wedding is a one-day-only event, we think your best bet would be to look for disposable party-ware that will give your gathering a touch of glitz without a significant investment. There are plenty of affordable pieces at Poundland, in a variety of designs including, Union Jack and gold spot. We opted for both of these to give a kitsch-yet-classy feel.

The Tea

Sometimes a cup of PG Tips is all you need, but if you're after something fancier then there are a few special options that the tea aficionados amongst you will LOVE.

One of our favourites is the limited edition Newby London Royal Wedding Tea Selection, which is currently available at £28 online for 36 individually wrapped pyramids. With flavours ranging from English Breakfast to Earl Grey and Hunan Green Tea, this limited edition commemorative gift set is the perfect way to mark Harry and Meghan's big day.

The Drinks

What's tea without a splash of something else to help wash the cake down? Whether you're popping the corks with a bottle of Bolly, opting for a refreshing lemonade or rustling up a fruit packed cocktail, it's important to have a variety of different drinks options available.

For those of you who aren't feeling the alcohol at 11.30am, we've recently discovered a beautiful wine-substitute called Botonique, which is completely alcohol free and dare we say it, healthy. With low calories and negligable amounts of sugar, it's truly a guilt free drink, and whilst it doesn't exactly taste like wine or prosecco (nor does it claim to), it definitely has a quality which is reminiscient of both, making it a great food acompaniment - check them out on Ocado.

If you're in the market for a tipple, one of our favourites is Britain Cassis Blackcurrent liqueur. We tried this for the first time on Sunday and were impressed - think of a boozy Ribena with a sharp afterkick.

With something like this there are so many options to drink: either straight, over ice, in prosecco or as part of a delicious cocktail - if you're looking for a bit of inspo, have a browse of their Cocktail suggestions on site.

The Food

You all know the score when it comes to food - cake is key - and whether you're baking your own or buying a Mr Kiplings selection, it's important to have enough to go around. If you're feeling particularly ambitious and want to dust off your mixer, take a look at these recipes for a bit of last minute inspo - we've tried the Baking Mad brownie bites before and can vouch for their delectability.

Not all of the treats needs to come in cake form though. Sometimes, the best afternoon teas are the ones that offer a good mix of textures and flavours. We're thinking Jelly and Ice cream, sweets, chocolate, finger sandwiches and crisps (hint: Red, White and Blue Tyrells are currently available in Poundland and we are obsessed!) - literally throw the calorie counter out of the window this weekend!

On the chocolate front, one of our favourites at the moment is from Elizabeth Shaw (you might remember them from our Mother's Day Guide) who have a range of Chocolate crisps that are the perfect end to a meal. We're loving the salted caramel variety at the moment, but they also have a range of other flavours, including: mint and orange, which sound pretty great too.

And finally - because we spotted them in Liberty last week and LOVED the packaging - we have a limited edition butterscotch biscuit set from Milly Green. These are seriously delicious and will make your room smell absolutely dreamy - we may or may not have finished off the entire packet already.

Whetever you're doing on Saturday, we hope you have a great time. If you're celebrating with a tea party, don't forget to share your photos with us on Twitter, we'd love to share the festivities with you!

How will you be celebrating the Royal Wedding this weekend?

Words and Photography: Caroline

* Post contains PR samples

Monday, 30 April 2018

Afternoon Tea at King Street Townhouse, Manchester

I don't know about you, but this Winter lark has really been killing the mood recently, so whilst the sun is out and Spring has officially begun, it's time to embrace the seasonal afternoon tea in all its forms.

If you know us well (or even just a little) then you'll probably be aware that we LOVE Great John Street Hotel, and whilst we haven't visited in a couple of years, they will always be ranked high on our list of all time favourites.

Part of the Eclectic group, Great John Street Hotel is one of four residences in Greater Manchester, with the brand's most recent opening, The King Street Townhouse, launching in December 2015. Now, it may seem crazy that it's taken us almost two and a half years to make it there for tea, but let me assure you that it was it worth the wait.

The "Traditional" and "Gentleman's" afternoon tea selections are served up daily in the hotel's Tavern, offering a good range of sweet and savoury treats for visitors to enjoy with a glass of bubbly or Jack Daniels (yum!). Menus change regularly, but during our visit last month we were treated to an Easter rendition of their Spring menu, which included: white chocolate mousse, carrot cake slices and miniature chocolate eggs - for up to date menus, see here.

With Great John Street having such a strong reputation when it comes to afternoon tea, I have to admit that I was a little sceptical about King Street Townhouse - could they really live up to my expectations?

Before our visit, I'd heard mixed reviews, with some people praising the tea, whilst others were a little more non-plussed. However, from my experience, I can only give them praise. The menu itself was incredibly well balanced, with a good mix of textures, which included: cake, macarons, scones, mousse and pastry, offering something for everyone. The flavours were similarly impressive, with the Carrot Cake in particular offering a lovely sweet-yet-earthy flavour, which was delicious.

In terms of environment, the Tavern's lounge has many qualities which are comparable to Great John Street, with comfortable arm chairs and homely nicknacks decorating the room, making for a really lovely place to spend an afternoon. However, a main point of differentiation for me, is the lack of natural light, which was a little disappointing - especially with summer approaching.

That said, the hotel's central location is definitely to its advantage, sitting at the heart of Manchester's current Afternoon Tea hotspot, surrounded by other premium neighbours, The Hotel Gotham and Grand Pacific - the ideal excuse to take in two or even THREE teas in a day.

Overall, we were really impressed with the Kingstreet Townhouse and would recommend it to anyone looking to venture out for a spot of cake with the girls (or guys)

For prices and more information:

Have you ever visited the King Street Townhouse? What did you think?


Sunday, 4 March 2018

Afternoon Tea Mother's Day Gift Guide

In case you hadn’t noticed the influx of pink, florals and gin sets filling up the shelves on the high street, Mother’s Day is just around the corner (11th March, FYI). Nothing says “I love you” quite like tea and cake, so what better way to show the special woman in your life how much you care than with some afternoon tea-inspired goodies? Whether you’re looking for the perfect little something for your coffee queen or a bit of a tea adventure, our Mother’s Day gift guide has got you covered.

1. Clipper Organic Infusions | RRP £2.39 available to buy online here 
Florals, for Spring? Groundbreaking. If you did the flowers thing last year, maybe a floral tea could do just the trick? All made with pure ingredients and a clear conscience, Clipper's range of organic infusions and green teas are your go-to gift. Try Flower Power Infusion made with elderflower, hibiscus & limeflower or the wonderfully named, Calmer Chameleon Fusion with chamomile, honeybush & cinnamon which can be bought separately (20 bags per box) or as part of the Clipper's Tea Organic Infusions Sublime Selection which includes six different flavours presented in a neat gift box. 

2. Cake stand, teapot and teacup & saucer, Matalan | RRP from £4 to £10 available to buy online here 
If you fancy hosting your own Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, Matalan’s range of affordable teacups, teapots, cake stands and much more has everything you need to throw a party even the Hatter himself would be jealous of. Our favourite has to be this adorable gold polka-dot teapot but with pieces in the range starting from as little as £4 there’s something to suit every style and budget.

3. Elizabeth Shaw Luxury Biscuits | RRP £1.79 available to buy online here 
Tea and biscuits anyone? One is always better with the other so if tea is already on the cards why not try a selection of luxury biscuits from British chocolatier, Elizabeth Shaw. Choose from a variety of flavours including Raisin & Hazelnut, Coconut & Hazelnut, Raisin & Cocoa and Mint & Cocoa, topped with smooth milk or rich dark chocolate, available from all major UK supermarkets.

4. 'Queen of Caffeine’ bone china mug, Bespoke Verse | RRP £12 available to buy online here 
Most will tell you being a mother is the best job in the world but it’s also a busy one. So for those who like a good caffeine boost to kickstart the day, sip in style with this sweet bone china mug from Bespoke Verse. The website specialises in a range of poetry-themed gifts and homeware including a rather brilliant “Ode to Poldark” mug which we might have to steal for ourselves (sorry mum!). 

5. Personalised teacup and saucer, Find Me A Gift | RRP £14.99 available to buy online here 
The folks at Find Me A Gift have got Mother’s Day sorted with a dedicated gift section but we’ve done the searching for you (you're welcome) and our favourite has to be this personalised cup and saucer. Make mum the perfect breakfast in bed complete with a brew that comes decorated with your own personal message and mini cupcake print. Plus you can complete the set with a matching teapot. Beats any old card, don’t you think! 

6. Taste Tripper | RRP £19.50 (one person) or £35 (two people) available to buy online here
If you want to try something different, then this little yellow envelope may just have the answer. Taste Tripper takes you on a tour of some of London’s best cafes, bars and boutiques with a range of curated Explorer Packs created by people who just really love food. The Central London Explorer Pack includes four coffees, one tea and three chocolates to collect across Notting Hill, Chelsea, Soho and Covent Garden, plus recipes, fun facts and a map to help you navigate your guided taste tour. Get the two person pack and make a day of it!

What are some of your Mother’s Day afternoon tea-themed gift suggestions? Let us know in the comments and join in the conversation on Twitter and Instagram.

Photography: Caroline
Words: Laura
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