Saturday, 26 March 2016

Afternoon Teas, Yes Please

I have some more delights to add to the Afternoon Tea and sweet treats reviews, which I began compiling a couple of years ago.  There are getting to be quite a few, so they've been re-ordered alphabetically by city / location.

Locations currently listed include Bekshire, Brighton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and London...Hopefully more to come in due course (or as an when I remember them!).

After a few dreadful experiences a few years ago with Afternoon Tea's purchased with online vouchers, I've made a decision never to do that for ones I plan to review so these should be top service for each establishment!

Top current choices are Sketch in London, Terre a Terre, Brighton, and Apex, Edinburgh.

Apex, Waterloo Place, Edinburgh - all the stars!

The Vineyard Hotel, Nr. Newbury, Berkshire
Afternoon Tea £36, or £50 with Champagne.
Traditional and a tad pricey, but a quiet, remote spot with excellent service. (Visited Summer 2010)

Forbury Hotel, Reading, Berkshire
Cream Tea £9, Afternoon Tea from £22
I'm a regular here.  Well, maybe regular is a bit strong.  But this place never disappoints.  Wonderful service, and reasonably priced.  There's no rush - great for catching up with pals for a special occasion.  Probably the best fruity scones I've had in a long time! (Visited June 2006, June 2011, and September 2014)

Englefield Stores and Tea Rooms, Englefield Estate, Nr. Theale, Berkshire
Located round the back of the old Post Office and stores, this traditional, quaint and wonderfully charming tea room is within the Englefield Estate Village on the outskirts of Reading.  I've not been for a few years, but was a regular when I lived and worked nearby - often popping in with colleagues for hearty lunchtime jacket potato and a tasty slice of homemade cake.  It looks as though it has been recently refurbished, but i'll wager the recipes are still as good as they always were. Strictly speaking, there is no Afternoon Tea option, but you could create your own from the menu.  Seasonal opening times within outdoor seating in good weather. (Visited many a time during 2010 and 2011)

Terre a Terre, Brighton
Afternoon Tea from £24, or £31 including fizz / cocktail (GF and Vegan options available)
I am glad that Brighton is near the top of this list, because this was, hands down, one of the best Afternoon Tea experiences I have ever had.  For those who are super-trad Afternoon Tea die-hards, this isn't the place for you.  But, for me, Afternoon Tea is as much a social event, as it is an edible one and experiments to broaden the boundaries of afternoon tea should not be dampened!  One Asian inspired savoury plate, comprising three individual taster delights, was followed by two delicious and beautifully presented sweet treats with sorbets and infused creams, and the more traditional fresh scone with cream and jam to round things off.  This is a vegetarian restaurant, but for Afternoon Tea meat isn't really essential.  Gluten-Free is also high on the agenda here and there are exquisite alternatives, which were as considered and flavoursome as their glutenous counterparts! Very reasonably priced, perhaps the simple slightly dated decor doesn't do the food justice, but that is absolutely nit-picking.  If you're in the Brighton area, try this place, if not for afternoon tea then for some other plate that caught our eye from afar.  Ask for a table near the garden to take advantage of the natural daylight. (Visited September 2017)

Black Medicine, Edinburgh
Cream Tea £5
This is really just a great cafe and I opted for scones, butter and jam - wonderfully driftwood interior, with lots of nooks to sit away for long afternoons whilst working or reading.  Very cosy, laid back, and friendly. (Visited March 2016)

Afternoon Tea £15
This is the dream.  Simple and really well considered, great service.  Lovely fresh sandwiches, and an eye watering amount of sweet treats - gravity defying marshmallow, fruit tartlets, little profiteroles, fruit scones, carrot cake, fresh raspberries and strawberries, and a pot of warm dipping chocolate on the.  Excellent value for money and a glamorous setting for a special occasion or if you're passing by after a hectic Princes Street shopping marathon. (Visited March 2016)

Cotton Rake, Glasgow
Cream Tea from £5
Cotton Rake is one of my favourite places, I think, anywhere.  I was introduced to it by a friend in Glasgow, when they used to have a little shop in Partick, which is now closed.  But the Great Western Road branch seems to be doing a roaring trade.  I popped in one lazy weekday afternoon for a delicious, and generously sized scone with whipped vanilla cream a raspberry cream.  The second best thing about this place is the music - that particular day I struggled to vacate the table because the r n' b hits just kept coming!  They don't strictly do Afternoon tea, but they have a a great selection of cakes and pastries, sweets and savouries, to eat in or take out - great tea and coffee too, so why not construct your own!  The Financiers are particularly wonderful. (Visited Summer 2014, March and April 2016, July 2016)

Cup Tea Lounge, Glasgow
Cream Tea Afternoon Tea from £22
This was a massive disappointment.  I'd read that the original branch was west-end and that filled me with confidence but the city lounge was such a let down. The setting has the potential to be beautiful - set within an original tea-room tile clad interior - it really is stunning.  But the furniture (except for the bar) completely clashes, and that ruins the atmosphere. It's also pricey - but you get your money's worth - the Afternoon Tea comes as three course, with an Amuse-bouche to start, which, quite frankly, tasted like warmed up shop-bought soup, and then a course of savouries followed by a course of sweets.  The concept is nice but it's far too much food to manage, some of the savouries were stale and the sweets wooden tower was actually dusty.  Not very impressed - I won't be returning! (Visited March 2017)

Afternoon Tea £13.95, with Prosecco £17.50, 
Novel and relatively traditional afternoon tea served in a very traditional Scottish tea room.  Located above the Pub below, the atmosphere and interior of this tea room makes for a hearty pit-stop for locals and tourists alike, but don't be put off - it's tucked away from the main thoroughfares so often quiet - ask for a table in the main dining room to avoid being in the Hallway!  (Visited Summer 2011 and April 2016)

Singl-end, Glasgow
Cake and Coffee from £5 (GF options available)
Large informal cafe situated in the basement of a former printing press building, close to the Art School in the Garnet Hill area.  Afternoon Tea is not on the menu, but there was a huge array of wonderful looking cakes, sweet bites and bakes on offer, including many GF options, so this place warrants a review.  Aside from cake, breakfast here is also excellent and it's location, just off the beaten track, means it is pretty quite and a table is often easy to get! (Visited Spring 2016, multiple times)

Cream Tea £9.50, Afternoon Tea from £15.50
This is a modest Afternoon Tea serving but perfect for a break from the shops (or art) if you're passing by! (Visited March 2013)

Cream Tea £7, High Tea £15, Champagne High Tea from £45
Serving traditional High Tea, Cream Tea and Champagne options, this is a cosy and well established tea room, but it relies heavily on the tourism generated by the Botanical Gardens, just over the road - it's a bit of a tourist trap. (Visited August 2012)

The Pantry at Brasserie 108, Marylebone, London
Afternoon Tea from £28
This is, hands down, my favourite Afternoon Tea haunt of late.  Tucked away down a quiet Marylebone lane in Marylebone, you can't go wrong.  The unequivocally modern-french decor, together with the personable and friendly service makes this place truly special - whether you're just passing or celebrating.  The well considered and manageable menu is also available Gluten Free - and you wouldn't be able to guess the difference - there's no compromise on quality! (Visited June and September 2015)

Cream Tea £6.50, Afternoon Tea from £18.50
The setting of this place is fantastic!  Entry to The Wallace Collection is free and Afternoon Tea in the glorious courtyard is a bonus.  Great place for a date or birthday outing. (Visited May 2013 or 2014, I forget...)

Sketch, Mayfair, London
Afternoon Tea £58, with Champagne £72
Well, well, well - this one makes it onto the top choices list for a very good reason.  The decor and atmosphere is excellent - open-plan continental style dining room with plush interior make for a unique backdrop to your afternoon tea, which in itself, is fantastic! Plenty of food, exquisite sweet delights, and wonderful setting which, although a little worn, is likely to be refurbished as interior tastes change.  Very expensive but completely worth it for a special occasion. (Visited May 2016)

The Tearoom at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond-upon-Thames, London
Tea and Cake from £5
Strictly speaking, this place doesn't serve Afternoon Tea, but they have a great selection of cakes, tea, and coffee, and who wouldn't want all of those things whilst sat inside the greenest of greenhouses on the banks of the Thames.  Quaint and glorious. (Visited Summer 2016)

(now closed)
Until it's closure a couple of years ago, the Paramount bar and restaurant at the top of centre point had been an absolute gem of a place to catch up with pals over tea and sweet treats, at a reasonable price.  But the building is being developed and the irony of Centre Point being converted into luxury apartments should not be lost on anyone. (Visited October 2013)

On the hit-list and still to come...

The Salon at Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow
Claridges, day
The Ritz, Mayfair...the next day
Crazy Bear, Beaconsfield...maybe for a birthday
Aqua Shard, up the Shard...for the views