Sunday, 29 November 2015

Afternoon Tea Review - the Wolseley

Afternoon Tea Review - The Wolseley, £25.50
The Wolseley is a high-end café on Piccadilly, in between Fortnum  Mason and The Ritz.  It describes itself as 'a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition.  It has a good reputation, especially for breakfast and brunch, so we were looking forward to going there for afternoon tea. 
Inside, it is a beautiful room, with high ceilings, pillars and balconies.  It was very busy, there wasn't a single empty table in sight when we arrived.  This may have been why we had to wait nearly 20 minutes before anyone took our order.  Not a great start.
The tea selection was small, with only 8 teas available and all but two of them were black.  Caroline had the Earl Grey, Charlotte had the Green and Mo had the Afternoon Blend.  They were all loose leaf and all decent quality, although the Green tea had a strange, almost smoky taste to it which wasn't very pleasant.  We eventually got some hot water when we asked for it, although it wasn't much and the waiter didn't leave the pot, so we could have done with more.  Overall, this was disappointing. 19/30
There were five sandwiches per person: smoked salmon; egg mayonnaise; cucumber and mint; cream cheese and celery on tomato and pepper bread; and chicken with tarragon.  The sandwiches were all on different breads, although none of it was listed on the menu and we weren't told what all of them were.  The fillings were sparse, especially the cream cheese, and none of us could taste mint with the cucumber.  The chicken and cream cheese sandwiches had very strong flavours, while the cucumber and egg mayonnaise had barely any taste at all.  19/30
There were two fruit scones per person with strawberry jam and clotted cream.  They were very good, some of the best scones we've had, and were kept warm with a cloche on top of them.  It was a pity there weren't any plain ones though (one woman next to us took the sultanas out of hers), or another choice of jam.  19/30
The cakes consisted of battenberg, a chocolate opera cake, a pistachio and apricot layer cake, a lemon meringue éclair, a fig and frangipane tart and vanilla cheesecake.  There wasn't one of each per person, so we had to negotiate over the ones we wanted and halve some of them, finally ending up with three each, which we felt was quite poor.  The chocolate cake was very good but the battenberg and tart were tasteless, while the pistachio and apricot cake tasted strongly of almonds.  They didn't even look appetising, with lots of pink and green, although there was a good variety of styles.  18/30
Overall, we were very unimpressed with the food, and it was only made worse by the appalling service.  Every time we asked for something it took ages to arrive, and we even had to ask three people for the bill before we managed to pay.  We're not really sure why this happened, because even though they were busy there were an awful lot of staff visible.  In addition, we found this expensive for what you get and didn't find it good value for money at all.  Essentially, this is a beautiful place and probably great for a Sunday brunch but don't bother with the afternoon tea.

Pros                                                         Cons
Beautiful place                                    Awful service
Very good scones                               Small tea selection

                                                                  Poor cakes and sandwiches



5 out of 10

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Afternoon Tea Review - Bea's of Bloomsbury

 Afternoon Tea Review - Bea's of Bloomsbury, £19

We had heard a lot of good things about Bea's of Bloomsbury.  They describe themselves as having a "casual, no-frills take on Afternoon Tea" which sounded inviting.   

First impressions were pretty favourable.  It's a small cafe and was very busy  but the staff were  friendly and attentive.  The cakes on the counter looked good too.

The teas were from Jing's range - not a large selection but good quality.  Mo had Assam, Charlotte, Green Gunpowder and Caroline, Vanilla Black. The tea was well brewed and there was plenty of it with hot water top-ups offered.  20/30

The sandwiches were all  baguette type rolls which were very chewy.  There were 3 fillings; cream cheese with nuts; mozzarella, caramelised onion and lettuce; and parma ham with cheddar - one of each per person. All cheesy and all sadly bland. It seemed an odd selection, especially as they offer many other types of sandwich in the café, but we weren't at any point offered a choice.  They were generally very disappointing. 10/30

The scones were a bit better - they had a good texture and were a decent size, though there was only one each.  The raspberry jam was very good but the cream was a bit solid (probably needed to have been taken out of the fridge sooner). 17/30

The selection of cakes seemed a little odd,  There was a  passionfruit marshmallow, 3 types of cupcake - vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter and chocolate - a meringue, 2 different types of brownie and a blondie (basically another brownie).  This didn't offer much variety and, as with the sandwiches, there was a much greater selection at the counter.  The marshmallow was very good but the cupcakes were stodgy and overly sweet and the brownies were.....brownies.  Again, we weren't offered a choice of cupcakes, despite the wide variety at the counter, so initially got two (peanut butter and coffee) that only Caroline would eat, and had to ask to swap.  16/30

Having heard so many good things about Bea's, to say we were disappointed is an understatement.  A 'no-frills' afternoon tea is all very well, but as you can see from the photo, this one didn't even look appetising, it was mostly various shades of brown, which is possibly why this is the only photo we took.  The sandwiches and cakes were both extremely dull and lacking in variety, which was made stranger by the amount of options clearly available at the counter.  Added to that, the place is small and noisy.  We were constantly being bumped into by people going past, and honestly couldn't wait to get out of there.  The only up side was the lovely staff, who were very helpful and accommodating.  Overall, not a good place for afternoon tea, you'd be better stopping here for a cake or a quick lunch.

Pros                                                         Cons
The staff                                                Sandwiches were chewy and bland
Tea selection okay for a cafe         Lack of choice

                                                                  Noisy and uncomfortable


5 out of 10

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Afternoon Tea Review - The Chesterfield Mayfair

Afternoon Tea Review - The Chesterfield Mayfair, Charlie and the Chesterfield afternoon tea - £34.50
The Chesterfield Mayfair is a luxury hotel in an 18th century townhouse just off Berkley Square.  We were invited along by the manager to have a look around the hotel and try their afternoon tea, which has a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme.  We don't often go for complimentary afternoon teas, as we are very honest in our reviews and we're always a bit worried that we won't like the tea!  However, The Chesterfield has an excellent reputation, and it has been on our list of places to visit for some time, so we were pleased to have the opportunity to see what it's like.

First of all, we were shown around the rooms.  The Chesterfield has a mixture of individual and corporate clients, and has a variety of rooms on offer, all with a range of amenities and free internet access.  The rooms we saw were all gorgeous, and surprisingly quiet for a hotel in Central London. 
Afternoon tea is served in their conservatory, which is prettily decorated in green and white.  Gluten Free and Vegetarian afternoon teas are offered as standard on the menu, which was nice to see.  To start with, we each had a small bottle of "fizzy lifting drink" with popping candy in, which was a fun start to the tea, and started the theme straight away.  We also had a glass of rose champagne, an optional extra, which adds £7 to the price of the tea.

 We were given the menus and told that we could try as many teas as we liked, and have refills of the food.  The tea selection wasn't large but included Oolong, green teas, herbal teas and a flowering tea.  They had also had a special Willy Wonka chocolate tea, which Caroline chose to try.  Mo had the Assam and Charlotte started with the Oolong, then finished with the flowering tea.  All of the teas were lovely, and the flowering one was very light and refreshing at the end of the meal.  We were surprised by the Willy Wonka tea, as we've all had chocolate teas before and been unimpressed, but this one had quite a subtle chocolate taste that mixed well with the black tea.  All our teas were served in different teapots, so we had no trouble telling them apart, and the pots were placed on side tables next to us to leave room on the table for the cake stand.  Overall, we were very pleased with our teas.  27/30
There were 5 sandwiches to choose from - egg mayonnaise, ham with cheese and chutney, smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese, and chicken with almonds and grain mustard mayonnaise.  There were also vegetarian and gluten free options listed on the menu.  The sandwiches were all on different breads (we particularly liked the basil bread with the egg), and the chicken ones were cut into circles and coated on the sides with slivers of almond.  They were all well-filled and very good quality, especially the smoked salmon.  26/30
There was a fruit scone and a chocolate scone with chocolate chips each, along with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  The chocolate one was a nice change, and we generally liked it, although Charlotte found it a bit dry without the cream.  They were medium size and both types of scone had a good flavour, however the outsides were really crunchy, which gave them a strange texture we didn't particularly like.  24/30
The cakes looked beautiful, and we really liked the addition of a Wonka bar, which was chocolate and puffed rice.  We also had a golden egg of dark chocolate filled with fruit puree, a blueberry macaron, a fruit tart, a bubblegum flavoured eclair, a layered lemon opera cake and an Oompa Loompa cupcake, which really looked like an Oompa Loompa with its swirl of green icing.  There was a particularly good variety and they were all very well made.  Although we couldn't generally agree on them, this was because of personal preference rather than any problem with them.  Charlotte's favourite was the golden egg, which was Caroline's least favourite because she doesn't like dark chocolate.  Her favourite was the Wonka bar, which was a bit too sweet for Mo.  However, we had no problems finding things we liked, and we definitely had plenty.  26/30
To end the afternoon tea, you are given an everlasting gobstopper and get to choose a golden ticket/envelope out of a hat, which will give you a prize the next time you come to Chesterfield for tea.  
Overall, we feel that this is the best themed afternoon tea we've been to.  They have put a lot of effort into incorporating elements of the story into their food and presentation, and it works really well.  It's a theme that will appeal to all ages, which isn't always true of a classic afternoon tea.  For any fans of the book, this tea is a must.
The Chesterfield change their afternoon teas 2-3 times a year, and will be offering a seasonal one for the Christmas period, so the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed tea won't be available after the 22nd of November.  We would have no hesitation in going for a different one though, as the standard of the food, the atmosphere and the service were all very high.  We'd go as far as to say this is the best service we've had so far.  The waiters were friendly, knowledgeable, very attentive and explained everything well.  We overheard them giving the same explanations and standard of service to other tables, so we know it had nothing to do with us being there to review the tea.  It would be a great one for a special occasion, and as such is good value, as we felt it rated very highly among the big London hotels, and has the advantage of being slightly cheaper than many of them.

Pros                                                         Cons
Good quality food                             Tea Selection wasn't extensive
Well executed theme                       Errr.........
Excellent service          


9 out of 10

P.S The Chesterfield are currently offering a Gin and Tonic experience in their bar, where the staff will go through different types of gin with you and show you the different botanicals.  If you're a gin lover, this looks great!


Monday, 10 August 2015

Afternoon Tea Review - Harriet's Tearooms, Cambridge

Afternoon Tea Review - Harriet's Tearooms, Cambridge - £16.95 for the Special Afternoon Tea
On a cold and rainy Summer's (allegedly) day, we went to Cambridge for a day out and stopped at Harriet's Tearooms for afternoon tea.  Luckily, we had booked in advance as the place was packed.  It's in the centre of Cambridge, and very popular as both a tea room and a bakery.  Plus, on a rainy day, its frontage looked cosy and inviting.

The menu had a choice of different afternoon teas, and you could ask for Vegetarian or Gluten Free options.  We all went for the Special Afternoon Tea, as the description matched what we would consider a traditional tea.  There was a cheaper option that came with a slice of cake instead of a variety of patisserie cakes, and there was also the option to add champagne or prosecco. 

The tea menu wasn't extensive but was fairly good considering the type of place.  There was a decent selection of black teas, as well as a few green, rooibos and herbal teas.  Caroline had the Russian Caravan; Mo had the Special Blend; Honorary Tea Lady Dave had the Assam; and Charlotte had the Green Jasmine.  The teas were okay but nothing special.  They came in metal pots which inevitably get very hot so we all had to wait for a bit before we could touch them.  We did get hot water when we asked for it, but because they were so busy, we had to wait quite a long time before it appeared.  We did get refills though, so all had plenty of tea. 21/30

The sandwiches selection consisted of Smoked Salmon, Cucumber and Cream cheese, Chicken and Egg mayonnaise all on plain white bread.  The fillings for all the sandwiches were nice, and the Chicken was particularly good, but the fillings were a bit erratic, with a few sandwiches only partly filled.  There were no refills and we didn't really expect any, but it would have been nice to have a 5th type of sandwich for the only savoury course (or maybe just more generous fillings).  17/30

We had one plain and one fruit scone each, with raspberry jam and a pot of cream per person - much better than having to share!  The scones were a decent size and tasted fresh and homemade.  Unusually, this was our favourite course.  24/30

Considering Harriet's is also a bakery, we should have had some amazing cakes, but we realised when we were leaving that the cakes aren't specially made for the afternoon tea, but are dependent on what they have left at the counter.  This meant that instead of a nice variety, we had one small orange mousse-filled choux with a chocolate curl between two people, one brownie per person, and 3 different types of cheesecake between two.   One pair also had a macaron to share.  The varieties of cheesecake (as far as we could tell) included toblerone, raspberry, lemon and lime, mango, and brownie.  All the cakes looked great, and were well made but we were disappointed with the selection. 18/30

Harriet's is clearly very popular.  With its traditional style, and waitresses in the old-fashioned black dresses with white aprons, we can imagine it would be a great place for any tourists who want to visit an authentic British tearoom (although it actually opened in 2012).  Their popularity is a bit of a problem though, as it affects the quality of their afternoon tea and means that the atmosphere is more that of a cafe than a tearoom.  The noise of the shop area, with people coming and going, made it very difficult to hear the music they were trying to play.  The staff were nice but it was hard to get their attention, and they were so busy that nothing arrived quickly and we occasionally had to ask twice for things.  It also means you really need to book in advance unless you're prepared to wait a while for a table.  The food was decent but at £17, it's fairly average value for money, so you might be better off just going there for a cup of tea and slice of cake.  Definitely not a place for a special occasion but nice for a rainy afternoon.

Pros                                                                              Cons
Traditional                                                                Noisy
Homemade scones                                                 Poor cake selection
Plenty of tea                                                              Sandwiches weren't filled well



7 out of 10

Monday, 25 May 2015

Afternoon Tea Review - The Bull's Head, Chislehurst

The Bull's Head, Chislehurst - A Most Traditional Afternoon Tea, £15

The Tealadies and Honorary Tealady Dave went to Chislehurst for a day out.  It's accessible from several mainline stations, and took roughly 40mins to get there from Victoria.  Chislehurst is a pretty village in Kent that has its own tourist attraction - Chislehurst Caves - which were used for shelter during World War II.  We spent an hour being taken round on a guided tour, before making our way to The Bull's Head for afternoon tea.
The Bull's Head is a Young's pub which has hotel accommodation, space for weddings, a restaurant, a bar, garden and tearooms.  The restaurant and tearooms are newly done, so they have only just started serving afternoon tea.  There are three options available - A Most Traditional Afternoon Tea (£15), A Most Unusual Afternoon Tea (£20) which comes with a Hendrick's gin cocktail, or A Most Decadent Afternoon Tea (£23) which comes with a glass of Champagne.  Charlotte went for the Traditional, and the other three chose the Unusual Afternoon tea.

The choice of teas wasn't extensive, but we wouldn't expect a large range considering the type of venue - four black teas, one of which was flavoured, one green, a rooibos and 3 herbal.  However, they were all loose leaf and sourced from a local tea provider, the Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company.  They even had their own speciality Bull's Head Blend.  Mo chose the blend, Charlotte had the China Green, Dave had the Lapsang Souchong and Caroline went for the Blue Lady - a flavoured black tea named after the Blue Lady Ghost which haunts the village in Kent where the tea company are based.  The teas were excellent, we were all really impressed with them.  The Lapsang was very smoky, the green tasted very fresh and the Blue Lady was a lovely floral tea.  They were all well brewed, and didn't get bitter towards the end of the pot.  We had hot water to top the pots up, and were offered refills of the tea.  26/30

There were five sandwiches per person - Smoked salmon, Cheddar and Branston pickle, Egg mayonnaise, Ham and mustard and Coronation chicken.  Quite simple sandwiches, no interesting breads or unusual combinations but they were all very good.  The fillings were tasty and plentiful, and there were a couple of different breads, which were nice and fresh.  There were no refills but five sandwiches is a good number, and the amount of filling in them meant that we weren't left feeling we could have done with more.  The only issue we had here is that one of us doesn't eat red meat and there didn't appear to be a substitute (e.g. cucumber), so ended up with 3 cheese sandwiches.  If you're vegetarian, it might be worth mention this when you book.  Overall though, we enjoyed the sandwich course.  24/30

There were two medium sized scones per person, one fruit and one plain.  They were served with clotted cream, strawberry jam and morello cherry jam.  The cream was room temperature, so spreadable, and we had no problem getting some more.  The scones were nice, a little bit floury but it wasn't that noticeable once you put on the jam and cream.  They were served warm and on a separate plate, as they didn't fit on the cake stand.  The jams were nothing special, they were miniature, hotel breakfast style jams but it was nice to have two flavours.  21/30

We had several small cakes per person - a small jam and coconut sponge, a miniature blueberry tea loaf, a macaron of various flavours, a miniature layered gateau (either blueberry or coffee and chocolate), a chocolate topped bakewell tart, and a miniature apricot tart.  They all looked very pretty, and there was a good variety of petits fours.  The sponge cakes were well made, the macarons and gateaux were particularly good and they were all a nice size.  It was a good amount, and none of us felt that we wanted more.  It was definitely the best cake course we've seen in comparably priced afternoon teas.  25/30

The Hendrick's cocktail was also excellent.  It was a very summery cocktail that was light and refreshing.  It went well with the food and was nicely presented in a Hendrick's branded teapot and cups.  The Hendrick's teapot was markedly different from the other teapots, which was really helpful in not getting them mixed up!

The service was very good, the staff were friendly and helpful and brought everything quickly.  We also liked the setting and the relaxed atmosphere.  Even though the room was next to the beer garden, only partially divided from the restaurant and there was obviously a wedding reception in the room next door, none of these were noticeable and you really felt like you were in a tearoom rather than a back room of a pub.  The room isn't that big, so it's advisable to book in advance.  It's a shame the afternoon tea isn't available on a Sunday, as we can imagine them doing a roaring trade on Mother's day.   

The thing that really stood out about this afternoon tea was how much thought had been put into it.  The room was decorated with colours and furniture that helped it to feel light and airy.  There were also tea cup chandeliers, quotes about tea on the wall, pretty mismatched china and chairs that weren't overdone, and a central stand of cakes to tempt you.  All of it felt like the people behind it had put effort into making this a good afternoon tea in a lovely setting.  We particularly liked the fact they had sourced their tea from somewhere local, and had their own blend when it would have been so easy to go with the standard Twinings varieties.  Also, at £15 for the standard tea, we felt that this was good value for money for the amount and quality of what was included. 

Overall, we were very impressed with The Bull's Head.  It's a nice place for an afternoon with friend's or for a special occasion.  If you're in the area or you're looking for a day trip from London, then this is well worth a visit. 

Pros                                                                              Cons
Good, well-filled sandwiches                             Small selection of teas
Good quality tea from the local area               Not available on a Sunday
Excellent cakes                                                         



8.5 out of 10