Review: Vegan Afternoon Tea @ Café Forty One, Kensington

I’ve already waxed lyrical this summer about my love of afternoon tea, but I’m not quite finished. I think this year I’ve managed to fix in more afternoon tea treats than any other, and I’m so not mad about that – and it means I’ve been able to share some of my favourite spots around London.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea_zps3srlnzco.jpgToday, though, is my thoughts on a fully vegan afternoon tea. I’m not vegan, and don’t particularly plan on becoming one any time soon, but I love trying plant-based alternatives and this was no different. I was really excited to try some different finger sandwiches, and as Café Forty One is advertised as London’s only vegan patisserie I could not wait to try the cakes out.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  12_zpsjrrvj3zy.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  13_zps21wjq7p3.jpgWe had the beautiful dining room pretty much to ours midweek, and it was so peaceful – though a little dark which was a huge shame as it was a beautiful day. We were presented with two beautiful stands of goodies for our tea – suitably allergy-free (given I’m allergic to tomatoes, and my sister is to citrus we aren’t easy customers!).

The alcohol-free bubbles were lightly flavoured with pomegranate and the perfect start. It definitely made the whole experience a little more luxurious.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  9_zpsqixoen6v.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  1_zpsztfe0wwc.jpgFirst up was the sandwiches. The savouries are always my favourite part of an afternoon tea and these definitely didn’t disappoint. My favourite was the tofu with chutney – almost cheesy and just so perfectly balanced. We also really loved the pesto sandwich, always a winner whether vegan or not! The only one which we didn’t really rate was the ‘egg’ alternative – the flavour was great (surprisingly eggy) but the texture too soft. Definitely needed to be on some kind of seeded bread.

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  11_zps48buge1w.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  6_zpshurfnqce.jpg photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  8_zpstqhl3oj3.jpgObviously scones are pretty much essential to any afternoon tea, and I was worried I’d really miss the clotted cream. I’m a cream first kinda girl so it almost melts into the scone and so coconut cream was a real change for me – it pretty much all melted away. However it was so delicious, adding a totally new flavour dimension to the fluffy scones. The jam was pretty much just crushed raspberries so super fruity and sharp, they were delicious!

And now we come to the cakes and I have to say on the whole I was super, super disappointed. With the restaurant being paraded as a vegan patisserie I am a little shocked at the standard of these, as I felt pretty much all of them were dry, not particularly flavourful and (in the cake of the mini-loaf cake thing) almost stale. In fact the only enjoyable one was a little trifle pot – now that I could have eaten five or so of!

 photo Cafe Forty One Vegan Afternoon Tea  4_zps1yxzrnnc.jpgI don’t want to end on a bad note, because I loved the scones and sandwiches – but yep, this afternoon tea didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It’s certainly worth a visit, particularly if you’re looking for a completely vegan environment. But the cake part needs some work.

Have you tried a vegan afternoon tea? Did it live up to your expectations?

Eating Out: The London Afternoon Tea Guide

Regular readers will know that I just love an afternoon tea – I love it for the chance it gives to sit down and have a really good catch up. The chance to eat lots of little bits. The chance to really enjoy different speciality teas. In order to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (running from 12-18th August 2019) I’ve put together a little guide of London afternoon teas I’ve enjoyed so far.

 photo Afternoon Tea Guide_zpsmhqyybfm.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 1_zpslgodecrs.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 16_zpsh6izs6ka.jpgThe Boozy One

And my favourite (so far)! Now rebranded as Lyanness, the bar at Sea Containers hotel on the Southbank serves up an afternoon tea based around cocktails. When we visited the quantity of alcohol was perfect matched with the delicious food, and it was just a glorious few hours. This would make an absolutely perfect hen do spot, and it’s definitely somewhere I’d revisit for afternoon tea. In fact I’m thinking of going for my birthday later in the year!

The Vegan One

I’ve not yet done a full review (not gifted), but back in June I treated my sister to afternoon tea at a vegan-only patisserie and cafe – Cafe Forty One at La Suite West in Kensington. Whilst the patisserie side disappointed us slightly, the sandwiches and scones really were excellent. We loved the non-alcoholic fizz too! If you want a fully vegan option in Instagrammable surroundings this is definitely one to go for…

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 10_zps5ug1lwgz.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 17_zpsbahrzabr.jpgThe Bargain One [gifted]

Until I was invited to review I wasn’t aware Whittard had a tea bar in Covent Garden, let alone served afternoon tea at a rather bargain price – yes the full afternoon tea is £30pp but you can get the Grocer’s Set (£45 and easily serves two) or opt for scones and sandwiches or scones and cakes for £15-£17. Not bad at all, and it really is an oasis of calm in that area of London! We definitely enjoyed our Grocer’s Tea, the sausage rolls were absolutely delicious!

 photo Hide Afternoon Tea  16_zpsonulolps.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  1_zpsq4osl1gr.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  2_zpsyq7i48jo.jpg photo Hide Afternoon Tea  3_zpsoq1fpufw.jpgThe Michelin-Starred One

Oh, I did love the afternoon tea at Hide Ground! Not only did I get to stare at that iconic staircase but it really was an indulgent and high-class experience. Some really specialty teas were available (this place kick-started my Milk Oolong obsession) and the food was just so delicious. Definitely the best savourites I’ve ever enjoyed with an afternoon tea, the coddled egg was wonderful, the cheese puff sublime and the sandwiches spot on. We even got candyfloss!

The Ones Outside of London

I’ve also been lucky enough to sample a couple of afternoon teas outside of London – because why not! The atmosphere at Beckworth Emporium (Northants) might not be that relaxing as the venue is now super-popular, but I’ve never had a bad experience there. We enjoyed the Chocolate Afternoon Tea at Whittlebury Hall (also Northants), although a mix-up meant we never got the choc-chip scones I was so looking forward to. Just off the M1 is Catthorpe Manor, which is where I had one of my hen-dos – at £15pp this was a bargain and a really beautiful spot. And of course there’s the classic Tiny Tim’s in Canterbury. I’m not the hugest fan of this place to be honest, I don’t find the scones to be well made at all and it’s overpriced for the quality, but it is a must-do Canterbury experience!

And that’s my quick little round-up. I’m hoping to squeeze in another afternoon tea before the end of the month, and I’m sure I’ll keep sampling what London has to offer. Now the only question is…

Where do you recommend for Afternoon Tea?

Review: Afternoon Tea at the Whittard Tea Bar, Covent Garden [invited]

Afternoon Tea is one of my all-time favourite treats. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours with a friend; catching up on all the gossip over plenty of yummy treats. I try to have one at least once a year with my best girlies, and it’s also something I like to treat my mum to. It’s the perfect present for a loved one– a lovely experience for them, some quality time and I get cake too!

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea_zpsi1jthwpj.jpgWith that in mind what better way was there to celebrate National Best Friends Day (8th June) that with afternoon tea?! Whittard of Chelsea kindly offered me and my best friend an afternoon tea experience at their Tea Bar in Covent Garden and so this was an extra special trip, as I was introducing my bestest friend to his first ever afternoon tea experience. Yep, I’m not entirely sure how my husband has known me for so long and never been for afternoon tea before!

Located in busy Covent Garden, I’d never even thought to visit the Tea Bar before – Covent Garden is an area I truly try to avoid as a Londoner as it’s just too busy and crowded for me! However this little spot really is a calming oasis. Hidden away downstairs in the piazza it was quiet, there wasn’t a queue for tables and it’s definitely somewhere to bear in mind if you need a spot to escape the crowds.

We had the choice between the Whittard Tea (a sweeter option priced at £30 per person, with sandwiches, scones and plenty of cakes each) or the Grocer’s Tea. As we both try and avoid eating *too* much sugar we went for the Grocer’s priced at £45 per set, which generously fed the two of us. The lack of scones also meant we avoided the age-old British argument of cream then jam versus jam then cream!

 

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The next choice was to select a tea. The menu has over 100 difference choices and so took a while to read through the menu! I’d say there was something for everyone, with green, fruit and plenty of black options too. I opted for the Black Tea with Rose, which I found very refreshing. The Whisky Tea my husband went for was also delicious, tasting almost milky. One thing we did note and appreciate was being told the right length of time to brew our tea and, crucially, being given somewhere to place the filter when brewing had finished. Nothing worse than a stewed cuppa!

We were also treated to big glasses of chilled Pimms spiked with black tea – it was oh so refreshing on a very hot afternoon, and I loved the added taste of the tea.

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 1_zpsbwyfuk38.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 5_zpsl353ulil.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 10_zps5ug1lwgz.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 17_zpsbahrzabr.jpgOur tiered display of treats soon arrived and we got stuck into the savoury pastries first, as these were served warm. The Grocer’s Tea comes with a choice of sausage rolls and a tart, as well as the usual finger sandwiches. It’s topped with four small sweet treats too, so it’s not all savoury!

The two sausage rolls we had were both delicious, and I’d struggle to pick a favourite. The Beef, Carrot & Horseradish was so much lighter than any other meaty sausage roll I’ve tried, but full of flavour. The Chicken & Mushroom was intensely savoury yet the mushrooms weren’t over-powering – evidently as my mushroom-hating bestie wasn’t complaining!

The tart certainly looked delicious, but as it came topped with tomatoes I left sampling this one to W. It’s a shame this wasn’t offered to be swapped out for another sausage roll given I’d mentioned my allergy, but I’m sure had I specifically asked it would have been…

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 21_zps4nztr2dp.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 20_zps3ur280yn.jpgSandwiches were a tad disappointing. The fillings were generous and delicious, but I felt the bread was a touch on the dry side, particularly the white bread. However it was a very hot day, which won’t have helped! Our favourites were the Coronation Chicken (after I’d picked out the sultanas!) and Salmon with Lemon Cream cheese. I definitely appreciated the crusts being removed too!

After a short pause it was time to share the cakes! I loved the little selection we were given, as everything was varied in taste and texture. The only slightly below-par one was the shortbread with cream, as it was a little soggy and bland. The others were pretty good though! I particularly loved the Passionfruit Tart, and the Brownie with Caramel and Pear was also delicious.

 photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 27_zpstojqs1yq.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 12_zpssuxuw1us.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 26_zps6rttb3gq.jpg photo Whittard Afternoon Tea 25_zpsmftvjyte.jpgAfter we’d finished we were given plenty of time to sit, chat and finish up our pots of tea. It’s this part of the afternoon tea experience I love the most; when you’re too full and enjoying each other’s company too much to move.

Eventually we heaved ourselves up and explored the other part of the Tea Bar – the shop! We were kindly offered the chance to each pick the other a gift, however my husband offered to combine the amounts so I could pick up the glass teapot I’d admired on our way in (he knows me so well!). We complimented that by choosing some loose leaf tea after much sniffing and comparing. I’m definitely looking forward to a cup of Milk Oolong and a cheeky slice of cake on a weekend afternoon…

*Whittard kindly invited us to join them in their Tea Bar for Afternoon Tea, and gifted us some items from their store. No money was paid as part of this collaboration and, as always, all opinions are my own!

Are you a fan of Afternoon Tea? How do you like to catch up with your friends?

Review: Wyld Cocktail-Based Afternoon Tea @ Dandelyan, Mondrian London

Up until recently I’ve shied away from the idea of enjoying an afternoon tea in London, because damn can those menus get expensive. However a promise of a fancy afternoon tea for my mum’s Christmas present but the pressure on and, after much research, I booked us in for the not-quite-so-traditional Wyld Tea at Dandelyan, in the ground floor of the Mondrian London hotel.

 photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 1_zpslgodecrs.jpgBased on the Southbank (the location is perfect for people-watching, particularly if you manage to get a window table), and with a lovely view of the River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral, Dandelyan is an award-winning cocktail bar. It’s also one of the lovliest places to spend a few hours. The area is full of comfortable sofas with their own tables, each slightly tucked away and private without loosing the buzz of the bar. We arrived at 1pm and it was nice and quiet (wonderful for the all-important Instagram shot) but it got quite busy from around 2pm onwards – so if you wanted a quieter afternoon tea I’d recommend booking for noon. Service was also wonderful – friendly without being pushy, attentive without being over-bearing.

Dandelyan offers 3 choices for afternoon tea – the ‘sober’ version coming with just a pot of tea, (£35) the champagne option (£45) and the Wyld Tea. At £55 per person the Wyld tea includes 4 cocktails each, a full pot of tea, as well as three plates of afternoon tea delights. It’s an inventive menu, with the delicious 1970’s inspired sweet and savoury treats having a subtle botanical influence throughout. The cocktails are also perfectly matched – I was concerned that as we enjoyed the food the cocktails would taste less and less delicious, but this was far from true. All the elements of the menu complemented each other perfectly.

We started with our first cocktail, the Fluff & Fold Royale. This was a short-style cocktail of Lime, Fresh Basil, Cacao Liqueur, Orange Bitters and Prosecco Served with Marshmallow and Pistachio Powder. Whilst it actually didn’t smell great at all, we found it delicious. The zing of the citrus and slight bitterness coming through really whetted our appetite. It was also nicely strong too – they certainly don’t skimp on alcohol measures!

Our choice of tea was served alongside the first cocktail. My mum, being the Northerner she is, went for the standard English breakfast tea which she said was delicious, although we did have to ask for sugar to be served alongside. I went with their Zest Tea, which was a fragrant blend of lemongrass and ginger. Light, tasty and delicious alongside the rest of the food and drink!

 photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 3_zpsjx4qhdoj.jpgOur savoury food course came next along with our second cocktail – the Knoll House Cup was a longer cocktail, served iced cold, made up of Martini Ambrato, Italicus, Creme de Melon and Cardamom. This was a delicious cocktail! Not sweet in the slightest, it was refreshing and very easily drinkable. And of course, the food matched up to the cocktails. We had a couple of different dishes due to our different allergies, but between us ate:

  • Scottish Smoked Salmon, Rock Samphire, Brown Shrimp, Candied Orange Butter Sandwich
  • Lyan Lager Braised Bacon Jam, Confit Suffolk Chicken Pin-wheel
  • Elderflower Compressed Cucumber, Burnt Herb Cream, Rocket Sandwich
  • Ham Hock & Piccalilli Vegetable Butter, Mustard Cress Sandwich
  • Mushroom Toast
  • Roasted Vegetable and Hummus Sandwich

All were slightly different variations on the more traditional elements of an afternoon tea, but all were delicious. It’s quite possible they’ve spoilt a more normal afternoon tea for me!

The Salmon sandwich was as fresh as can be, with the orange butter adding a luxurious layer of flavour. The shrimp added a bit of much-needed texture, although my mum did note that with it being a double-decker sandwich the texture of the smoked salmon was perhaps a bit overwelming.

It’s clear that top-quality ingredients are used here, and it was highly evident in the cucumber sandwich. Utterly delicious, it was a subtle combination of flavours that I could have eaten again and again. I love cucumber sandwiches anyway, but I’ll be looking to re-create the smoky and floral notes that Dandelyan managed to achieve.

I also really enjoyed the Ham with Piccalilli Butter. The ham was meaty and succulent, and the butter added just the right about of pickle-ness without taking over. Again something I’ll definitely look to recreate at home!

My only negative was the Mushroom Toast, which I don’t believe is a regular feature on the menu (it was replacing the Leek & Goat’s Cheese Rarebit, which sounds delicious but unfortunately neither of us are able to eat it!). The Mushrooms were gorgeous and well-flavoured, the toast crunchy. However it was impossible to eat in a lady-like fashion, with both of us rather inelegantly ending up with mushrooms in our laps…oops! I would have also liked the option of refills, as I’d have definitely eaten another one or two of those cucumber sandwiches!

 photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 17_zpslcwxku3x.jpgThe sweet courses were just as delicious, though first we were given a ‘palate cleanser’ cocktail which turned out to be our favorite of the afternoon. The Spotless Peach (Ketel One Vodka, RinQuinQuin, Off-Cut Cordial, and Chalk) is hands-down the best cocktail I’d even drank, and one I’d walk a thousand miles to have again. Sweet but not overly so, it was almost like a light and fruity white wine.

There’s no scones served with the afternoon tea at Dandelyan, which may disappoint purists. However I quite often find they are my least favourite part of the experience, as they are quite often stodgy (I’ve been spoilt with my mum’s scones!), and they are also super-filling. Here, you are served an exquisite slice of Blackcurrant & Lemon Verbena Battenberg Cake. The Lemon quarters are zingy, the Blackcurrent sharp and fruity. It was quite honestly like nothing I have eaten before – but something I’d certainly want to eat again. The cake was fresh and moist, the icing sweet without being cloying.

 photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 14_zpstulhewte.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 15_zpswskx3p2t.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 16_zpsh6izs6ka.jpg photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 26_zpsujxgo9oa.jpgThe pastry plate was just as delicious. We felt the only slightly lack-lustre option was the Pine Scented Baked Alaska with Berries, as the two flavours didn’t quite merge together as seamlessly as we’d hoped, with the berries being overly tart and the pine slightly too strong. The rest were wonderful.

The Earl Grey Chocolate Mousse & Candied Grapefruit was almost like a posh Jaffa Cake. Chocolatey and zingy, slightly bitter, wonderfully creamy. I loved it. My highlight was the Custard Tart, which was topped with a runny caramel. It was slightly nutty and one of the most delicious little desserts I’ve eaten in a while – although a harder set to the caramel might have made it slightly easier to eat! My mum’s favourite was the Rose Blancmange & Caraway Shortbread. The biscuit base was actually quite salty, which went perfectly with the sweet rose cream on top. A stunning set of pastries!

 photo Dandelyan Wyld Afternoon Tea 31_zpskm0cr8md.jpgWe finished with our final cocktail, a fruity number. The Bankside Swizzle was a sweet and tart combination of Bacardi Carta Oro, Aperol, Pineapple Cordial, Citrus, and Lemon Balm. We took our time to sip on this one, still catching up with each other.

The Wyld Afternoon Tea at Dandelyan might have been my first foray into luxury afternoon teas, but it won’t be the last! This would be the perfect option for a more relaxed hen party (indeed, there were two there whilst we were), but it was also the most wonderful spot for a mother-daughter date.

Are you an afternoon tea fan? Where would you recommend? 

Restaurant Review: An Alice-in-Wonderful Themed Afternoon Tea @ Alice & The Hatter, Herne Bay (Kent)

One of the things I look forward to is seeing my girls. Each month we meet up near one of our homes for a catch-up, usually involving a lot of tea and cake. We try to visit somewhere near as often as possibly, and recently we took a trip to Herne Bay to visit Alice & The Hatter.

This wonderland-themed tea room has its chequered floors, throne chairs, teacup stools, grassy nooks and even the food is themed with “open book sandwiches”, a vast tea selection, coffees, and handmade pastries and cakes. I have to say the large cakes looked amazing, so I know what I’ll head for next time I visit.

For our first visit, however, it had to be Afternoon Tea.

Sandwiches were some of the nicest I’ve even eaten – with the Chicken Pesto ones being moist, flavourful and completely addictive. I didn’t think too much of the Cream Cheese & Cucumber, as the cucumber was cut too thinly to provide any texture. My Ham & Cheese (without chutney) were generously filled, and the mini Bagel with Cream Cheese & Salmon was fresh and delicious. I found the Sausage Roll a little dry, but I’m not the biggest fan of them anyway!

Scones were good, if a little too big (I find big scones can suffer the fate of being a tad claggy). I had the Lemon & Poppyseed for which I was really grateful – it was something different, and the lemon flavour went perfectly with the clotted cream and strawberry jam.

The patisserie plate is where things got really exciting – but unfortunately for me it felt a little style over substance. The Drink Me potion reminded me of the Panda Pops we used to sneak as a child, bright blue, far too sweet and full of e-numbers. It gave me an instant headache if I’m honest! The little jam biscuit was tasty, though a little soft. The cupcake was good, moist and well-flavoured with a nice icing-cake ratio. The macaroon wasn’t great at all, with a bubbly matte finish and an overly soft texture. Finally ‘mousse’ – bright pink and purple, this was a gummy texture, far too sweet and just not good. A shame as the other plates on the stand had been lovely!

Would I go back to Alice & The Hatter? Certainly. I’d avoid the afternoon tea, but it’s still a lovely place to relax with a cuppa and a slice of cake!

Where else do you recommend for Afternoon Tea?

Recipe: Cheese Scones

As much as I love my mum’s classic scones, there’s something about the cheesy versions I just can’t resist. I like mine warm from the over (or zapped in the microwave), split and spread with an indecent amount of butter. I also enjoy them cold, split and filled with mustard and ham – a take on my favourite sandwich. Just typing this is making me hungry!

 photo Cheese Scones_zpszs4rfcac.png photo Cheese Scones 6_zps7wq1gfba.jpgI’m very definitely a savoury person. Sure, I love a slice of cake or a chocolate bar as much as the next person, but when I’m dreaming of food (more often than I care to admit!) it’s always the savoury options that get my tummy rumbling. A good Ploughman’s lunch, a steaming hot pasty, a plate of Welsh rarebit, I love a good hearty snack. I also can’t resist cheese straws, but perhaps that’s a recipe for another time…

The key with cheese scones is to not overload them with cheese, particularly when sprinkling the tops. Trust me, this is easier said that done! An overly cheesy scone won’t rise as well, so the final result will be a little heavy. Still delicious, but you wouldn’t want more than one – and where’s the fun in that?!

 photo Cheese Scones 2_zpsb6lzxnju.jpgThese cheese scones, made to my mum’s recipe (actually, she baked the photographed ones for our engagement party way back in August), are super cheesy without sacrificing the rise. They are also well-seasoned – I also like mine with a slight kick of spice from mustard and cayenne, though feel free to leave this out for a more classic flavour.

Ingredients

  • 8oz self raising flour
  • pinch each of salt, black pepper, mustard powder and cayenne pepper
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2oz butter
  • 4oz cheese, plus an extra 1oz for topping – a strong mature cheddar works well, but I can’t resist Red Leicester for scones
  • 80-90 ml milk, plus extra for glazing

 photo Cheese Scones 4_zpsevssaiyc.jpgSift together the flour, seasonings and baking powder until thoroughly combined. Cut the butter (make sure it is very cold) into cubes, place in the bowl and then rub in with your fingertips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Grate the cheese into the breadcrumb mixture and rub in until evenly distributed.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in enough milk to give a dough. Do not pour in all the milk at once as you may not need it all to get the right consistency – use a wooden spoon to stir in between additions, stopping just as the dough begins to come together. Chill the dough for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough to approximately 2cm thick on a floured surface. Cut out the scones and then place on a lined tray. Glaze with milk and sprinkle a little cheese on the top of each scone. Bake at 190C for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. If you prefer a crispier top, bake at 200C for crunchy out and soft inner. Serve warm with butter, or cold as the bread-replacement in a sandwich lunch.

 photo Cheese Scones 1_zpsiz8ryjh3.jpgNow I have an idea: a double-scone afternoon tea. A first course of a warm cheese scone, dripping with melted butter. Then a second course of the classic scone with jam and cream. Sounds perfect to me!

Ooh, I just noticed as I scheduled this – it’s exactly two years until our wedding! The almost-ten-months since we got engaged has flown by, so I’m hoping it continues to go as quickly!

Are you a fan of cheese scones?

Lifestyle: Chocolate Afternoon Tea at Whittlebury Hall

I love a good old fashioned Afternoon Tea, I’m a huge fan of chocolate – so it doesn’t get much better than a Chocolate Afternoon Tea. Add in a gorgeous spa hotel, comfy sofas, gossiping with my mummy and some Champagne and you’ve got a perfect way for me to while away a few hours.

 photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 7_zpsz7lz3oyv.jpgWith university and exams getting in the way, I shamefully realised in August that I hadn’t yet treated my mum to the lunch I promised her for Mother’s Day. Way back in March. Whoops! To rectify things I booked the Chocolate Afternoon Tea at Whittlebury Hall – this was the perfect treat to indulge our sweet teeth (tooths?) and spend some quality time together ahead of my move to London.

The afternoon tea setting was gorgeous. A large room full of sofas and comfy chairs, bookings are limited to avoid overcrowding and allowing tables to stay occupied for as long as possible. We were there for approaching three hours and never once felt rushed. We were also able to gossip away without feeling like we were disturbing nearby tables, perfect for a girly afternoon.

 photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 10_zps5dw8s04q.jpg photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 6_zpsvyazvkxa.jpg photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 5_zps0kim67zh.jpg photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 4_zpss5uo8z38.jpgThere was a bit of a mix-up with our afternoon tea – a not very chocolately one arrived, but we assumed it was fine so tucked in. It was only after we’d polished off the scones (me picking out the dried fruit, very classy) that we saw the actual chocolate tea being delivered to another table. We enquired to the most loveliest waiter who promptly refreshed our top layer of cakes and pastries to a chocolate one, offered us the chocolate chip scones (declined for fear of our waistlines) and poured us a complimentary glass of ‘apology’ champagne. Damn good service right there! The standard AT included a peach cream, mini Victoria sponge and many other dainty little bits.

Pots of tea were unlimited, myself having a malty Assam, and mum the good ol’English Breakfast. Both loose leaf, both with plenty of milk and sugar and extra pots of water provided. And very good tea it was too.

 photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 2_zpswxsq5vhj.jpg photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 3_zpsmt2rqjvr.jpgThe sandwiches were obviously made fresh, lovely soft bread and generous fillings. I was pleased to see the cucumber had been deseeded, which made the world of difference to what is usually quite a soggy sandwich. The salmon was fresh, though neither of us are the biggest fans of it. We also weren’t hugely taken with the ham and mustard; a combination I normally love, I found it a little sweet-tasting. And the best part of an Afternoon tea, for me, is the top plate so I didn’t want to fill up too quickly!

Scones were good, though being of the fruit variety I ended up picking at mine. Served warm, the cream melted into the soft inner, and I loved that they were served with a raspberry jam. I much prefer it to strawberry, and for me it compliments rather than clashes with the clotted cream.

 photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 8_zpsai7bxbve.jpg photo Chocolate Afternoon Tea Whittlebury Hall 9_zpslwys8rut.jpgAnd now for the top plate. Once ours was swapped for the chocolate version, we were delighted with our choice. I also found out that dark chocolate and champagne was an unexpectedly enjoyable combination. We had an ‘ice cream’ cone filled with a light chocolate mousse, a chocolate macaroon, a few different ganache covered cakes and a white chocolate and raspberry tart. Everything was gorgeous, though I was most impressed with the macaroon (intensely chocolately despite its pale colour) and the tart which added a burst of freshness. Everything was well prepared, tasted fresh and clearly used good quality chocolate. Not an afternoon tea for the faint-hearted, perhaps, as it was rather rich, but perfect for a girly afternoon.

I’ll just have to head back soon to sample the chocolate-chip scones!

Are you a fan of Afternoon Tea?

 

Recipe: Mum’s Classic English Scones

First off, it’s a scone, pronounced s-cone. As in police cone. Not a s-con.

 photo Mums Classic Scones_zpsffpxbynw.jpgNow that’s cleared up, it’s onto my mum’s scone recipe. Whilst my mum isn’t a massive baker, there are some things she does really, really well. I’ve yet to try a Pear & Raspberry crumble as good as my mums, her Victoria Sponges are far more reliable than mine, and then there’s her scones. The first thing I asked her to make for our engagement party. You’ve had my dad’s recipe for his Malteser Blondies, now it’s mums turn.

And these are well worth waiting for. A good outer crust, soft within and just the right side of crumbly, these are my perfect scone. They virtually split themselves, are light enough to not be overwhelming when piled with clotted cream, just sweet enough to taste good without contrasting the (raspberry) jam. So yep, the perfect scone. Even better served warm enough for the cream to melt into the scone…

 photo Classic Scones 2_zpsvxob2bsy.jpgIngredients

  • 8oz flour (self-raising works best)
  • 2oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 5fl oz full fat ‘blue’ milk

Tip the flour into a large bowl, and stir through a pinch of finely ground table salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar, then use a knife to stir in the milk – you will end up with a soft dough. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly – don’t overwork as this makes the scones tough to eat, and they will also fail to rise. Pat or roll out to  2cm thickness. Stamp out rounds (we use a 5cm cutter) and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat to use up all the dough.

Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Bake for at 200C 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve with jam and clotted cream.

 photo Classic Scones 1_zpsakujf7l6.jpgThis amount make a good eight scones if you like them on the large size, or perhaps 12 more dainty sized afternoon-tea portions. Apologies for the imperial measurements, that’s just what my mum sticks to – she will even convert recipes from metric to imperial!

Whilst we’re talking about baking, who’s been enjoying good old Bake Off?! #GBBO time of the year is definitely the best time of year, I’ve even marked my work diary as ‘busy’ from 5pm on Wednesdays so I know I’ll be back/cooked/washed up in time for a cuddle up on the sofa with a baked good or two. I’m attempting a bit of a bake-long (though unfortunately I’m not able to blog-along due to time constraints – it has resulted in some epic recipes though!) but baking can be SO expensive. Luckily  voucherbox.co.uk has created the Great British Save Off, a weekly price comparison of GBBO recipes and the best value supermarket to buy ingredients from each week. This makes it so easy to save a few pennies here and there (batter week’s cheapest store was ASDA) – making it possible to do even more baking. Can’t go wrong really…

*Post in collaboration with voucherbox, all opinions are my own, apart from the recipe with is (of course!) my mums!

Are you are fan of scones? Where’s the best scone you’ve ever had – I’m desperate for afternoon tea recommendations in London!

Lifestyle: High Tea @ Tiny Tim’s Tearoom, Canterbury

A bit of a Canterbury institution, I can’t believe it took me four years to get to Tiny Tim’s. So many people have recommended it to me, via word of mouth, here on the blog, at university. It’s almost embarrassing that next month I graduate, and very nearly did so without visiting this charming little tearoom.

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 1_zpsuuc4oqlh.jpgLuckily, myself and housemates decided to celebrate end-of-exams with a girly few hours of gossip, tea and sugar. Arriving seemingly before the rush (as soon we were seated, an out-of-door queue for tables formed), we oggled the massive slabs of cake on display, slightly over-awed at the scones the size of our faces. The good one of us ordered soup and a single slice of cake. The other two had already decided on the High Tea. No prizes for guessing that I wasn’t that sensible person…

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 2_zpsrndszfqk.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 10_zpsz9gyr44u.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 11_zpstvnfixwn.jpgI’m not too sure whether this is an example of a traditional High Tea (or even if such a thing exists!) but a Tiny Tim’s High Tea is simply an afternoon tea, with the finger sandwiches and savouries being replaced by two buttered crumpets topped with a poached egg.

My experience of afternoon tea has always found the savoury element a bit disappointing, so this option sounds perfect – and indeed I found it far more enjoyable. The crumpets (though I doubted they were homemade) tasted fresh, were grilled to a slight crisp, soaked in butter and topped with a perfectly poached egg. I thought a heavily buttered crumpet couldn’t be topped – runny yolk filling the holes somehow manages to make it even better. A combination I’ve dreamed of ever since.

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 4_zpsibshy0vt.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 13_zps0ev7a4ik.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 12_zpsl39mzpjy.jpgAdvised to eat from the bottom up, the next ‘course’ was the scones. I’ll put this out there now, I’m not a huge fan of scones. I find them too often dry, heavy and just a bit boring. Other than my mum’s, I’ve never fully enjoyed a scone – but these were good ones. Still warm from the oven, so much so that the clotted cream (I’m a cream before jam kinda gal!) melted into them. The jam wasn’t too sweet, and actually tasted of strawberry, and the whole thing was light with a crunchy exterior. So good, but saving room for the final tier, I only ate half…

And it was well worth saving the room for – without a doubt my favourite part of an afternoon tea is the pastries. Here we had a cream-filled shortbread (buttery and crisp), a tart seemingly filled with apricot jam topped with a meringue (sticky, fruity, with a perfectly dry meringue), and a brownie (gooey, rich, one of the best examples of a brownies I’ve eaten outside of my own kitchen).

 photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 7_zpsk8xfeonp.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 5_zpsk9y8qhrx.jpg photo Tiny Tims Tearoom Canterbury 6_zpsv9k8zpb4.jpgService was friendly and quick, although I would have liked a refill of the teapot – we only managed to squeeze two cups each out, which I thought was a little mean. The atmosphere was wonderful, with enough background noise to chat whilst still feeling relaxed, and an old chap playing the piano to add to the experience. I’ll definitely be heading back before graduation to sample their epic looking coffee cake – I only wish I’d visited sooner!

Are you a fan of Afternoon Tea? I’d love some London-based recommendations to add to my list!

Lifestyle: Tea & Cake at Beckworth Emporium

Or rather, hot chocolate and cake…

 photo cca63e43-51cc-429b-a5fd-cd1a150c39bd_zps797b6b1b.jpgTrying to make the post of our weekends together is getting a little more difficult for myself and boyfriend. He’s entering a busy period at university, lots of project deadlines, lots of group meetings, and I’m undergoing a relatively large project at work. If we know we’ve got a busy weekend, we’ll agree to go out for just a few hours with no distractions. The time means we focus on each other rather than anything else (an important thing in a long distance relationship!), and generally pack those hours with fun and (usually) yummy food.

 photo 2014-11-08170536_zpsca28f49e.jpgLast time I saw him we decided to head into the countryside (along with our good friend Howard) for a little afternoon snack at a local ‘garden centre.’ Beckworth Emporium is so much more than a typical garden centre, with a pretty cool farm shop, lots of gifts, the usual plants, and an impressive eating area. I’m desperate to go for afternoon tea one day, but they look huge. I struggled with the relatively small one I had earlier in the year, so I reckon this would defeat me!

 photo 2014-11-08170436_zps7dead638.jpgI ordered their Ultimate Hot Chocolate with Cream and Marshmallows, alongside their Chocolate & Salted Caramel cake. It might have been chocolate overload, and I might have been on a sugar high for the next few hours, but I have no regrets. Their hot chocolates is one of the best around. Not too rich, but chocolatey and none of the powdery nonsense in the bottom of the cup. The cake was pretty special too. Moist, rich, with a sweet icing just offset enough by the saltiness of the caramel. A huge and generous slice too, you certainly get your monies worth at Beckworth!

 photo 2014-11-08170502_zpsc394d724.jpgThe boys had tea and scones. I’m not really a scone person, but they had no complaints. There was the usual debate over whether to jam them cream, or cream then jam – any advice on this?!

 photo 2014-11-08170747_zpsdfe810c4.jpgI’m hoping to head back to Beckworth Emporium closer to Christmas – they have an ice rink, with incredibly pricing skating lessons. I’ve always loved ice skating, but have next to no confidence, so I’m thinking of going for a lesson or two in the hope of stopping me from holding onto the side. Ice skating followed by hot chocolate, sounds good to me!
 photo 2014-11-08170736_zps9e8a1a45.jpgNow a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! And if you vote for me I’ll post out cake… 😉

Where’s your favourite place to go for ‘tea’ and cake?