There’s nothing quite like the promise of a great afternoon tea to get me up from my sick bed. Despite being off work for nearly a week and not being able to move more than two meters away from my kettle, I bundled myself up, packed a couple of bottles of water and headed off to meet some friends for a spot of afternoon tea at The Edgbaston boutique hotel and bar, on Highfield Rd…in well, the suburb of Edgbaston.
I’ve been to The Edgbaston for a couple of cocktails before, so I knew what to expect from the wonderfully 1920s inspired art deco lounge, but was surprised to find it as full as it was on a Saturday afternoon, considering it’s just out of the city centre. There were several people having afternoon tea and plenty more enjoying cocktails, but despite being busy the service was top notch – particularly as I was still ill and needed to keep constantly hydrated, so required plenty of top ups of hot water for the tea and cold water. Frankly I think it would’ve been easier to sit me next to the tap, but bless ’em the staff made sure I always had some sort of water.
The table was set out for us on arrival with lovely crockery that we were told was all vintage and had been specially sourced. We were given a choice of teas (there was probably also the option of coffee but come on this is afternoon tea, after all) and I shared a pot of jasmine tea with Alex…which was actually a trophy. Yep, an actual trophy (I kind of hoped it might be the missing Jules Rimet Trophy, but sadly not). The jasmine tea was lovely, fresh and light with just the right hint of perfume notes from the jasmine. Also, points to the waiting staff who managed to play afternoon tea Tetris and find space for everything on the table.
The Edgbaston afternoon tea isn’t just any old afternoon tea and if the trophy-teapots weren’t enough to convince us of that, then the palate cleanser to start surely would. The lemon curd with gin and tonic granita was accompanied by a dramatic display of swirling smoke which engulfed the table and gave a real sense of occasion. I’m a bit wary of dry ice because it’s a bit overplayed in the whole “molecular mixology” fields and can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but the staff were careful to make sure it was poured into the serving trays of the granita…and bring more to make sure we all got some photos. It’s probably worth mentioning that they didn’t know we were bloggers, and I expect they get quite used to people taking lots of photos of the smoke.
After the smoke dissipated it was time for the main show. I’ve seen various incarnations of cake stands and the clean black tiles with oval trim had a lovely shape to it, showing off its wares but also in keeping with the decor of The Edgbaston.
I think it’s pretty difficult to be overly excited about the sandwich portion of the afternoon tea, but the ones The Edgbaston served to us were nice, with a good mix of fillings and enough for everyone to have a nibble without being overly full – because where’s the fun in being that full before you get to the scones and sweets?
The scones arrived on a separate plate with jam and cream (obviously) in little kilner jars. Of all the component parts of the afternoon tea experience, this was probably the only minor stumbling, as I found the scones a little too crumbly for me. That said, they were a good size and I think there worked out at being a fruit and plain scone each, but most of us ended up taking a second one home.
The final course of the afternoon tea was more petit four than stodgy cakes. For me, this is what makes a good afternoon tea great, as the dainty finger sandwiches and scones should be followed up by something imaginative and delicate rather than heavy carbohydrates. And this is where The Edgbaston really excelled – macarons, swan shaped choux pastry, chocolate and hazelnut lollipop and mini lemon and blackberry tart. All superb and as good as they looked – the chocolate and hazelnut lollipop even more so.
I’ve had a lot of afternoon tea in Birmingham now and I think The Edgbaston afternoon tea ranks as one of the best, if not the best, in the city. The level of detail from the crockery and teapots to the dramatic palate cleanser and petit four was just superb. Whilst we went for the regular afternoon tea, they offer a number of different serves, including The Moseley Serve, which involves cocktail in teacups and would definitely be more Great Gatsby than Austin. Alternatively add a couple of cocktails from their extensive menu. Either way, I doubt you’ll be disappointed – it really was a superb experience.
Disclosure: We didn’t tell The Edgbaston we were bloggers and paid for our afternoon teas ourselves. Also, don’t trust anyone that calls themselves a molecular mixologist.