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Afternoon tea

    Afternoon tea, Reviews

    A festive trip to The Edgbaston

    My friend’s birthday is two days before Christmas and we seem to have a traditional celebration of afternoon tea; last year we went to Leamington Spa, the year before Stratford-upon-Avon. But the end of this year has been a bit rubbish for both of us so we wanted to stay local, but still enjoy something fantastically indulgent.  I’ve already written about my experience of afternoon tea at The Edgbaston so when they could fit us in, I knew we’d be in for a great afternoon. And The Edgbaston didn’t disappoint!

    The above picture is of the amuse bouche is a suitably festive with Irish whisky and chocolate cream with shortbread and the table was dowsed with smoke that smelled like Christmas.  I’ve been to enough afternoon tea and a few festive ones to know that everyone tries to add an extra sparkle at Christmas but the Edgbaston’s afternoon tea nails it.  The afternoon tea itself had hints of festivity with turkey sandwiches and smoked salmon, snowflakes and mince pies.  It was even better than last time, the desserts are wonderfully delicate and the scones are a delight.

    Edgbaston_winter_afternoon_teaAnd then I may have convinced Beccy we should also enjoy some cocktails, tis the season and all.  These were two cocktails from their festive Christmas menu and I’m not sure if they’re on the menu anymore.  Mine was the short, whisky cocktail with mince pie flavours – and a mince pie garnish. Lovely stuff.  We also had a second cocktail each and I went for my favourite drink at The Edgbaston, the Clover Club 3000.
    Disclosure: We paid for our own afternoon teas and cocktails…I mean really, who needs birthday cake when you can have afternoon tea?!

    Afternoon tea, Reviews

    Review: The Edgbaston Afternoon Tea


    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.

    edgbaston_afternoon_tea_teapotsThe 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.
    teapots_smoke_edgbaston_afternoon_teaThe 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.

    Afternoon tea, Reviews

    Review: Cadbury World Afternoon Tea


    Heads up, I bloody love Cadbury World.  I think I’ve been to every incarnation since I was small and they used to give you that horrible “what chocolate used to be” drink…and then there was the chocolate passport stamp, the weird futuristic game & light tricks bit at the end, the introduction of the slightly trippy cocoa beans ride and now the 4D experience.  I think I’ve tried to rope most of my Birmingham visiting guests into going at some point.  So when Cadbury World asked me to come down and check out their afternoon tea, I didn’t need asking twice.

    I invited my friend Til and, it turns out, despite living in Birmingham for years, she’s never been.  Til is just generally brilliant, but if you need someone to be stupidly excited with you, she’s the girl to have in your corner.  We figured best build up an appetite by wandering around the attraction and then stopping for a spot of tea, as you do.  Thankfully they got rid of that horrible drink thing at the beginning, so you start with a spot of history about chocolate and the Cadbury family, take in a bit of what the factory looks like, eat some melted chocolate, go on the trippy cocoa bean ride, see some of the old adverts and play with some slightly weird games machines.

    cadbury_world_sandwichesWe headed into the cafe, which is a bit canteen-like (although with that many school trips you can see why) and were sat in a sort of indoor bandstand.  I think it’s meant to be a bit special, but I sort of felt like Til and I had been put in the naughty corner – at least until some others joined us.  You’re asked if you want tea or coffee and your hot drinks are taken over to you, along with a cake stand of afternoon tea delights.

    I don’t know whose idea it was to do the sandwiches half-half white and brown bread, but it’s the sort of mind-trickery that I admire.  There are an assortment of sandwich fillings which are fairly typical; ham and mustard, cheese, and salmon.  And all the sandwiches come with no crusts, which I don’t mind but is probably pretty clever if you’re appealing to children.  With the crusts gone you might thing the bread could end up hardening, but it was soft and spongey and as far as sandwiches go, pretty good.

    Next up were the scones.  These were pretty large and came accompanied by pots of clotted cream and jam, in the way that any scone should.  They were good scones; not too crumbly, nor too dense…just right.  And they were fruit scones, because I really don’t understand people who go for plain scones (or cheese scones, why is that a thing).

    And then it was onto the cake.  Cadbury World had gone for a more traditional style afternoon tea than I’ve been eating as of late, but it was nice to see a macaron each and miniature cakes which were all a bit different.  Despite being really good and not eating any of the chocolate I was given on my way round Cadbury World, I found myself pretty full after the sandwiches and scones, but found enough room for a macaron (lovely) and some rocky road…because this was a chocolate factory’s afternoon tea, after all.


    Defeated by the afternoon tea, we asked for a take away box and Til took some of the cakes with her as she was seeing a relative later that day.  I’m not actually a big eater of chocolate, so the Cadbury World afternoon tea was about the right level for me, but I sort of expected a bit more chocolate, and certainly more well-known Cadbury stuff.  Like those little sponges with flakes on the top you get in the supermarket, or cream-egg brownies as everyone seems to lose their mind over those. Just seems like a bit of a lost branding opportunity to me, but hey ho.

    Oh and then we went on the 4D experience.  You know those weird simulators where you get to pretend like you’re driving a plane or a really fast car or something?  It’s a bit like that, only you’re in an auditorium and on some sort of magical chocolate rollercoaster.  I know that sounds lame, but I bloody loved it. I’d have gone twice, if I could’ve. Bravo Cadbury World!

    The Cadbury World afternoon tea is £19.95 per person, available Monday to Friday, outside of school term time, and is only valid on attraction entry between 12.40pm and 1.30pm (otherwise it would sort of stop being afternoon tea).  Oh and if you’ve never been (heathen!) Cadbury World is located in Bournville, south Birmingham and is a short walk from Bournville train station or on the 11 bus route.

    Disclosure: I was invited down to Cadbury World to try their afternoon tea by their PR team, but wasn’t obliged to write a positive review. They didn’t pay for previous trips to Cadbury World (my mum wishes). Oh and I love Cadbury World so much I moved down the road from it.

    Afternoon tea, Reviews

    Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery tour and afternoon tea

    tea_scones_BMAGWe’ll get to the food bit of this blog post post in a minute, but can we just stop to talk about how awesome the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is please?

    130 years old this month, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is free entry and has a great big statue of Lucifer who greets you as you enter – I’m not sure if it’s a nod to Birmingham’s rich history of non-conformists and free thinkers, but I like to think so.  ‘Built by the people of Birmingham for the people of Birmingham’ its been a place I’ve been going to since I was a child, and even helped me win an argument about Star Wars with my school art teacher.


    Baroque and Birmingham People exhibitions

    So despite being a semi-regular guest, when an invite landed in my inbox to be shown around some of the recently opened exhibitions, along with afternoon tea, I jumped at the chance.  I’ve already been to the Edwardian Tearooms since they had their major facelift, for bacon sandwiches and horror films (as you do), so a Saturday morning of culture and cake sounded pretty good to me.

    We were first shown around the new 17th century Baroque exhibition, showcasing some of Birmingham Museums Trust’s highlights and rarely seen pieces.  They’d sort of split the display into Italian and Spanish, and northern European pieces.  Despite watching a lot of historical dramas recently, I’m not nearly as up on my history as I’d like, but the backdrop of religious and social change in the era was reflected well in the collection – plus there were some pretty fun hands-on pieces to bring the exhibition to life.


    The second collection we saw was the Birmingham People exhibition, which I adored – social history was kind of a favourite of mine at school and this array of 20th and 21st century art had a real people focus.  There was everything from video footage of people walking down the Pallasades ramp and photographs at the market, to paintings of the Birmingham Superprix motor race and sculpture.  It was a lovely celebration of Birmingham and next time a national journalist complains about the city, I say we lock them in there for 24 hours.

    Afternoon Tea

    So anyway, after walking around several exhibitions and getting a bit lost (which is customary when visiting BMAG), we sat down to afternoon tea.  I’ve been a big fan of the refurb of the Edwardian Tearooms; it sort of somehow manages to be a fresh modern take on a classic tea room – and the circular green seating in the middle of the room just calls out to be included in a spy drama.  I love a good coffee shop, but the lack of tea rooms in the city centre sort of disappoints me – more places for tea and cake please, Birmingham city centre.

    tray_of_sandwiches_BMAGFirst out came a tray of sandwiches, with plenty of different fillings.  I think it’s pretty hard to get excited over afternoon tea sandwiches generally but these were perfectly pleasant, and the variety of fillings meant there was something to suit everyone – they’d even managed to do a vegan version for one of the girls.

    The scones were up next and these were great – I’m pretty sure I had two and managed to take one home too.  I’m amazed at the number of places who seem not to be able to do scones well; so crumbly they disintegrate or so dense they’re like bricks.  These had just the right density and are enough to lure me back in for a cream tea very soon.  The Edwardian Tearooms afternoon tea is pretty traditional, so the final round of cakes were mini-sponges.  Personally I’d have like to have seen something a little different, as I think four varieties of sponge cake is a little dense after sandwiches and scones.
    tray_of_cake_BMAGSo in summary, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is great, and the Edwardian Tearooms are definitely worth a visit, whilst you’re there.  BMAG has a new exhibition, Enchanted Dreams, the first exhibition ever dedicated exhibition of the works of pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Robert Hughes, which is drawing together artworks from public and private collections and sounds like it’ll be worth the small admission charge.

    Disclosure: I was invited down to a blogger event at BMAG and given complimentary afternoon tea. I’ve been plenty of times before and paid for my own cake. Go check out the green spy seats too.

    Afternoon tea, Reviews

    Hotel la Tour festive afternoon tea

    Last weekend I joined some food bloggers at Hotel la Tour for some festive afternoon tea.  Organised by Emily from Recipes and Reviews, it was a great excuse to catch up with some fellow bloggers, Emily from Recipe & Reviews (who organised the event), Roz and Taylah I’d met several times before, but everyone else (Alex Gingey Bites, Emma Fork and GoodHello Terri Lowe, Natasha Unorganised Chaos, Sophie Penne For Your Thoughts, and Hannah Bakes Things) I’d only ever spoken to on twitter, so was lovely to put faces to names.

    IMG_0946.JPGAs we hadn’t told Hotel la Tour we were bloggers trying to find everyone was fun – plus we were an hour early due to time mix ups.But Hotel la Tour weren’t fazed and showed us to our spot before asking us if we wanted our drinks – food wouldn’t be served until 2pm.  I’d been to afternoon tea at Hotel la Tour earlier in the year for a friend’s birthday, so I was prepared for the stands, but nevertheless they’re still an impressive sight – and were very prompt! They contained four types of finger sandwiches, welsh rarebit and soldiers, scones with jam and cream, plus an array of desserts.I was impressed that they’d managed to cater for food intolerances too (I didn’t tell them about my lactose intolerance because if there’s one meal to suffer for, afternoon tea is it).

    Being bloggers we all immediately whipped out our cameras to start taking photos. My friends and family are all well trained, but it was nice to be amongst people who weren’t sighing and going “are you done yet”.

    Starting at the top I had a little nibble at the Welsh rarebit which was nice, but I felt the soldiers were a little too crisp – I like some chewiness to my toast and they were more like croutons. The sandwiches were delightful and nice to have such a range; turkey and cranberry, salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonaise and ham.  Although they were all lovely my favourite was the turkey and cranberry – perhaps because it was seasonal.

    The scones were well baked, neither too dense nor too crumbly, which made them feel fresh.  This also meant that they weren’t too difficult to cut open and lather with jam, something which I was thankful for as I was balancing the plate on my knees.  I declined the cream, but the others seem to enjoy it.

    After a little rest it was on to the desserts.  The clementine & Grand Marnier trifle was very sweet but it didn’t have much of the Grand Marnier kick to me.  The gingerbread man was lovely, crisper than most gingerbread I’ve had which worked really well (and I loved they all have different facial expressions).  The macaron was lovely and I could easily have eaten more.  I found the batternberg to be a little too stodgy for my liking and the walnut whip Christmas tree was a nice touch – although had to be eaten quickly to save making too much of a mess!

    Thoroughly stuffed from all the food and free refills on hot drinks (a good range of tea or coffee), we were all ready to have a nap.  It had been a fantastic afternoon with company that was wonderful; we discussed the pronunciation of scone, jam or cream first, pressure cookers, owning too much crockery and plenty of other non-food blogging related topics.  A massive thank you to Emily for organising it and another thanks for a festive treat – a goodie bag on our way out with items from: kikkomanthorntonsmackaysburtsfruitbrooyipsy macarons
deli santeonkennakdseasoned pioneers, 
propercorn and stur – thanks all!

    Disclosure: With Emily’s excellent organisation, we booked afternoon tea without telling Hotel la Tour were were bloggers.  Sure they probably guessed when we all started photographing, but by that point we had the food and there wasn’t much they could do about it.  We all paid for our own afternoon tea so there wasn’t even an ounce pressure on writing and certainly none to be nice.