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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.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Harvey Nichols refurb and menu launch

    harvelnichols_prIf ever there was need for an example to show the new-found confidence in Birmingham, both as a destination in itself and as a burgeoning food and drink destination, the new concept-store Harvey Nichols would be it.

    The 45,000 square foot Harvey Nichs, as it’s affectionally known, was designed in partnership with Virgile + Partners to present the a concept store offering customers luxury retail – and it feels like it, particularly as you descend down the stairway into a store where everything is lit in a luxurious golden hue.  roasted_scallops

    In the old Harvey Nichs the food hall and cafe felt like a bit of an uncomfortable fit amongst the high end fashion, handbags and associated lifestyle.  But descending down the stairs, from the third floor, into the belly of Harvey Nichol’s new concept store, it finally felt like a venue which had found a way to make food and fashion fit seamlessly.  The restaurant is enveloped by the food market and bar, giving it a sense of belonging but without feeling like you’re dining in a clothes shop.  The bar, which has a fairly extensive selection of spirits, is ripe for people watching without feeling voyeuristic.

    The food hall retains some of the old favourites, but has increased its selection, including a number of items which will suit people with certain dietary requirements – the no cheese pesto was indulgent and fresh enough that the lack of cheese was no loss.  The bar and dining area are separated by a wall of alcohol – with an extensive selection of wines, including a lovely English sparkling wine and a carefully selected range of spirits (the whiskies were of particular interest).


    Over to the dining area.  The menu has been designed in collaboration with one of Birmingham’s Michelin starred chefs, Glynn Purnell, who was on hand during the preview evening to tell us about the concept. The menu itself is fairly small; designed to be all day dining there are six options labeled under brunch and an all day dining section with sixteen dishes, which include a number of items that can be scaled up or down depending on whether you want a light bite, sharing dishes or a main meal.

    The food preview night offered a taste of a number of dishes (although sadly not the burger, which is an excuse to go back).  First up we tried the roasted scallops, with piperade and scorched baby gem lettuce, and the scorched provencal squid, Oxsprings ham, oliver tapenade, sundried tomatoes and red pepper – both of which can be served as lighter items or main dishes.  The scallops were beautifully sweet and speaking to one of the chefs later, he mentioned he’d shuck the fresh scallops that morning, having sourced them from someone he had previously trained and trusted.  The squid too felt lovely and fresh, cutting well without being too rubbery.


    Next was the spiced smoked haddock with sour crème fraîche potato and poached free-range egg yolk, made to look like a fried egg.  It was a whimsical concept and a clear mark of a Purnell dish, but had the wonderful balance of taste to back it up with.


    I’d heard a lot about the pork belly dish and once it was presented I could taste why; the Hampshire pork belly cooked in Chinese spices and served with pak choi and sesame glazed noodles really was utterly delightful.  The sweetness from the Chinese spice glaze balanced well with the pork and the cut itself was flavoursome and delicate.


    The Himalayan pink salt-seared fillet steak and fries was an incredible popular dish on my table and it’s easy to see why.  The dish arrives with pink meat, but we were told as it’s placed down on the table, that should we wish it cooked further to leave it on the hot sea salt slab.  This did feel like a bit of a gimmick to me, and I wasn’t about to ruin a delicious piece of beef to test out how well it worked, so I’ll take their word for it.

    Ordering a salad when out for a meal always seems like an absolute waste to me, but it’s often my mum’s number one choice so it was nice to see that the Harvey Nichols’ menu had three to choose from.  I tried the Thai green salad which was a riot of colour and taste, and had the option to add scallop, should you wish.thai_green_salad

    For dessert there was a large bowl of Glynn’s famous chocolate mousse with a mango sorbet and chocolate crumble – this is apparently similar to one of the dishes on the menu at Purnell’s, although not on the menu I tried earlier in the year.  I’m not a massive fan of chocolate, but the contrast of rich warm chocolate against the cool, refreshing mango really was superb – although sadly did not photograph well.

    Have strategically placed myself near the kitchen, I was able to go and chat to the chefs whilst they were plating up some examples of their afternoon tea.  It was refreshing to hear such enthusiasm for the menu and to hear about the provenance of the ingredients – the raspberries for one of the petits fours was sourced up the road in Tamworth and likely to change, once they were out of season.  The afternoon tea also includes sandwiches on beetroot bread and a coronation chicken which has a lovely smooth flavour.afternoon_tea_treats

    After dinner it was over to the bar (after I got a sneaky preview of the store because come on people), where I tried some of the tinctures and syrups created in-store for the cocktails, including a curry sugar syrup which would’ve been amazing over ice cream.  Chatting to Sam, the bar manager, it’s clear that there is a real passion to help push forward the city’s cocktail scene and bring something a little different.

    2015 is a hell of a year for the drinks and dining scene in Birmingham, with more places opening and rumoured to open than I can remember in a long time.  It’s a testament to the city itself, to the bartenders and chefs who’ve been faithfully working away and pioneering to put Birmingham on the map.  And when a national, well respected name like Harvey Nichols adds to that, it’s hard not to think that maybe that faith isn’t going unrewarded.

    Disclosure: HN invited me down to their preview…although I’m still trying to fathom out why. Scrubbing up and making sure I didn’t spill anything took a lot of focus and so everything here remains my own honest opinion because I wouldn’t have had the energy to lie, even if I’d have wanted to.

    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.