In general I’m not much of a Traditional Afternoon Tea person. I know it must seem blasphemous, and don’t get me wrong, I think they’re fun and all, it’s just always been more about the occasion and the company for me rather than the food. If, like me, you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, things can get a bit samey. Once the sandwiches are done with, game over. An afternoon matcha tea with goodness of matcha and matcha benefits, done a little differently though… that’s something to get excited about.
On Sunday, nine of us met in the bar at the Cedar Court Grand in York to celebrate Jen’s birthday. Poised and ready for a last, festive blow-out before real life set back in, we were all on our best behaviour as the tinkly piano music played and the front of house staff took our coats. Indoor voices at the ready, we were lead into the dining room.
From the off, the service was good. Attentive and very thoughtful, but relaxed enough to give you breathing room. Our dietary requirements had been requested when we booked, and in hushed tones they were confirmed and our preferences noted. We had one nut allergy within the group and one pregnancy, both were accommodated for without a second thought. Chairs were pulled, napkins draped across laps and we were left to peruse the menu at our leisure.
Hendricks Gin & Tonic Afternoon Tea
Cucumber & dill on white bread
Egg mayonnaise & watercress on malted bread
Roasted turkey & apricot chutney on white bread
Smoked salmon with soft cheese & chive on malted bread
Ham and English Mustard on white bread
Christmas pudding Cheesecake, Mulled Syrup
Chestnut Cupcake, Pine Frosting
Tea loaf with Rum Butter
Chocolate & Satsuma Delice
Fig Cone, Spiced Bread Meringue
Two Mini Scones: Cranberry & Plain
Masham Clotted Cream
Selection of Preserves
There were a couple of different choices on the menu. I can’t remember exactly what they were called, but there was a classic afternoon tea – the full menu and your choice of tea, the Sparkle afternoon tea – the full menu with a glass of Prosecco and your choice of tea, or the Hendricks Gin & Tonic afternoon tea – the full menu, with you guessed it, a cheeky gin and tonic on the side plus your choice of tea. No need to say what I went for. I like a hard spirit in the afternoon. The tea selection was classic but varied – everything from the usual black leaves like Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling to herbal choices like Ginger and Lemon, and Peppermint. Nothing to forge new ground, but a solid selection nonetheless. Enough to keep a tea enthusiast happy.
My G&T came in a Hendrick’s branded tea pot, complete with matching cup and saucer. For the whole two hour stint it stayed cold and refreshing, and the pot gave me at least four cupfuls to sip as we ate. To be honest, I’d quite like one at my desk. On brand, the Hendricks was served with a slice of crunchy cucumber. It felt strangely decadent and refined at the same time, to be getting tipsy while nibbling sandwiches with the crusts off, but I was so into it. In fact, it was just the twist on an afternoon tea I needed. Alcohol makes things more interesting, who knew?
For a festive themed menu, and in such a traditional setting, I was really impressed by the creativity with which each sweet was devised. Distinctively Christmassy but with few of the usual cranberry cliches, there wasn’t a mince pie or a marzipan holly leaf in sight. The Christmas Cake Cheesecake was rich and boozy, and the cupcake a refreshing take on an overdone trend. The flavours were unusual enough to get us all talking and the decadent Chocolate & Satsuma Delice and delicate Fig Cone were balanced nicely by traditional, tasty sandwiches, scones baked to perfection (crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside) and tea loaf to make any granny proud.
To finish it all off, the surroundings were divine. Not so much the dining room, which was pretty but a bit bland, as the bar, hallways and even the loos. The interiors were rich and opulent without being flashy. It felt posh, but comfortable. I could seriously spend some time in front of a roaring fire in that bar, curled up in a jewel purple armchair with a mystery novel and a pair of fluffy socks on. The bathrooms are marble, with Molton Brown hand wash and cream, the stuff daydreams are made of. The hotel is a 5-star and I understand why. It only left me wanting to sneak off to explore. For my next visit, I think I’ll try the spa!
For £29.50, I’d say the afternoon tea was good value. We were there for a good two and a half hours, never felt rushed and we left stuffed to the brim full of treats. We erupted out onto the forecourt rosy cheeked and laughing – a great afternoon of catching up and communal indulgence had by all. I’d recommend The Grand to anyone looking for a good way to celebrate an occasion, or even just to treat themselves. The Afternoon Tea is a great way to entertain visiting family, spoil a birthday girl or treat a bride to be, and it’d be a great place to stay – conveniently located next to the station and easily walkable to and from town.
The Cedar Court Grand Hotel & Spa Station Rise, York, North Yorkshire YO1 6GD | 01904 380038