Tea and cake are quite probably two of my favourite things in life. Therefore Afternoon Tea with all the trimmings is my favourite indulgence – I really do think it should be brought back as a regular meal. So you can imagine my surprise and delight last year when I found out my boyfriend had booked me and him in to the elegant Bath Pump Rooms for their famous Afternoon Tea.
I spent weeks before the event dreaming of fine pastry, wishing the hours away until the fateful afternoon. The morning arrived, and I decided to eat barely any breakfast and no lunch, the better to enjoy the Tea to the full. Anyone who knows me (and how much I eat for breakfast!) knows that this is a fairly extreme measure in my world.
We dressed to the nines, floral retro tea dress for myself and Matt in a pinstripe suit, and headed out into town to make our reservation time. We sauntered in, straight past the very long queue, and were seated by the maitre d’ to the envy of the on-looking queue. Note to self – always make a reservation.
Within moments we were handed the menu with the tea choices, and asked if we had any dietary requirements. I chose a classic Earl Grey (from Wiltshire Tea Company – can’t recommend them enough) and informed them that I was a vegetarian. We were then left to soak up the atmosphere for a few minutes – crystal chandeliers, Roman columns, huge old portraits and even an actual string quartet.
It wasn’t long before we were presented with a towering tea stand, and told what we were eating today. I peered at the stand and was a little surprised – I’d skipped lunch for 3 finger sandwiches, two scones and two pastries? I was almost positive I’d need to eat more when I got home, as my tummy was definitely rumbling by now.
Bearing in mind this was over a year ago please excuse any errors in my memory, but I believe the finger sandwiches were ham & tomato, cucumber & cream cheese, egg & cress, garlic hummus and beef & horseradish. Obviously we had slightly more ‘veggie options’ for me to eat, and all were delicious. Matt also savoured his – despite not liking tomato! There were also two little crostinis with slices of duck that I am informed were lovely – they certainly disappeared quickly enough.
We then moved on to the second tier of the stand, the essential scones. Ours were served with clotted cream and two delicious, chunky jams. The scones were even still a little warm, and very soft and light. Absolutely delectable.
The third and final tier held a selection of four different cakes and pastries. Commence the argument over who got what! Again if my memory serves, Matt got a Coffee Choux Bun and a fruit tartlet, while I drooled over a meringue and a slice of very rich chocolate torte. I have to admit, the chocolate torte almost beat me – by now I was absolutely full to the brim with delicious bread, pastry and cream.
As you may have gathered by now, the food was amazing, and I also couldn’t find a fault with any aspect of our professional, friendly and efficient service. The setting was as elegant as you’d expect, and the musicians were excellent – talented and particularly entertaining during their very classy rendition of ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ in amongst all the baroque. I had only one little niggle with the day, and that could hardly be helped by the staff. Some of the other guests didn’t seem to appreciate the sophistication of the setting, and were taking flash photos and having loud conversations. Unfortunately, the place is considered a tourist attraction and this has slightly compromised the atmosphere – however this was a small niggle in what was overall a very great day, which I’d recommend to anyone.
My next exploit in afternoon tea should be in September at the Savoy in London. Already giddy with excitement.
By Victoria Jones, with her pinky extended.