By Jo Cooksey
The History of Afternoon Tea
Isn’t Afternoon Tea the most civilised of repasts? Lunch is a distant memory, dinner is a way off in the distance but your tummy is telling you it’s peckish. Originally made fashionable in the first half of the 19th Century by the then Duchess of Bedford, afternoon tea soon became an elegant and fashionable ritual in the upper class houses of Britain. Seeing a gap in the market and with the middle classes aspiring to emulate their wealthier peers, hotels began to introduce afternoon tea and eventually Tea Dances. After the Second World War, the practice fell out of favour but for the past decade it has once again been enjoying a renaissance.
Hotels and Afternoon Tea
There is barely a hotel in Manchester that doesn’t offer an Afternoon Tea experience. Some are opulent such as those served in the Tea Room at the Midland Hotel and the River Restaurant at The Lowry. Then there are some that are downright wacky choices such as Menargerie , which comes with the option of sliders and Mac ‘n’ Cheese and a ferris wheel of cakes. Most places now also serve alcohol, in the form of fizz or cocktails, as well as the traditional pot of loose leaf tea. In order that the chaps don’t feel left out many venues, such as the Radisson Blu Edwardian , now serve a Gentleman’s Tea with manly pickings such as pork pies, mini fish & chips and a pint of beer.
The Malmaison hotel in Piccadilly asked us to come and sample their offering. We were really looking forward to it because we love their restaurant, Chez Mal and we love afternoon tea. The hotel was buzzing when we arrived on the allotted Saturday afternoon and we were quickly shown to our booth. The menu has a Classic Cream Tea for £12 or a more classic choice for £19.95 Both of which can be jazzed up with a glass champagne or a cocktail for £27. We ordered the traditional tea version and chose our teas from a beautiful Taylors of Harrogate wooden box whilst the waiter bought us individual teapots, cups, milk and sugar etc. I chose the English Breakfast, I am not a drinker of delicate teas and my companion chose the Lemon and Ginger infusion.
Modern or Traditional?
The menu here is a modern take on the traditional tea, with the sandwiches consisting of a beetroot and goat cheese wrap, a mini smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and a mini Mal burger. I have to say this is the best burger I have had in a long time and I was actually quite tempted to order a full size one after tasting the small version. Next up were the cakes and this is where I award Chez Mal extra Brownie points. On offer are a delicate piece of carrot cake, a salted chocolate brownie, a mini éclair, a Valrhona chocolate mousse and an unexpected but very pleasant mini milk bottle of freshly made strawberry milkshake. Now the thing is, I don’t like chocolate. Yes, I know it is inconceivable that someone, particularly a woman isn’t keen on choccy but I’m genuinely not and even more so when things like cakes are made with chocolate. I asked out waiter if the kitchen could swop out the brownie and the mousse for an extra éclair and another slice of carrot cake. They turned up trumps and I got the extra carrot cake plus a slice of beautiful, zesty lemon and pistachio polenta cake. My tea buddy went with chocolate options but did say that the mousse was a little too rich for her. Finally, the best part of afternoon tea for me, the scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream. I will never ever tire of this combination of flavours and textures. The scones were plain, I prefer a fruited one but they were like light and fluffy clouds and served with generous amounts of cream and jam. I can tell you we had full, happy tums after this little lot
Festive Afternoon Tea
The Malmaison Festive Afternoon Tea is due to launch on 2nd December, promising all manner of twinkly, seasonal treats like Pigs in Blankets Brioche Rolls, Turkey, Cranberry & Stuffing Wrap, Sherry Trifle and of course Christmas Cake and Mince Pies. There’s even a glass of Prosecco. For the vegetarian and gluten free among you, Chez Mal can cater for you too. We are definitely going to book in for this, what about you? Also, just take a look at what else is going on at Malmaison over Christmas and New Year.
One of the things I love about Malmaison is its location. It is a stone’s throw from Piccadilly station and if you happen to come into Victoria station, the Metroshuttle free bus is the easiest way to get to and from. Information on travel within Manchester ciy centre can be found at https://www.tfgm.com/.
We were guests of Malmaison but as always, all opinions are our own.