Afternoon tea at Gleneagles

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There are few things that a cup of tea can’t solve. A problem shared is a problem halved, but only when you’ve also consumed several pots of tea along the way. A good gossip, a catch up and lots of cake never goes a miss either when therr is a pot of tea on the go, and that is exactly how I spent my Saturday afternoon last weekend.

Afternoon was traditionally enjoyed at about 4pm. It came about in the mid 19th century when the 7th Duchess of Bedford decided she required a light snack to stave of the hunger, or as she declared it, the ‘sinking feeling’ she had late afternoon. Originally taking her afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, cakes and a pot of tea in her private quarters, Anna decided this was a rather marvellous way to spend an hour or so during the afternoon, and invited friends to join her. They would traditionally go for a walk in the fields afterwards, and after not too long the fashion of afternoon tea caught on.

I must be honest and say we did more sipping and eating than walking, but it was fabulous none the less.

It had been years since I had been at Gleneagles Hotel, and following the buzz around the Ryder Cup and the reputation they have for afternoon I was excited to find out what was in store.

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Afternoon tea is served is in the bar, which on arrival at 4.30pm on a Saturday, was absolutely buzzing. We were seating by the window looking out into the front lawn. Cakes and I arrived first. We did a good spot of people watching as we waited for the other five ladies to arrive. The room was full of groups like ourselves, hotel guests and golfers just in from a round.

Now on to the main event. What a show! Between 7 of us we were each served a pot of tea (I was on thr earl grey) and we shared a stand between two. One of our group is expecting her second bambino, and the staff were very attentive and ensured the chef was informed of what she could and could not eat – she ended up with a delightful cake stand all to herself!

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As well as looking gorgeous, the treats on each tier were amazing. In the middle we enjoyed a variety of sandwiches including chicken with a banana chutney (strangely this really worked!), hebridean crab, and of course the classic salmon, cucumber and watercress. Each sandwich was light and delicately sliced with just enough filling.

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It was the top tier that has ensured I will be returning to Gleneagles; a whole tier of savoury pastries! I’m the type of person of loves when GBBO focus on savoury bakes. It’s all the indulgence of a cake, but you can eat them whenever because they are savoury! Consensus around our table was the cheese swirl really stole the limelight. We also enjoyed little mini quiche tarts and rare roast beef puff with pesto that just melted in the mouth.

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I should mention that on the special 7th stand there was also a round of freshly baked scones with raspberry jam and deliciously indulgent clotted cream.

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After several breaks, more chatting and sipping, we moved onto the cakes in the bottom tier. Gleneagles served a selection of cakes that I am sure the Duchess of Bedford would be proud of. French fancies, warm sultana treacle cake, strawberry tarts, a chocolate and what I think was salted caramel ganache …

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Needless to say we were there until well after dark, and the staff were happy to refill out teas and let us soak up the ambience for as long as we liked. A truly awesome way to spend an afternoon, and hands down one of the best afternoon teas I have experienced.

Afternoon Tea at The Balmoral, Edinburgh

Ladies who lunch! The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
Ladies who lunch! The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh

Using vouchers she got for Christmas, my Gran recently treated my Mum and me to afternoon tea at The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. The Balmoral is instantly recognisable with its dramatic stonework and talk clock tower. It sits on the corner of Princes Street and North Bridge with a fantastic 360 view on Edinburgh, talking in everything from Calton Hill to Princes Street gardens, up to the castle and over the bridges to the old town. It’s a haven for tourists visiting Edinburgh. The grandeur of the hotel gives a fantastic first impression of the history of our capital city.

Palm CourtSoup starter

Afternoon tea is served in the impressive Palm Court. Once our drinks (Bollinger champagne, we were after all ladies who lunch) and tea (earl grey all round) orders had been taken, we were offered a taste of pear and apple soup to start. The soup was delicious and not something I have been offered with afternoon tea before.

The first tier arrived and we tucked in. A cheese twist on top, crusty bread with coronation chicken and a ham wrap on the second plate and cucumber, smoked salmon and egg mayonnaise fingers on the bottom. All were delicious, and I particularly enjoyed the coronation chicken – a favourite with the tourists I imagine!

The sweet tiers did not disappoint either. A plum and ginger compote on the top plate got my vote, and we also enjoyed little lemon tarts with the Palm Court emblem printed on them – a nice touch. A walnut and chocolate brownie along with Scottish jams and freshly baked scones completed the sweet tiers. On leaving we were given Palm Court tea leaves and I look forward to trying these at home.

Savoury tiersweet tier

Champagne afternoon tea at the Balmoral comes in at £42 per person, or £27 without fizz. It’s more expensive than other afternoon teas in Edinburgh, of which there are many, and I reckon you are paying for the location and ambience more than anything else. The palm court is a stunning setting and throughout the afternoon it felt like a special occasion.

Other places I can vouch for if you are looking for afternoon tea in Edinburgh include The George Hotel and Eteaket, both very central, or Missoni Hotel over in the old town. On my list to visit for afternoon tea in Edinburgh is Mimis Bakehouse and The Sheraton, both of which I have heard are lovely.

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