After brunch, my favourite meal is Afternoon Tea. Not (Devon) cream tea, which is just scones with jam and cream and not ‘High Tea,’ a large meal with savoury and sweet delights which is served around 5-6pm, perhaps if you are going out for the evening – both of which I also love.
For someone who doesn’t drink tea and who thinks cake is an everyday essential, I still feel this refined British occasion between 3-5pm is a treat. In the last year, I have experienced the Afternoon Tea offerings of Hyatt Regency, Hotel Du Vin and most recently Mint Hotel. All have their good points, despite being very different in styles.
Hyatt Regency £19
I confess I have been here twice, firstly it was the second outing I ever organised for Out with the Girls (the first was a brunch) and then again for one of the girls’ birthdays. The first time was fantastic with the only imperfection they charged for every cup of tea (coffee) but they changed that when I asked; to pay for every little cup at Hyatt prices will mean more than double the cost of the meal. Secondly the price had gone up from what was on the website and what it was when I booked but again, they honoured the original price. That gives them a 9/10.
The Hyatt Regency, despite being extremely modern from the outside epitomises old school charm. The staff wouldn’t look out of place if they were frilly aprons and penguin suits and placed a bell for attention on each table. The food is exquisite in presentation and taste and now the coffee is bottomless, it’s as near perfect as you can get. Of course the sandwiches are sans crusts and cut in two bite portions as expected but the delightful mix of mini scones, bite size brownie cubes and creamy delights served on tiered cake trays is a slice of heaven arriving at your dreamy white linen draped table. 9½
Hotel Du Vin £11
I wondered if Du Vin could pull it out of the tea cosy for almost half what the Hyatt charge. It’s an awful tag ‘boutique hotel’ but really, Du Vin is more traditional charm than the name suggests. I’d never even had a drink in the hotel bar (just in the pub or the conservatoire) so that fact they serve a delightful tea in a separate room of the bar is a find. We sat at a low square table surrounded by comfy sofas and chairs and watched dish after dish, pot after pot bought to us. It felt like high society in a bygone time. Nothing was too much trouble and the food and drink – no matter which tea – were in plentiful and ready supply.
Du Vin also wins out as they actually offer the cucumber sandwiches and the scones are soft enhanced by the perfect snowy cream. All the cakes were bite size temptations and a rest was needed before contemplating. There is nothing between these two other than price. It’s lovely to sit at a civilised table but it’s also lovely to take it in the drawing room, as it were. 9½ /10
City Inn, at the Mint Hotel £15
Both of these are hard acts to follow and the Mint is still at the aspiring stage. It’s modern so not my taste and perhaps that’s why I didn’t sit right in there but the scones were dry, the sandwiches weren’t exactly full, the cakes were dull (mini Victoria sandwich – big deal) and I had to ask very strongly (beg) for a pot of coffee whereas the tea came in a pot! The coffee did go cold in all three places and I think the only way to go is for staff to come round with top ups or have 1 cup cafetiere that can be replaced with a fresh hot one.
We are also kept waiting despite being there on the dot; the people that came in after us got shown their table first and it would have been nice to have a cosy table for two rather than be on the end of a long empty row. The meal needs work and I’m sure, knowing the staff there, they are striving to improve. 7/10
So where shall I go next?