Afternoon tea can be a delight

It can be rather difficult for my wonderful friend Judy and I to meet – we are both busy and finding dates that suit us both are far and between.

But when we get together, we always opt for afternoon tea and over the years, we have visited quite a few places.

Last Saturday, we went to the Montenotte Hotel – their afternoon tea is served in the Glasshouse which is a stunning room with views over Cork and an elegant interior. The staff is excellent and the food was utterly delicious.

Afternoon tea is around since the 19th century when a duchess started getting hungry between lunch and dinner which was rather late affair. It also has its own etiquette: dress nicely, drink from a tea cup and hold it by the handle, stir up and down – not noisily in circles, no pinkie finger and never dunk your scone into the tea.

Afternoon tea comes with three courses served on the three tiered tray (in Montenotte it is served on a beautiful cage tray): the first one includes savoury sandwiches with the cucumber sandwich being the most traditional next to the coronation chicken filling as well as ham.

The second tier are always scones which I just learned should be broken up and not cut (ups) with cream (clotted cream for a luxurious feel) and jam.

The final tier has all the tiny patisserie items and here is where a pastry chef can shine and impress their guests.

We had a lovely girl serving us who truly loves hospitality and was making us feel relaxed and well looked after.

Judy and I looked back at all the places we had afternoon tea which included The Metropole, The Woodford, The River Lee, The Vintage Tea Trips (an old double decker bus) and a few others. To be honest, so far, we never had a bad afternoon tea but our all-time favourite place has to be The Metropole – the food was delicious, the atmosphere was awesome, the interior just beautiful and the staff is so well trained that service seems effortless.

Saying that – the Montenotte is a very close second. If you like a less formal affair, the Woodford is serving also afternoon tea and it is very good and generous and I love the history of the place as well.

I also go to afternoon tea when I am travelling and my favourite of all is actually in London – Cakes & Bubbles is the brainchild of Albert Adria who was the head pastry chef at El Bulli in Barcelona. Each course was an explosion of flavours and textures and their ‘cheesecake’ was made with raw brie and made to look like a small wheel of cheese. I still dream of this dessert – it wasn’t sweet but not savoury either. It was just perfect for me. For my next few travels, I need to find new places to try out and be amazed.

By the way, Bia Sásta Christmas fairs are coming up – this year, I am organising two fairs: 25 November in Ballincollig Westgate Foundation and 26 November in Blarney Golf Resort – both open from 10-4pm. Mark your diary – hope to see you there.