Apparently we have Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, to thank for the creation of the afternoon tea. Back in the early nineteenth century, Anna was reportedly too hungry to wait for dinner and so she would fill the gap with a pot of tea and a snack served privately in her boudoir in the afternoon.
She then started to invite friends to join her, and soon enough the trend caught on with other social hostesses picking up on the idea. Tea rooms then became the rage in the late 19th Century. They were very much a ladies affair as they were considered one of the few places where it was acceptable for women to meet without a chaperone.
Now, almost 200 years later than Anna’s innovation, going out for a ladies afternoon tea remains a treat and a wonderful way to celebrate something special, and what can be more special than treating your mum?!
My mother and I went to the impressive 5 star Celtic Manor for our afternoon tea, which despite having visited many times, still blows me away. The whole resort is more like you would expect to find out in the States, with it’s impressive lobby, three golf courses, impressive grounds and many renowned restaurants.
The afternoon tea was served in it’s Garden Room. On a wonderfully sunny early spring day, we sat by the window and had impressive views out to the grounds and of the Roman Road golf course.
The garden room is pretty modern with wide floor to ceiling windows, but the crisp white table cloths and white tableware ensured an elegant and traditional feel. My only bug bear was that there were feedback forms on the table, which is a little presumptuous. If restaurants insist on doing this, surely it’s better to handout with the bill?!
There were plenty of others partaking in the afternoon tea and the light chatter ensured a nice atmosphere. The staff were attentive throughout and our waitress was both friendly and professional.
We kicked off with a bottle of Prosecco, well it would be rude not too! This was light and crisp and very easy drinking.
The cream tea was served with the usual three tier plates, with a plate of finger sandwiches and two tiers of tempting cakes. I would have preferred the plating and tableware to have been a more refined bone china, it is a five star venue after all, but I appreciate that this may be me being rather fussy.
The finger sandwiches were pretty traditional with smoked salmon, Caerphilly cheese with pear chutney, roasted ham, egg mayonnaise and crab mini brioche rolls. There was a mix of bread, although mainly white and I am pleased to say that there was not a curly dried up edge in sight, although the limp rocket garnish was a little misplaced.
The mini brioche rolls were a nice touch and worked well with the crab and thousand island dressing, the smoked salmon was elegant and as it should be, but it was the unassuming ham sandwich which was my favourite. The pickled shallots give it a subtle twist and added an extra layer of flavour.
The cakes looked and tasted delicious, there was a spiced apple and blueberry cupcake and a mouthwatering salted caramel whoopie pie. Not being almond or meringue fans we had declined the almond tart and the lemon meringue torte and instead had a chocolate sandwich biscuit filled with buttercream and topped with fudge and a chocolate macaroon. We had a whole tier of cakes each which was exceptionally generous.
All were tasty, but the one that stole the show was the white chocolate opera slice. I’m not really a big cake or desert person, and it wasn’t as impressive to look at as the others, but this really was divine, it was light and airy with a subtle sweetness of white chocolate and vanilla with an injected hit of flavour from the coffee bean.
There were a selection of speciality teas and coffees to choose from, with the waitress bringing the leaves to show and explaining the flavours of each. I ordered the Chamomile which was brewed with dried Chamomile flowers giving it a lightly perfumed flavour.
We were then brought our scones, usually these are served on the top tier, but this way they could be served warm, which was a lovely touch. They came in their own wicker basket, the aroma hitting you first, with a generous helping of clotted cream and strawberry preserve. They were huge, light and fluffy and exactly as a scone should be.
We could no way manage to eat all the cakes, despite our best efforts, and so the remaining cakes were boxed up in a pretty box for us to take home and enjoy later.
Despite my few fussy comments, The Celtic Manor really did the whole thing in style. We had a delightful afternoon and it was a wonderful way to treat my mum and to thank her for being so great. We ended up being there for just over two hours, we were not at all rushed and we thoroughly enjoyed – I whole heartedly recommend it!
Family Friendly Rating: *****
High Chairs – Yes
Baby Changing – Yes
Childrens Menu – Yes*
Other Info: N/A
* On this occasion we did not take any children with us, however the Celtic Manor has consistently proven to be a family friendly venue. I have been informed (see comments below) that they do a childrens portion of the afternoon tea. There was a little one in a baby chair there when we were visiting for afternoon tea.