When I think about afternoon tea, I imagine it in a setting just like Tea Parlour in Liverpool: vintage decor and crockery, and a very old-fashioned air to the place. There was even a guide to afternoon tea etiquette (whatever you do, don’t let your spoon touch the side of the cup when you’re stirring your tea!). And the food was as good as the setting!
The sandwiches were quite slow to arrive – about 25 minutes after we’d been seated, even though we’d pre-ordered our one vegan and one classic afternoon tea. (Service was really friendly, but it was quite slow as there were a couple of large parties in there.) The menu said there would be five different fillings, but as they were out of vegan cream cheese, the cucumber and cream cheese was off. I assumed they would double up on another of the fillings, but instead they reduced the number of sandwiches to four, which is a bit disappointing. Still, the fillings were really tasty and I do love some variety – and some brown bread! From left to right, I had avocado and tomato; watercress and tofu egg; hummus and roasted red pepper; and coronation chickpea salad. As you can see, they were all bursting with their filling, which is exactly what I want – too many times I’ve had hummus and red pepper sandwiches with merely one piece of pepper in there.
The full cake stand arrived next, with the vegan goods on top and non-vegan on the bottom for my friend. Let’s just say from the start that she got a lot more than me, which may have made me a little bitter/jealous. If I hadn’t seen her treats, I would have been absolutely delighted with mine!
There were two scones, one fruit and one plain. They came with whipped coconut cream, which is the best thing ever, and some strawberry jam. The scones were really nice, and coconut cream just elevates everything to greatness. No complaints about the scones!
The menu doesn’t specify which cakes you will get, it leaves it nicely open. I like that, as it meant I could be pleasantly surprised and not pin my hopes on one particular treat. I had a lemon curd tart, that was very zingy and fresh, and a banoffee tart which was amazing – shortcrust pastry filled with caramel sauce, topped with a slice of banana, whipped coconut cream and a sprinkle of dark chocolate: I need to experiment with making these myself.
And yet, that wasn’t even the best thing on the plate! That prize went to a chocolate cake which I can best describe as a beautifully soft brownie sitting on a biscuit base and topped by white icing that was basically like a cloud. And fortunately Tea Parlour also encourages leftovers to be taken home, so I returned to Manchester with this lemon cake. It was so moist and refreshing, it was really lovely – and I’m not even that crazy about lemon cakes!
It was £20 for everything, which was pretty good. My impression was that the vegan version rivalled the classic in terms of taste, but I’d like it to rival it in size as well. Regardless, I will definitely go back to Tea Parlour. It’s the kind of place that offers not only the food but also the real afternoon tea experience: it’s elegant and classy, but not snobby.