2016 has been a long, barren year on the vegan afternoon tea front, after doing so splendidly last year (check out my other afternoon tea reviews here). I’ve only spent two weeks in the UK so far this year, so July was my only chance to rectify the situation, and I seized upon the opportunity to take Dr HH and my mum for vegan afternoon tea at Mad Hatter’s in Chester. It’s a nice Alice in Wonderland themed cafe in the heart of the city, with the vegan option available on request, so make sure you order it in advance. We did that and still had some problems.
We arrived right on time for our 1:45pm booking, to find the whole place completely full. We were told that a 2pm party of three had arrived early, said they were me (?!) and taken our table, leaving us hanging for ten minutes until some other people left.
“Did they give our name?” Dr HH asked, but nobody could elaborate on how this happened.
“Have you given them our vegan food?” I asked over the loud rumbling of my belly.
“No, your food is ready for you, we just need a table. We thought it was weird that they said they didn’t want vegan food.”
So we stood for ten minutes, then got our table. We placed our tea orders (rose tea is always my first choice with afternoon tea, so I was pleased to see they had it) and waited. And waited. And waited some more. It was 2:20pm when we got our tea (the manager told us there was a backlog, yet people who arrived after us got theirs first), and a further ten minutes for the food – even though apparently it had been sat there waiting.
I would guess that they either did give our vegan food to the imposters, or they had completely forgotten our booking – either way, 45 minutes is a long wait for food, especially when I’d paid a £15 deposit so we couldn’t just walk away. The food was good, and my mum, whose birthday we were celebrating, said it was worth the wait, and that’s the important thing. But it did seem like it might have been hastily thrown together.
The finger sandwiches were plentiful and big enough to be quite filling. They were hummus three ways: hummus with rocket, hummus with rocket and red onion, and hummus with Mediterranean veg. The latter two were good, but hummus with rocket smacked of desperation and made us wonder if they’d been frantically looking for last minute vegan options for us. It’s just as well all vegans love hummus! We also had a little bowl of salty popcorn, which was a fun addition.
The scones were warm, so we suspect they may have been freshly baked and could be another explanation for the delay. The tops were dusted with icing sugar, which gave them a nice sweetness. They came with spread and jam, and had a good bake.
The cake plate was astonishing! There were two vegan cupcakes available on the day, so we could order our preference. I got the Oreo one, while my companions both chose chocolate and strawberry. It ended up being a very chocolatey plate, which is almost a shame. We couldn’t eat everything in one go (Dr HH argues that he would have been fine), it was so plentiful.
The purple bit is blueberry fudge. How fun! I hate blueberries, but even I really liked it – it actually tasted more of coconut than blueberry, so that was a good sign.
The Oreo cupcake had tremendously good icing, but the sponge was a little too dry – eating it all was hard work. The strawberry one had a dollop of jam in the sponge which made it much better.
I’d feared that the brownie would also be a bit dry, but far from it: it was sublime! Again, the icing was really good. It seemed to be raw rather than spongy, which was a nice surprise.
It was £15 per person, which is good value for money for the amount of food and bottomless teapots. It wasn’t the best quality of vegan food, with the uninspiring sandwich selection knocking it down a few marks, but it would be a good option in a group with non-vegans. Of course, our experience was soured somewhat by the service, so I probably wouldn’t go back.
Because of the 45 minute delay getting served, we didn’t have time for our planned activity (walking the city walls) before our train back to Manchester. But I have done it before and can just about remember!
I went on squillions of day trips to York when I was a child in the north east, so I love a good walled city. In Chester, you can climb up onto the walls and walk in a perfect square (if my memory serves me), though you do briefly drop down to pavement level again. The walk takes you alongside the cathedral, which is definitely worth a look, and also past a secondhand book shop which is nice to explore.
The walk also takes you towards the Roman amphitheatre too, where you can pretend to be a gladiator, and some more modern ruins too, like this pretty archway.
All in all, it’s a lovely day trip if you want to treat yourself to some history, and some vegan cake!