Is there anything more civilised than an afternoon tea? It’s such a quaint and fancy affair, and if it turns out not to be English, then I don’t want to know! Regular readers will know that I am always on the lookout for a good vegan afternoon tea, and I’d heard several glowing reviews of The Midland Hotel in Manchester, so it seemed like the perfect option for a family treat on my birthday back in April.
Afternoon tea is hosted in the Tea Room, where everything is simple and classy – no mismatched crockery here. Vegan champagne is provided if you wish to upgrade to the fancier version, and there are several teas to try, including a Victoria sponge inspired one and another with a hint of whiskey.
There are five varieties of vegan sandwiches, served on white or granary bread. We all found the avocado, radish and bean sprout one the least exciting (not many bean sprout fans in the house), while the mushroom duxelle with walnut was absolutely sensationally flavoursome. The other three (jerk-spiced chickpea hummus with courgette; heritage tomato, black pepper, and olives; fried aubergine caviar with roasted red pepper) were all very good too, and more exciting than some of the standard vegan afternoon tea fare. Not a cucumber in sight!
The scones are kept in the “scone warmer” (so we were told) and only brought over to the table when it’s time to devour them. How fancy! There’s one plain and one fruit scone per person, which I honestly believe is one too many – you need to save room for cake! The scones were very good though, warmed to perfection (as you’d expect, in their specific scone-heating device) and well-baked. They were served with soy cream, which looked quite unappetising, but was fine, and a choice of three jams: strawberry, raspberry, or gooseberry. The staff come around with the jam and plonk some on your plate as requested, which is certainly fancy, but it would be nice to judge for yourself how much you’d like.
And then the cake plate. Oh, the cake plate. It was the stuff of dreams. Just look at that meringue! It was so sweet and crumbly, and the raspberries made for a suitably tart filling. I’d happily eat one of these every day!
The pistachio cheesecake wasn’t much of a traditional cheesecake – it was a very decadent, creamy log coated in pistachios. It was tasty, but there was perhaps a bit too much of it. The dark chocolate and cherry delice was equally indulgent, but more manageable somehow – rich, without being overpoweringly so. The cinnamon and orange polenta cake was the only disappointing one of the bunch, as it was quite dry and crumbly. The flavour was lovely though.
All in all, this was a thoroughly classy affair, and the service and ambience were spot on as well. I didn’t feel like we’d been shafted with the vegan option – everything was creative and well thought out. I’ve had a fair few afternoon teas, and this was the most traditional one in terms of service and menu, so if you ever want to get that classic English experience, this is the place for you.
Are you a fellow vegan afternoon tea aficionado? Where should I try next? And, most importantly, should I invest in a scone warmer?!