It goes without saying that afternoon tea is both fancy and quintessentially British and not only is it a meal (if not three meals with all those tiers), it is an event in itself. The idea of taking time out of our busy lives to sit down and sip on tea, indulge in dainty bites of deliciousness and catch up with friends and family is both special and a delight. We can thank the Duchess of Bedford for that, after all, she created the perfect setting for us to “spill the tea”.
Afternoon tea was invented back in 1840 but it really took off in Manchester back in 1903 when The Midland first opened. Now celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, Manchester’s iconic hotel has also been serving afternoon tea to its guests for 120 years, making it the longest-running afternoon menu in Manchester’s history. And with age comes experience, so visitors to the hotel can rest assured they are in safe hands. The table is set, the scones and cakes baked and the Champagne and tea are ready to be poured.
Serving an astounding 800 pots of tea on average every week, as well as 600 scones and 55 bottles of Champagne (equalling an approximate 330 flutes), The Midland Hotel is a popular choice for afternoon tea in Manchester. And now we’ve had a taste, we can see exactly why.
Guests can choose from ten loose leaf varieties with some eye-catching options such as Botanist’s G & Tea (a gin and tonic inspired tea) and Garden of Eden (a black and green tea blend infused with wild flowers). The Midland also has a classic Darjeeling tea (the Champagne of teas) that pairs perfectly with a splash of milk and enjoyed alongside the hotel’s tasty baked goods and sandwiches. Speaking of Champagne, the one the hotel serves is dry, crisp and refreshing, plus it definitely gives that added luxury to your afternoon tea experience.
All of the tea room’s cakes, scones and sandwiches are made in-house by the hotel’s patisserie team and the time dedicated to making these afternoon tea staples shine really shows as they come beautifully presented on the tiers. Almost too pretty to eat but trust us, you’ll definitely want to indulge.
The finely-cut sandwiches come with an assortment of fillings with appetising elevations on the classics such as honey roast gammon with broad bean puree; cucumber with mint and poppy seed cream cheese; prawn and crayfish Rockerfeller; and traditional Coronation chicken. Meat alternatives include roasted red pepper, feta and rocket; crushed pea and marjoram cream cheese; and beetroot hummus, pickled carrot and walnut, which really bring a pop of colour to the tiers as well as plenty of flavour packed in just a few bites.
Moving onto the scones, which have been sat on one of the tiers wrapped up in a serviette blanket of sorts that we were just itching to wake up with lashings of clotted cream and jam. The scones, however you may say them or choose to eat them, were golden brown on the top with a fluffy centre. Diners are given the option of either raspberry jam, lemon curd or blueberry jam to top them with, as well as a generous scoop of clotted cream to help yourself to.
And what is afternoon tea without cake? The Midland Hotel serves a selection of sweet treats as part of their traditional afternoon tea including Valrhona dark chocolate mousse, pistachio macarons, mini fruit tarts with thin, crisp pastry and a refined take on a Victoria sponge. All decadent yet not too heavy to devour, these are the perfect finish to a leisurely afternoon in the hotel’s comfy tea room.
Back in 1903, afternoon tea was actually served on the hotel’s roof terrace, which offered stunning views across the city centre. The roof was closed to the public in 1910 and afternoon tea moved down to what was then the Winter Garden area of the hotel. Over time, afternoon tea moved to the Octagon, where it remained for years, until the hotel opened a bespoke tea room in 2017, where it has been served ever since.
There is plenty of elegance to be found in The Midland’s tea room, with the panelled walls, mirrors and the large dresser filled with tea sets as you enter, as well as the China teacups and Champagne flutes set and ready for diners. With large arched windows, daylight floods into the tea room, brightening up the afternoon tea setting even more. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to sit in one of the tearoom’s window seat areas you can look out towards the magnificent Manchester Library opposite as you sip your tea.
The Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Midland Tearoom costs £32 per person and the Royal Afternoon Tea (which comes with a glass of Champagne) costs £42 per person. The hotel also offers options for children, vegetarians, vegans and gluten-intolerant guests. You can book an afternoon tea at The Midland Hotel here.