Historical Dining Rooms afternoon tea: Review

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A 10 course afternoon tea with a pot of tea for just £15.95 per head? It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

This is exactly what the Historical Dining Rooms in Totterdown are now offering – and it’s not your standard afternoon tea either. Their version of this great British tradition is served every Saturday from 12-2.30pm, with a menu inspired by traditional Victorian dishes. The menu’s certainly not your standard fare, as you can see below…


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Menu


The afternoon tea is served in their first floor Regency dining room, entry to which is gained by ringing the doorbell. On being seated at your table, you’re presented with the afternoon tea menu, a piece of paper detailing the history of afternoon tea and a list of loose leaf teas from The Rare Tea Company from which to choose. My Jasmine Silver Tip tea was lovely, delicately perfumed – it’s just a shame that the pot held enough for just one cup, and took a while to be refilled.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Jasmine Tea


Our appetiser was stunningly presented: miniature Eccles cakes with Goosnargh cheese. While traditionally served with Lancashire cheese, the Historical Dining Rooms team choose to use Goosnargh because of its sweetness…it’s a fresh, light and young cheese, but I think I prefer to have more contrast between sweet and savoury. The Eccles cake was fantastic, though, with a flaky pastry case and a rich fruit filling. We also loved the contrast between the hot Eccles cake and the cold cheese – and the inclusion of edible violet and borage flowers for something a little different.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Eccles Cakes


We were a little surprised that, after 35 minutes at our table, we’d only had the tea and the appetiser, but we soon forgot about the delay when our savoury dishes arrived, presented in a beautiful miniature chest of drawers that was delivered to our table.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Serving Drawers


We had no idea what to expect from the mock crab, but we were seriously impressed. The whole dish had a vinegary smell when it arrived, and we were presented with a crab shell filled with a combination of toasted breadcrumbs, cheese, tomato salsa and herbs. While it resembled a dressed crab, the flavour was completely different – almost cheese on toast-like. The crumbs gave it a lovely crunch, while the cheese flavour was beautifully strong.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Mock Crab


Next up: the squirrel pie and veal toasts. The former was served in an incredibly dainty pastry case, which was a little too tough to cut through easily. This was filled with a creamy chicken sauce, and topped with a rich and gamey squirrel ragu, and a delicate squirrel fillet and fried parsley leaves on top.

The veal toasts resembled sausage rolls: the poached veal mousse had more of a rillettes consistency, not completely smooth and sweet and delicately spiced. The toast that coated it was smeared with a thin layer of spinach, before being pan fried – the addition of an egg wash gave it a pancake-like flavour.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Squirrel Pie and Veal Toast


We loved the contrast of the mutton club sandwich, which featured white bread on the outside, white toast in the middle – a great contrast. The mutton itself was slow cooked, with a rich and meaty flavour and a surprisingly delicate spicing, while the chutney – which featured tiny chunks of green apple, dried fruit, tomatoes and spices – was beautifully sweet, with a jam-like consistency.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Club Sandwich


Our open lobster sandwich was a thick finger of white bread, toasted on all sides and with a lovely dense texture. It was topped with tiny pieces of diced lobster in mayo, with larger pieces on top, and the tarragon oil with which it was finished was amazing: lurid green in colour, sweet and full of flavour.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Lobster Sandwich


A “refreshment” of lemon and barley syrup was served between the savoury and sweet dishes, brought to the table in a small cork-lidded jar and poured by our waitress. This very sweet, pretty thick drink did indeed refresh, and the addition of egg whites reminded us of lemon meringue pie.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Lemon and Barley Syrup


Our sweets were, once again, served in a miniature chest of drawers, and the first to be sampled was the aerated Victorian sponge. The sponge itself was very egg-heavy, and in honesty, didn’t taste fantastic on its own – but when combined with the strawberry preserve, quenelle of sweetened cream and fried parsley leaf, it was a pretty tasty dessert.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Victorian Aerated Sponge


This was followed by our “chocolate cake drops”, which turned out to be chocolate flavoured meringues filled with a salted chocolate ganache. They were pretty difficult to eat with our dainty dessert cutlery – we had plenty of shards flying across the table – but the meringues themselves were perfect: crisp on the outside and moist and chewy in the middle. The dark chocolate ganache had been piped in through holes in the base of the meringue and was lovely and rich with just a hint of salt.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Chocolate Cake Drops


Our final sweet was a strawberry fool with woodruff: a combination of sweet crème pat (the texture was sadly a little grainy) contrasted with the tart, sliced strawberries that lined the glass. This was topped with an incredibly sweet strawberry sauce, dense sweetened chantilly cream and a beautiful nest of spun sugar to finish the whole thing off. I’d happily eat this dessert again.


Historical Dining Rooms Afternoon Tea - Strawberry Fool


At £15.95 per head, there’s no denying that the afternoon tea at the Historical Dining Rooms is fantastic value for money, and it’s a great chance to experience a range of historic dishes – something a little different. Definitely recommended.


Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.


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