Tuesday, 11 October 2011

High tea through the looking glass....

A few years ago, when I was working in a library, I made one of the most important friendships of my adult life. This friendship was, and still is, based almost entirely on an overenthusiastic appreciation of tea, cake, and those marvellous mealtimes (some real, some invented) whose purpose is purely to combine the two. This is the reason that the library-based stage of my career saw me gain an extra stone of cakey insulation, built up steadily over time during an almost religious observance of daily elevenses.

So when this same friend informed me that a super-kitsch new tea room had opened in the heart of Manchester, I was filled with giddy excitement. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present.....

Richmond Tea Rooms

Picture courtesy of Richmond Tea Rooms website
First impressions of Richmond Tea Rooms were overwhelmingly positive. The decor is an Alice in Wonderland-themed mix of red and black 'Eat me' and 'Drink me' salutations set amongst beautifully upholstered regal wooden armchairs and perfectly grannyishly decked tables. There is even a small conservatory-type nook in one corner, though sadly it has been occupied on both our visits.

The selection of tea is admirable, with more than a couple that neither my friend nor I have tried (quite a feat) and the display of cakes, pies and buns is a thing of real beauty. The crockery is delicate and beautiful, and the overall attention to detail is quite astounding - perhaps explaining the slightly elevated prices. On our first trip we were blown away by just how delicious the chocolate torte was, and decided immediately that we'd have to trek back for one of their high teas. This we duly did, at the end of last week.

Once again I was blown away by the look and feel of the place - even the forties/fifites music selection is just perfect for setting the scene. The Queen's Tea was very exciting when it arrived, with the highlight surely being the fig and goat's cheese finger sandwiches. The selection of cakes and pastries was pretty wonderful too. The best bits were a lovely miniature meringue (divine), and a moist and mouthwatering coconut macaroon. The strawberry and custard tarte was nice enough, though the pastry was a little dry, but the fruit scone (something about which I am rather particular) was a little thin and crisp for my preferences. Having said that, I barely made an impact on the scone in any case, since I was so full of other sweet treats! The clotted cream supplied was delicious though, so I did make the effort for at least a couple of bites of the scone.

All in all, this place is well worth a visit - a kitsch little oasis of vintage music, decadent decor and very naughty confections.

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