Think of afternoon tea and what comes to mind? White tablecloths? Crustless sandwiches? Sedate surroundings and whispered conversations?
Well, forget the stereotypes, the DoubleTree Hotel in Manchester city centre has launched a kiddie-friendly afternoon tea which welcomes toddlers with open arms. And so off I went with my fiancé and little girl to see how an upmarket hotel owned by the Hilton group handled a mix of ladies who lunch and kids who can’t sit still for a minute.
We arrived at 4.30pm towards the end of the lunch period with buggy and child in tow. We were greeted by friendly staff and shown to our table. The setting was a stylish restaurant, albeit laid out for an evening dinner service rather than a children’s tea time. On the walls were local pieces of art from the craft centre in the Northern Quarter while modern music set to the perfect volume enabled you to talk without the need to shout. It all made for a relaxing atmosphere, but how would this work with children running around?
Once shown to our table the inevitable happened – an urgent nappy change. So my fiancé trotted off to find the baby changing facilities. Happily, these were clean and spacious, also doubling as the disabled toilet (a good combination if nature calls). The only downside was the fact they were on the other side of the hotel, a good trek from the dining area.
This was temporarily forgotten when we saw the menu: sparkling cocktails to start, followed by the options of cake and tea or the classic spread. My fiancé and I each chose a Bellini followed by the full-on afternoon tea. The staff took note of our dietary requirements (vegetarian for my partner and a dairy allergy on my side) and the sandwiches were made-to-order, rather than in advance. The bread was fresh and springy and unusually the egg mayo was delicious (normally it tastes rubbish). To follow we had two yummy scones with clotted cream and jam, the stars of the show. There was also an array of marvellous looking desserts although we had no idea what they were. A description would have been welcome as two looked non-veggie. By the time we discovered they were vegetarian our bellies were full and our daughter was getting restless.
Real thought had gone into the kiddie-friendly food and my daughter enjoyed chicken sandwiches and cheese and cucumber. Her fave of the day were the jam sandwiches, served with a jelly and ice cream shot glass. Also on offer were three cookies, one scone with jam and cream and – the star of the child’s meal – a gingerbread man to decorate with miniature tubs of coloured icing, dark and white chocolate drops and a powdered biscuit crumb.
A milkshake was supposed to be served with the child’s meal but was missing. The staff seemed to disappear so we were unable to chase this up.
All in all, there were only a few tiny errors. But check-backs are essential whether it’s an evening meal or a relaxed lunch. As this is a new take on an afternoon tea, time will tell and I wish DoubleTree every success. Oh, and we weren’t able to see how the restaurant handled the combination of lunching ladies and raucous kids: we were the only ones there.
Review by Chef Tony
What: Afternoon Tea at DoubleTree
Where: Manchester city centre