I had the highest afternoon tea in Manchester.

No, it wasn’t on a plane and no, it wasn’t some kind of psychedelic, Mad Hatter’s tea party. It was on the 23rd floor of the Beetham Tower.

There’s something strangely peaceful about watching the city go about its business storeys below you. Imagine watching a fish tank or stargazing. Now take away the stress of imminent meetings and appointments. Be carefree. Relax. You notice that a fish has a different coloured scale or spot a constellation you’ve never glimpsed before. A new perspective. That’s what the view from Cloud 23 is like. Except the fish and stars are the city you thought you knew.

This is by far the best view in town. And the best view deserves the best food and drink to enhance the experience. Fortunately the catering team at Cloud 23 know what they’re doing.

Thanks to the upcoming festivities, the usual afternoon tea menu has been spruced up and now offers Christmassy treats. With two new options to choose from – the Traditional Christmas Afternoon Tea and the Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea – there are plenty of winter delicacies to put you in the mood for Xmas. When my Mam and I visited we went whole hog and tried the Winter Wonderland Tea.

Cloud 23 Winter Wonderland Afternoon TeaThe price for this particular tea is considerably more than the others but it isn’t hard to see why. Presented on a four-tier cake stand in the shape of a Christmas tree and accompanied by another plate of scones, a bowl of nuts, two alcoholic drinks, candy canes and enough tea to fill Boston Harbour (or as much as you’d like anyway), this is worth every penny. Our tea for two had enough food for three, perhaps even four people (depending on your appetite).

The sweet to savoury ratio was a little off, with more sweet items than savoury, but we had no complaints about the food itself. The savoury items were turkey, stuffing and cranberry cobs, prawn cocktail wraps, brie and red onion sandwiches, some sort of tomato sandwich and mushroom duxelle tarts (like mini mushroom quiches). All were up to scratch.

The sweet options were mince pies with rum and butter (swirled into the shape of a rose), iced Christmas cake, chocolate bites, coconut snowballs, mulled wine jelly with brandy cream, chocolate mousse tarts, candy canes and cinnamon and sultana cones with Dorset clotted cream and jam. I particularly liked the soft scones, the neat Xmas cake and extremely chocolatey tarts. Top marks for the sweets then too.

The Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea was served with the bespoke White Blizzard cocktail, made of white port, lemon juice, pear liqueur, homemade spiced syrup and topped with frothy egg foam. While this drink did have a Christmassy feel it proved far too strong for us two ladies (who admittedly are not frequent drinkers) and we only managed a couple of sips each. We were told that the cocktail does change from time to time though as the mixologists are constantly brewing up new concoctions, so you may receive a different drink if you visit. I much preferred the shot of warm whisky hot chocolate that arrived with the tea, and tasted like a liquid crème brûlée. There’s also a selection of teas and coffee to choose from, and as much of it as you like.

My one gripe was this: there was no option to bring our leftover food home. As you may have guessed we were absolutely stuffed before we even got to try half of the goodies and so were hoping to package them up to sample later. Fortunately our waitress Lisa, who was very attentive throughout our visit, managed to improvise with some empty fruit boxes, but I would advise Cloud 23 invest in some cardboard boxes for their future guests. People do like ‘doggy bags’ when it comes to cake.

As an extra Christmas treat you can enjoy carol singers each Sunday at Cloud 23, as you indulge in a Champagne afternoon tea. What better way to put you in the mood for the holidays?

By Stephanie Alderson

Images by Pellier Photography

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Copyright of Pellier PhotographyWhat: Festive Afternoon Tea

Where: Cloud 23, Manchester

When: Available now until December 31, 2015

More info: To make reservations at Cloud 23 call 0161 870 1670 or email cloud23.manchester@hilton.com or book online via www.cloud23bar.com 

Christmas Carols afternoon tea, Champagne and Choir is available from £45.00 on December 6, December 13, and December 20, 2015

Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea with bespoke cocktail – £45 per person
Traditional Christmas Afternoon Tea – £25 per person
Traditional Christmas Afternoon with Champagne – £35 per adult