Cheshire Life Afternoon Tea - Stanneylands Hotel, Wilmslow
PUBLISHED: 12:16 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:18 20 February 2013
A great British tradition is making an elegant comeback as guests of Cheshire Life discovered at Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow <br/>WORDS BY GILLIAN HOOK PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
The elegant and refined tradition of afternoon tea is making a welcome return in social circles and has even caught on with the WAGs and their celebrity friends.
Afternoon tea is said to have been initiated in the early 19th century by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford who invited friends to join her for tea and a light snack in the early afternoon, and it soon caught on in fashionable society.
Today's 'fashionable society' gathered for Cheshire Life's very own Champagne Afternoon Tea at Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow and enjoyed a bubbly revival of this relaxed and civilised tradition.
Guests were welcomed to the hotel's conservatory by general manager James Lake who revealed that the venue is to be called Calico Caf Bar. 'Afternoon tea sits very well with our conservatory, somewhere that people can relax with tea and cake,' he said.
In the informal setting, and with a piano tinkling in the background, Cheshire Life's guests were treated to glasses of Bouche Pere & Fils Cuvee Reservee Brut, a ripe, biscuity champagne with a fine mousse and a long, elegant finish, supplied by wine merchants Matthew Clarke.
Bucks Fizz was another option or simply plain orange juice. Said James:'We have recently changed our wine list and have enhanced our selection of wines by the glass, including our champagne choice. So it's a great opportunity for people to just have a glass of champagne without having to order a whole bottle: perfect for afternoon tea.'
Tea and coffee were also on offer to accompany the finger sandwiches which were served on fresh, homemade bread - minus crusts, of course - by the smartly dressed staff, watched over by business development manager Amanda-Jane Fleck.
Sandwich choices included delicate cucumber; delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese; succulent king prawn with Marie Rose sauce and salad; and full flavoured cheese with lettuce and tomato.
What's afternoon tea without cake? There was a fine selection to choose from and all beautifully arranged on tiered cake stands: freshly made scones with preserve and clotted cream; a selection of fruity tea breads; moist carrot cake; traditional Bakewell tarts; tempting fruit-topped tarts, luscious chocolate sponge and dainty butterfly cakes.
Our super spread came courtesy of Prima Hotels' executive chef Ernst Van Zyl and his team, including 22-year old Sam Swindells who, explained James, had done most of the work for that day's event.
South African-born Ernst said: 'I didn't grow up with the custom of afternoon tea, but after nine years in this country I have come to appreciate many British traditions including this one.'
Cheshire Life's guests were also greatly in favour of restoring this elegant custom. Said one: 'It is so civilised and fruitful: not only have we met so many interesting people but to take time out from a hectic schedule and relax.'
So raise your teacups and champagne glasses, ladies and gentlemen: I give you the great British afternoon tea
Bouche Pere and Fils Cuvee Reservee Brut Champagne
Finger sandwiches, without crusts, with the following fillings:
Smoked salmon with cream cheese
King prawn, Marie Rose sauce with salad
Cheese, lettuce and tomato
Scones with preserves and clotted cream
Selection of tea breads
Tea and coffee
The Stanneylands Hotel
Cheshire, SK9 4EY
Tel: 01625 525225