The Afternoon Tea team recently took a trip to Edinburgh to sample the Afternoon Tea at The Balmoral Hotel.
This iconic hotel is one of Auld Reekie's most recognisable landmarks and the first thing that most people see when arriving in the city by train - as it is located just next door to Waverley Station.
The 'grande dame' of Princes Street has been serving Afternoon Tea since opening in 1902, shortly after the death of Queen Victoria, who was a fan of the tradition herself. The Victoria Sponge, a staple of many an Afternoon Tea, takes its name from the monarch.
Afternoon Tea at The Balmoral has become an Edinburgh institution and we're glad to confirm the experience suitably lives up to the expectation.
On the day we visit, the elegant Palm Court setting is bursting with life, buzzing with activity and conversation. A harpist plays, like an angel from above, on the balcony, which adds to the lovely atmosphere.
We are seated in the corner, below one of the four palm trees that reach up towards the magnificent domed ceiling. A very convenient position from which to survey the goings on around the room. Three trees, covered with hundreds of tiny lights, create a magical central feature.
A glass of Champagne to start the afternoon? Well, it wouldn't be an Afternoon Tea without it! Our friendly server poured us a glass each of Charles Heidsieck Rosé, which is a delicate rose gold colour and deliciously dry to taste.
The tea service at The Balmoral is like a piece of theatre. Our waiter pours the tea from a great height, transferring it from one teapot (containing the loose tea leaves) into another pot below. This dazzling technique is not all about style either as it means that your tea will not stew while sitting on the table so the second cup will taste as good as the first.
Sampling different teas and infusions is encouraged during Afternoon Tea at The Balmoral, so we take the opportunity to change our tea with each course. A smooth Emperor's Breakfast tea with the sandwiches and something more delicate, Jasmine Silver Tip with the desserts, were notable favourites.
Our sandwiches and savouries arrive on the traditional three-tier stand. After everything is expertly explained by the waiter, we start with the savoury tartlets while they are still warm. The tartlets comprised of butternut squash, smoked venison, Elrik goats cheese tart and a Haggis puff with red onion & neep relish
The selection of traditional sandwich fillings are given a twist with speciality breads; Nigella seeds in soft white bread for the Cucumber and Lemon Crowdie Cheese; black bread with the Smoked Salmon and a sweet mini brioche bun for the egg mayonnaise.
Although the scones are warm and delicious, we want to leave some space for the desserts which will follow, so we sample just one with thick clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam, before they are spirited away and boxed up for us to take home and enjoy later.
The Palm Court staff are welcoming and friendly throughout, checking on us at regular intervals and leaving just the right amount of time between 'courses' so we don't feel rushed and giving us a breather before the pastries arrive.
Three different pastries are presented simply, but elegantly, on a long plate. There is a plate each, so no need to share anything.
The Pear and Caramel Choux, a rich Chocolate Financier, and a Crowdie Cheesecake with heirloom plums are all delicious and just enough to leave us feeling satisfied.
A final lovely touch is a chocolate treat and a small tin of tea for us each to take home. The perfect end to a perfect afternoon of genteel indulgence.