It's been a while since I've been for afternoon tea anywhere. My Sanderson afternoon tea experience was nice, but I'm generally of the belief that the whole thing is never really worth the money. And these experiences are generally pricey.
But it was my elder sisters 25th, mum offered to pay, I had plans that could work around spending 3 hours eating finger sandwiches, and I'm a sucker for pretty teapots. Also photo opportunities are something I'll never turn down.
I hadn't seen the menu beforehand (my own lack of foresight), and as it turns out my sister had managed to pick a hotel with possibly the most dairy filled options. Fine for most, but I've become fully dairy free over the last year to help combat skin problems, so I was staring in slight dismay at the fact that I could have about 0% of the entire menu - other than the tea.
Also, yes I know. Afternoon tea and dairy free, worst combination, what were you expecting.
Thankfully the staff were really accommodating and performed a dairy-ectomy for me; no cream cheese, no creme fraiche, no clotted cream, and instead of delicate cream filled pastries, fruit. Which, in all fairness, is a pretty great spur of the moment, no prior warning substitution. There have been times when I've been told to 'scrape the dairy off' in some restaurants.
Starting from the bottom, the sandwiches were really nice. Definitely flavourful, and a good savoury start. The size of them was really quite large compared to some of the pricier afternoon teas I've seen, and there were are few left over in favour of the sweeter treats.
The scones weren't GBBO standard in their uniformity of size, but lovely for a fruit scone. Not too many raisins, but a decent distribution given the amount of dough to work with. Mine were a tad bit dry, but I think that more accounts for the fact they were obviously a different batch to everyone else's (almost an afterthought). I haven't had anything other than store bought jam for an age, so that was a nice change.
On the top tier, the pastries looked adorable. Christmas themed and super pretty, a change from their usual menu, but everyone enjoyed them. The little macarons had a tiny amount of mincemeat in the centre which was a bit of a surprise.
The selection of tea's the Amba has isn't the largest, but there's a decent variety so you'll probably find something to enjoy. I chose the white tea with pear and ginger, far more pear than ginger in the blend, but it was a sweet tea to accompany the food. The jasmine mint blend was another popular choice, and my sister was very pleased with my suggestion of spiced chai: definitely a good place to start if you're not a massive tea drinker, or not keen on green tea bases.
The only downsides we experienced was a slight cockup with tea orders and things being unavailable, as well as waiting times, and the fact that we were put in the dining room and not the terrace. The staff were happy to dismiss the 12.5% service charge due to the long waits for service as well as delivery, and everyone was happy to adapt drink orders to The Next Best Available Option, so no love lost there. For a group of about 12 though, it seemed like they weren't exactly prepared to deal with the group.
All in all, it was a decent afternoon tea. I'm still not sold on it being worth £25, but they let you take away any food you don't finish in cute little boxes, and it really was more of an event than anything I'd be doing on the regular.
If afternoon tea isn't your thing, the Hotel Amba also does cream tea for £11.95 - you can see the full menu here.
Have you had an afternoon tea you've particularly enjoyed? Let me know so I can add it to my ~list to try! Or, where would you really like to go to have the ideal Afternoon Tea?