Review: Afternoon Tea at the Royal Crescent Hotel
The luxury Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath is undoubtedly one of the world's very finest hotels. Built between 1767 and 1775, the iconic hotel is located on the city's most famous architectural landmark, the Royal Crescent. So when I was kindly invited along to review their afternoon tea, I was delighted, to say the least! What better place to experience the most decadent of British traditions?
With it being my lovely mother's birthday just a couple of days after I was booked in to visit, I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate and treat her to something special, so I took her as my guest.
It was a crisp autumn afternoon and as we ambled our way to the hotel, we couldn't help but take in the sheer beauty of its situation on the Royal Crescent. The remarkable architecture of this world famous spectacle is unquestionably amongst the very best; arranged around a perfect lawn overlooking Royal Victoria Park, there was no surprise to us that it's one of Bath's most celebrated locations.
As we stepped through the elegant Georgian doors of the five-star hotel, we were warmly greeted by the friendly staff at reception who were ready and waiting to assist. We were walked through to The Dower House Restaurant, which is tucked away at the end of the beautifully tranquil gardens set at the rear of the hotel.
On entering the restaurant, we were met with the wonderful ambience you'd expect from such an esteemed venue. Once introduced to the waiting staff in the restaurant, they kindly took our jackets to the cloakroom before showing us to our table. The hall and each table were tastefully decorated for the season with vibrant red, yellow and orange flowers arranged inside of carved pumpkins.
Although the weather was a little too chilly to enjoy our afternoon tea outdoors, our table was right next to a large window so we still got to overlook the glorious gardens that offered us a picturesque view of the rich, autumnal leaves against the quintessential honey-coloured bath stone hotel across the garden.
Once seated, we were handed the afternoon tea menu and given a detailed description of our choices. They have a selection of four different afternoon teas, including a vegetarian option, as well as a dedicated Children’s Afternoon Tea, so there is truly a something for everyone!
Our waiter left us to feast our eyes over the menu for a couple of minutes before returning to take our drinks order. Their choice of premium Ronnefeldt Teas is extensive, each sounding just a delicious as the last, it was quite the decision! I opted for the 'Superior Oolong', described as one of the most exquisite semi-fermented teas, of which only minute quantities are harvested each year, with great richness of flavour and a fruit and nut character full of elegance. And it was just as delightful as it sounds! My mum who has more of a taste for coffee went for an Americano.
After drinks were swiftly served, we picked our afternoon teas. With the aim of having a variety we went for different options. My mum ordered 'The Elizabeth Montagu', to which our waiter explained was a more of an even mixture of sweet and savoury, and is dedicated to Elizabeth Montagu, a British social reformer, who hosted a Bluestocking Society by invitation at the Royal Crescent in the 1770’s.
I selected 'The Duke of York' that's mainly savoury, with a touch of sweet. Famed for his appreciation of life’s finer moments, they named this afternoon tea in the honour of Frederik Augustus who was the second son of George 3rd and in 1795 he visited Bath and lodged at the Royal Crescent.
And of course, as we had a reason celebrate we chose to add some sparkle to the occasion with a Flight of Taittinger Champagne!
While chatting over our drinks, our afternoon tea and champagne flights promptly arrived. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount that was served, although each component was dainty enough to eat in one delicious mouthful, they were in plenty! We were astounded by the waiter's depth of knowledge regarding the afternoon tea as he talked us through each element on every tier.
From tasty sandwiches to delectable cakes, we had to take a second to marvel at every tiny detail before we tucked in!
We started off with the savoury tier, mine consisted of 5 bitesize portions which were Salmon Tartare with Horseradish, Dill and Caviar, then Spiced Lamb Kofta with Peanut Crumb, Coriander and Asian Glaze, also a Brie Truffle and Ham Tart, a Bath Chap Beignet with Mustard Aioli and finally Spiced Pear and Ginger Yoghurt with Gingerbread Crumb. Each one was utterly delicious with the vast variety flavours complimenting each other to mouth-watering perfection. If I had to choose a favourite, it would be the Brie Truffle and Ham Tart, each ingredient made for an exquisite taste and the pastry was crisp yet melted in the mouth.
We then moved onto the sandwiches that were soft and cut to perfection. We both had a selection of 4 sandwiches: Coronation Corn-fed Chicken, Oak Smoked Salmon with Lemon and Chive Cream Cheese, Roast Beef with English Mustard Mayonnaise and lastly Watercress Free Range Egg with Mustard Cress. Although each very different, we enjoyed every single one of the flavoursome fillings.
After all of the tasty savoury condiments, we had built up the appetite for the sweet tier of our towers. To our delight, this tier consisted of a selection of seasonal cakes and pastries, which were all Halloween themed! Each one looked (almost) too good to eat, from a skull macaron to a pumpkin cake with a tiny chocolate stalk, we were in awe over their attention to detail on every cake's decoration, let alone the amazing taste. Their pastry chef is extremely talented, to say the least!
Finally, we moved on to our warm scones and Bath buns, which came with clotted cream, cinnamon butter and strawberry preserve. I topped my scone generously with the cream and it was very enjoyable; wonderfully light and delicate with a flaky texture, and the cinnamon butter added a pleasant hint of spice. The Bath bun was rich and the crushed sugar coating gave it a nice crunch.
The story our waiter told us about their Bath buns particularly intrigued us; a previous visitor explained to the waiter how the rich use to put a lump of sugar in the middle of their Bath buns. Not simply for the taste, but because sugar was a luxury and they wanted to show off their wealth. Since then the restaurant have put a sugar cube in the centre of their own!
After finishing all of our plates, we still had a bit of Champagne left in our glasses, so we sat back and relaxed to enjoy them while admiring the view out of the window. We had three glasses of Champagne each, the first was Taittinger Brut Réserve NV which was elegant, fresh and light with hints of fruits and brioche. Next was my favourite, the Taittinger Brut Champagne Prestige Rosé NV, it was deliciously fruity with lots of strawberry and raspberry flavour. Lastly was Taittinger Nocturne Sec NV which I found very rich with a long aftertaste and a subtle floral sweetness.
Although there were a few groups in the restaurant there was no hurry for us to leave. We were offered more sandwiches or tea and coffee but reluctantly declined as we were so full from our afternoon tea!
Our entire experience of afternoon tea at the Royal Crescent was truly unforgettable, it lived up to its luxurious reputation in every way possible. The waiting staff had impeccable manners throughout, their service felt very personal as they took their time to talk us through every detail and nothing was too much to ask. The surroundings were simply stunning and the food was filling and flawless, so much so that I find myself struggling to do it justice in this review!
Needless to say, when you combine one of the greatest British hotels, with one of the most sumptuous of British traditions, the outcome is nothing less than utter brilliance.
Whether it's a birthday, anniversary or solely just to spoil yourself or someone special then we’d highly recommend a trip to The Dower House Restaurant to mark the occasion. You get what you pay for and so much more. It really is an afternoon tea experience like no other; one we will surely be back to enjoy again!