Welcome to our blog....here we will share all our afternoon tea adventures with you...the good, the bad and the wonderful!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

How to make people say, "Your scones are delicious!"

Hello there!

We've been talking a lot about scones recently (and finding out that half of you are mad! - today is the last day you can vote in our poll by the way....make your vote count!) so I thought it might be a good time to share my recipe with you all.

One of Lorna's delicious scones being demolished!

Now, I cannot cook to save my life and Rachel can share some horror stories about the meals I have subjected her to over the years but there are two things that even I seem not to be able to ruin and they are cucumber sandwiches and scones!  Some of my lovely friends have complimented me on my scones and they're quite an honest bunch so they're hopefully not just being obsequious and I hastily point out that I have little to do with how delicious they are as I just follow Delia's recipe to the letter and that's how they appear from the oven!

Another one of Lorna's scrummy bakes!

I love Delia Smith's recipes in general as I find them to be simple and 'no-nonsense' and so without further ado, pop over to Delia's website and her delicious scones.

I hope you like the recipe and if you try it please let us know what you think!  If you use a different recipe  please share that with us too!

Thanks for popping by today,

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Great Scone Debate Rumbles On!

Hello there....

So, there are just two days left to vote in our Great Scone debate and we've seen it swing both ways so far. As I write we've had 35 lovely voters - and "cream first" is currently in the lead with 57% of the votes!

Now with all this talk of scones I decided to do a little bit of digging around (thanks Wikipedia) this lovely sweet treat....and try and find out a little bit more about the different ways of dressing your scone.

The Devonshire (Devon) way of doing it is the preferred way of Lorna and myself.....the scone is split down the middle and slathered with clotted cream and topped by some sticky sweet jam! Traditionally scones should be served warm (preferably fresh from the oven) and butter is not used at all.

Now interestingly enough in Cornwall...apparently they used a sweet white roll in the beginning instead of scones - known as a Cornish Split. These sweet rolls would have been buttered first, then the jam would have been added and finally a dollop of clotted cream piled on top. Commercially you will probably not find these sweet white rolls anymore.....instead you will find scones but they will be dressed in the same way.

So, have I got your mouth watering with all this sweet talk? When I got home from work earlier I really wanted some scones....so I got baking! Now there are so many different scone recipes out there its often hard to know which one to try, but I've recently come across the Scone Advisor website....which I have to say is fabulous...anything you want to know about scones they can probably help you with (including where you can find the best scones when out and about!). So I decided to try their fruit scone recipe this evening and this is the end result....

Now please don't judge how flat they look (I think I handled the dough a little bit too much before baking), but I did manage to split them in half and smoother them in cream and jam (see photo above). I would definitely recommend their fruit scone recipe, its very scrummy!
So......we hope you've enjoyed our great scone debate so far...you still have a little longer to vote in the poll if you fancy joining in...which way do you dress your scone?
Thank you for popping by today,

Monday, 26 August 2013

Time for Tea.....Intercontinental Westminster

Hello folks,

This weekend Lorna and I were lucky enough to be invited to sample the Blue Boar afternoon tea at the Intercontinental Westminster, we dined as their guests and I have to say we had a really wonderful time. Tucked away behind Parliament Square, we probably wouldn't have found this hotel by ourselves and so we were very pleased to be introduced to this hidden gem.

We spent the afternoon in The Lounge, which was a contemporary space full of pretty flower arrangements - a very elegant place to enjoy tea. We were looked after by Michael, who incidentally agreed with Lorna when it comes to the great scone debate! Not only did Michael have good taste when it came to scone dressing, he also knew his teas pretty well and made some very good recommendations from the tea menu. During the afternoon we were entertained by a harpist, playing an assortment of different songs.

We began the afternoon with chilled champagne - which is always a wonderful start to afternoon tea, and as we enjoyed we were presented with the three tiers that would make up our afternoon of treats. Michael explained each plate, telling us each filling or flavour. Then the feast began with the bottom tier - the freshly made sandwiches. Our choice included cream cheese and cucumber, salmon, beef and horseradish and ham and mustard - all on super soft bread. We were offered seconds, but for once we remembered not to over indulge in the savouries and agreed it was time for scones.

The sandwich plate was cleared and out came another plate containing our scones which I'm pleased to report were served warm, wrapped in white linen. The scones were perfectly proportioned, we had one plain and one fruit each. We were given clotted cream, traditional strawberry jam and wonderfully tart lemon curd to dress our scones in. 

After the scones we started on the next tier up and enjoyed a small slice of fruit cake and an eccles cake. Like the scones, these were perfectly sized which allowed us to sample more delights than if they had been bigger. Flavour wise the fruit cake was delicious, but unfortunately it was a little dry.....however this was our only criticism of the whole experience. I really enjoyed the eccles cake, which had a butter rich pastry shell.

Finally we'd made our way to the top tier....in some people's opinion the best tier....yes folks it was the sweet plate - full of miniature sweet delights! This plate contained a wonderful jelly flavoured with pimms, a chocolate and cherry slice, a peach and thyme cake, a white chocolate teacake and Lorna's favourite bit - the tastiest raspberry macaroon!

Again we were offered seconds of the wonderful sweet treats, we opted for a couple of extras....well it would be rude not to! All of this was served on the prettiest china, plain white with a doily-like pattern. If the hotel ever wanted to sell this off I would be first in line to purchase some for my collection!

All in all this was a really good tea, everything was fresh and very tasty and all the staff were friendly and helpful. We'd like to thank both the Blue Boar and the Intercontinental Westminster for inviting us to sample their afternoon tea and for their hospitality.

Thanks for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna

Square Meal

Sunday, 25 August 2013

I've tried it and it's wrong!

In the interest of fairness and because our #sconewars debate is hotting up (seemingly proving that around half the population is certifiably insane) I decided I had better try out the other way of dressing my scones.

It was an interesting and enlightening experiment which led me to draw the conclusion once again that I am right and those of you who messily smear jam all over your scones first are categorically and undeniably wrong.  Now, thanks to my evidence based research, I am going to explain why.

Firstly let's address the taste.  When the jam is hidden beneath the folds of the cream it's flavour is also hidden and the cream becomes somewhat overwhelming.  The whole experience somehow becomes rather bland.  In contrast, when the jam is dabbed on top the full fruity flavour is showcased and it provides a tangy contrast to the thick, glossy cream.

Interestingly, although the flavour is definitely affected for the worse by the jam being put on first, that was not the worst part of the experiment.  No, the worst part was how my poor scone looked!  When you put the jam on first you must use your knife to spread it.  Then you have to use your knife once again to spread the cream on top which just creates a ghastly mess of muddled up jam and cream!  And my knife was just filthy!

All in all, I found the experiment to be rather traumatic and never plan to replicate it but I just wanted you all to know that I tried... and I still think half of you are wrong!

Thanks for popping by today,

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Time for Tea.....The Berkeley

Hello there....I hope you've enjoyed national afternoon tea week and had the opportunity to indulge in a little tea and cake at some point this week! I also hope that you've enjoyed our various afternoon tea posts this week - have you joined in with our scone debate yet?

This post is a rather lovely one as Lorna and I have recently sampled the delights of the Berkeley's fashion afternoon tea Pret a Portea. As the name suggests this is a themed tea, which is inspired by the themes and colours in the fashion world. The tea changes twice a year to reflect the new season, and this is our second Pret a Portea.

As you enter the Berkeley in London its as if you're entering a different world, far from the bustling London streets just outside, the Berkeley oozes elegance from the moment you arrive . Once through the main doors you are welcomed into the Caramel Room where tea is served. You are greeted by a table that looks something like this.....

Your name is printed onto a bright pink shoe (I love this attention to detail), and you are surrounded by really pretty bespoke china and a wonderful menu which illustrates the delights ahead of you. Each sweet element of the tea is inspired by a fashion item and once it all arrives at your table the more than helpful waiting staff will describe each item to you.
I'm pleased to report that not all the attention has been given to the sweet items of this tea...the savoury lovers amongst you will be delighted by the freshly made sandwiches and other savoury items that are presented to you.
The sandwich selection included an egg mayonnaise roll, a salmon sandwich, a smoked cheese sandwich, a beef and horseradish sandwich and a cream cheese and cucumber sandwich. All were delightfully tasty, and the bread was extremely fresh. As well as these items you can also enjoy a prawn cone and various taster spoons. As with all good afternoon teas you are invited to eat more (if you can fit it in), however my advice would be don't get carried away with these wonderful savoury items....there is so much more to come!
Here is the full selection of tea (minus the warm scones, cream and jam that were served a little bit later), on the bottom tier you can see the other savoury items. Above the savoury layer there are two tiers of the most amazing sweet treats (and you might be able to see a very happy Lorna in the background of the photo!).
There is a wonderful selection of teas on offer, including a selection of fruity teas which are served in tall latte glasses. As you can see from the photo there is also the option to include a glass of bubbles with your tea...which of course we indulged in (well it would be rude not to!).
Now I thought you might like a closer look at the sweet treats on offer! In amongst here you will find a chocolate biscuit heel inspired by Manolo Blahnik, a pistachio and vanilla pannacotta inspired by Dolce & Gabbana and a white chocolate and Grand Marnier treat inspired by Prada. This only covers a few of the sweets, the amount of different sweet creations is very impressive. Its a truly amazing experience (whether you love fashion or not) and I think there is something for everyone here.....plus a lot of things that you'll have never tasted before!
The Berkeley has an amazing attention to detail and the staff are all so friendly and helpful. As returning guests we were welcomed back with a wonderful chocolate plate.....
I really liked this touch as it made the tea all that more personable.
A Pret a Portea will cost you £39.00 per person, which may seem like an expensive treat, but considering the detail and the quality of the food and drink I think is a reasonable price. If you want to add a glass of champagne it will cost you £49.00 per person and your tea will include a chilled glass of Laurent Perrier Champagne.
All in all this is a very enjoyable experience - a perfect afternoon tea for you and your girlfriends. They also offer you a doggy bag to take home some of the sweet treats that you might not have room for - so you can continue the experience at home!
Thanks for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna
Square Meal The Caramel Room on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 15 August 2013

There is always time for afternoon tea!

Afternoon All!

Just a quick post to demonstrate that there is always time for a spot of afternoon tea....

This week I took a collection of pretty teacups into the office with me, along with a selection of homemade mini Victoria sponge cakes...then mid-afternoon yesterday me and my colleagues brewed ourselves a cup of tea and starved off the afternoon hunger pangs with some scrummy cake!

So, although its wonderful to linger over a traditional afternoon tea feast...its also good to set down tools for five minutes to enjoy a quick cuppa and a piece of cake!

Happy Afternoon Tea Week!


Create your own!

Hello there,

So, with National Afternoon Tea week well under way this week Lorna has started the great scone debate....have you joined the argument yet?? Does the jam or cream come first??

While you're thinking about that I thought I'd share a little bit more of our afternoon tea adventures with you. Now as you'll know if you have read more of our blog we really do love a spot of afternoon tea and we have been lucky enough to sample tea in some amazing places!

But we also love creating afternoon teas at home for our friends and family! When you look at photos of professional teas they may seem quite complicated....but really as long as you follow some simple rules anyone can make afternoon tea in the comfort of their own homes!

Traditional afternoon tea
So what exactly does a traditional afternoon tea comprise of? Well, you should start your feast with a selection of freshly prepared finger sandwiches (preferably with the crusts removed), followed by warm scones served with cream and jam. Once that is all gone you will need to make sure you still have room for the cakes and pastries that follow! This should all be accompanied by freshly brewed tea (we love ours served in vintage teacups, but any cup will do!).

Vintage inspired afternoon tea
I really enjoy baking and therefore think nothing of putting on the oven and whipping up some cakes, and Lorna our resident scone expert is really rather good at making scrummy scones. However, if baking really isn't your thing you can still enjoy tea at home....just get yourself to the shops and buy the key elements!
If you do enjoy baking then the sky is your limit when it comes to afternoon tea! There are so many recipe books out there, full to the brim with all manner of afternoon tea recipes for you to try. You may like to try your hand at a traditional afternoon tea.....or you might decide to be a little more adventurous and try and themed afternoon tea.
One of my favourite times of year is Halloween as you can get really creative with afternoon tea then!
Halloween inspired afternoon tea
But there are so many different occasions throughout the year you can get your friends together and get creative in the kitchen!
Easter inspired afternoon tea
If you enjoy creating afternoon tea at home we'd love to hear from you - leave us a comment and let us know what you get up to in your kitchens! Is there a themed tea that you'd love to see creating...let us know...you never know we might give it a go!
Thanks for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Which first? Jam or Cream?

This is going to be a short post.  Mainly because I'm right and if you disagree with me you're wrong.  However my co-blogger has kindly (read persistently) asked me to right this.  So here goes.

Which delectable delight should be piled on to your scone first?  The cream or the jam?  Think about it.  Think about it harder.

Did you say jam?  If you did then sadly we can no longer be friends.  In fact, maybe you should leave.  Ok, don't leave, but you're wrong.

The cream is needed first to form a firm base for the bright and glistening jam to sit upon.  The cream is needed first to lubricate the light and fluffy scone.  The cream is needed first to enthrone the regal jam, to hold it high for all to see.

In short, it looks better that way and it tastes better that way.

So now you all know how I feel, why don't you leave me a comment and let me know your opinions.  Tell me which should go first and, more importantly, tell me why.  You won't change my mind but it would be rubbish if we were all the same, wouldn't it?

Oh, but if you're one of those people who breaks their scones up into tiny little pieces rather than nicely slicing them in two then, seriously, just leave.

Aka Scone Expert

Monday, 12 August 2013

Let's Celebrate!

Did you know that this week is national afternoon tea week?  A week to celebrate the wonderful tradition that is afternoon tea!

We all enjoy the delights of tea, sandwiches and cake in the afternoon (well at any time really!), but where did this fabulous tradition begin?

Although we have been drinking tea in England since the 1660s, when it was made popular by King Charles II and his wife Catherine de Braganza, afternoon tea did not develop as a concept until much later.

It is believed that afternoon tea was first introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the 1840s. At this time dinner was traditionally served quite late, somewhere between 8-9pm, and due to the gap between lunch and dinner the Duchess would feel hungry at about 4pm.

To ease her hunger pangs the Duchess requested that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. As time went on she invited her friends to join her for this afternoon feast. As more people experienced this wonderful meal other hostesses picked up this tradition, inviting their friends to join them for afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea became a fashionable social event, with ladies dressing for the occasion. This is something that me and my friends still observe today – there is nothing better than enjoying a spot of afternoon tea with your friends, dressed in your best dress!

Traditional afternoon tea consists of dainty finger sandwiches (crustless of course!), followed by scones served with clotted cream and preserves (warm scones are the best!). Small cakes and pastries are next and not forgetting that this is all washed down with freshly brewed tea served in delicate bone china teacups.
So whether you've never sampled the delights of afternoon tea before, or you indulge (like us) on an alarmingly regular basis....lets all celebrate National Afternoon Tea week this week with a cup of tea and something yummy...whether in a fabulous hotel, a cosy tea room or at home!
Pop back again later this week to see more afternoon tea inspired posts!
Thanks for visiting us today,
Rachel and Lorna

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Mini Experience....Bettys York

Hello there!

We hope you are well today!

So, my lovely friends all know how much I love to see what sweet treats they have been sampling that some of them send me photos of their adventures! I was therefore not surprised when I looked at my mobile phone recently only to find a text message with the following photo attached:

My friend from work, the lovely Val, has recently spent some time in York and while there she ventured to the famous Bettys in search of something yummy!

Bettys first opened their doors to the public in 1919, with the aim of serving customers an array of Yorkshire and continental sweet treats - nearly 100 years later and they now have six tea rooms keeping the public served with tea and cake.

I asked Val for some words to accompany this wonderful photo and this is what she said:

"Don’t be put off by the queue to get into the famous Betty’s at York, it is well worth the wait and as the queue shortens to waiting inside, you will be able to see the fabulous d├ęcor and watch the waiting staff in their immaculate uniforms.
So much on the menu to choose from, but while in Yorkshire you should try and pick a local speciality – I chose the famous ‘Fat Rascal’.  Similar to a very large fruity scone, served with butter, beautifully presented and large enough to allow you to take your time eating and drink in the fabulous atmosphere!"
I have to say that Val really seemed to enjoy her Betty's experience....and although this isn't strictly an afternoon tea feature I thought I would share it with you anyway! I hope to visit Bettys one day to sample some of their sweets for myself - I'd love to hear if you have ever visited one of the Bettys tea rooms.
Thanks for popping by today,
we hope to see you again soon.
Rachel & Lorna

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Time for Tea.....Volupte Lounge

Hello there....

Well yesterday Lorna and I took our friend Becca for a very special Birthday treat (a little late considering Becca's Birthday is in June, but definitely worth the wait!!). We spent the afternoon at the Volupte Lounge in London, experiencing their amazing Burlesque tea "Voluptea".

Now you'll have to forgive me for the slightly dodgy photos here...its a bit dark in the lounge! We arrived at Volupte nice and early to sample a cocktail in the bar upstairs (well it would be rude not to) ......

there is a wonderful selection to pick from - you'll be spoilt for choice. Ours were all very delicious!
Once seated by our host in the lounge downstairs, we enjoyed a glass of champagne and a selection of sandwiches...
including salmon bagels, hummus and tomato, pastrami, egg mayonnaise and the most amazing cheese and pickle I have ever tasted (yes I did just say that!). It was an interesting selection, and all very fresh and tasty.
As we nibbled on the sandwiches the first act of the show began and we were treated to wonderful performances from Tempest Rose, Jolie Papillon, Delores Deluxe and Felixy Splits. What a talented bunch of performers - all with amazing outfits and brilliant routines....you will definitely leave wanting to be a burlesque entertainer or least own some feathers! The brilliant thing about Voluptea is that the performers change regularly, and so if you go more than once (like we have) you will probably see different performers.
During the interval our sweet treats were served....
We had scones with clotted cream and jams, amazing mini cupcakes, fruit cake and a lemon syllabub. Again, it was all very fresh and tasty....I could have eaten those little cupcakes all afternoon! As you'll notice we all have gorgeous vintage teacups to drink from...these are filled with your choice of teas or for a supplement you can pick from a selection of tea-cocktails, which of course are served in teapots!
The second half begins and we are treated to more from the beautiful ladies, with fab routines, songs, magic and of course more nipple tassels! The team at Volupte made a lovely fuss of Becca, as the sweet course was brought out they sang Happy Birthday to her. She was also involved in one of the acts - dressing in a giant banana costume and being a backing dancer (sadly I haven't got any photographic evidence of this as I was laughing too much at the time to work my camera!).
The finale of the show was a brilliant performance from Madame Galina - I won't ruin it by telling you too much about the performance....but its not to be missed!
The lounge itself is beautifully designed, and suits a vintage-feel afternoon tea very well. Ladies - you must visit the toilets while you are there, they are so cute! I don't normally include photos of us....but you are encouraged to dress up for this afternoon tea, taking inspiration from the 1920s-1950s. Lorna and I rose to the occasion in our 1950s dresses, complete with petticoats.....
After the show you can retire back to the bar upstairs for another cocktail or two, you can also meet all the lovely performers...you should say hello, they don't bite!
This is a treat at £49 per person, however you get a champagne afternoon tea and brilliant afternoon of entertainment, so I would say its definitely worth it. Maybe this is not the right tea for the traditionalists out there....but if you love a bit of cheeky entertainment, some good cocktails and food (and of course tea)...and don't mind the odd nipple tassel or two then you should definitely give this tea a try! It's a brilliant afternoon out with the girls....we'll be booking our next one very soon!
Thanks for popping by today - please leave us a comment so we know you've visited!
Rachel & Lorna
Square Meal Volupte on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Time for Tea.....One Aldwych

Hello there - it's lovely to see you!

So, this week my friend Sheree and I decided to embrace our inner child and enjoy a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon in London!

We started our afternoon at One Aldwych in the West End, here we sampled their new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired afternoon tea. Now I have to say I am always a little sceptical about "themed" afternoon teas - there is nothing more disappointing than an over styled tea that doesn't taste very good! However I am pleased to report that One Aldwych does not fall into that category!

The staff were extremely knowledgeable about the tea and happy to answer any questions you might have....they are also very proud that everything is made from scratch at the hotel. Despite this being a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tea, the savoury aspect of tea is not ignored - in fact a very good selection of sandwiches and other savoury items is presented....

We had smoked salmon on rye, cucumber sandwiches, beef sandwiches (controversially not cut into fingers!), a tomato tart and a stilton and leek quiche - all were perfectly sized and very tasty.
However, it really was the sweet treats that captured our imagination!
Displayed on wooden blocks, this really was an exciting looking tea! To start there was a warm buttermilk scone, blueberry brioche and chocolate financier all served with clotted cream, summer berry jam and apple and meadowsweet compote.
Among the other goodies were flavoured candy floss (I won't ruin the surprise by telling you the flavours!), a yummy chocolate caramel milkshake, a mini Eton mess and the most amazing golden egg which tasted so good and was definitely my favourite bit of tea!
Again, everything was the perfect size and very tasty - I wasn't disappointed by anything that was served!
This tea costs £29.50 per person and is served with a good selection of teas. Although it sounds a little pricey I think its worth it as a treat. If you fancy a glass of champagne or trying the special Cocktail Charlie with your tea the price is £38.00 per person.
After tea we headed just a couple of minutes around the corner to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the stage!
Thanks for popping by today, its lovely to see you!
Rachel & Lorna
Square Meal