Time for tea

Whether it’s the selection of decadent cakes or a luxurious décor however you choose your Afternoon Tea venue here are my top five recommendations for Afternoon Tea Week.

Restaurant 23 afternoon tea

Exquisite cakes, including raspberry and vanilla Battenburg at Restaurant 23, Leamington Spa

The Edgbaston afternoon tea

The Art Deco bar, vintage crockery and tea-infused cocktails make afternoon tea at The Edgbaston, Birmingham a divine experience

The Bluebell Henley in Arden afternoon tea

An extensive choice of fine loose leaf teas and a lovely garden to drink them in at The Bluebell in Henley in Arden

Warwick Castle afternoon tea

Warwick Castle only serves Afternoon Tea on selected dates, so if you want to try their Millionaire’s mousse topped with 23 carat gold put 15 and 16 August in your diary

Coombe Abbey

Enjoy the 500 acres of gardens with the new alfresco afternoon tea at Coombe Abbey in Coventry

Who is behind the plate?

Whenever we eat out I like to find out about the chef who has lovingly prepared our food. So at a recent bloggers Afternoon Tea at the Hotel la Tour, it was my chance to get acquainted with senior chef de partie Rachel Dorrell.

Rachel Dorrell senior chef de partie Hotel la Tour

Born and raised in Birmingham, 23-year old Rachel studied at University College Birmingham before beginning her career as a pastry chef.

Rachel’s culinary career started at New Hall Hotel and Spa, Sutton Coldfield. Working under Chef Kirk Bick, Rachel quickly developed her skills as a pastry chef and focused her talent into creating a very high standard of food.  Her love of baking and talent for designing seasonal dishes soon provided her with the opportunity to take on her role as Senior Chef de Partie at Hotel La Tour.

Hotel la Tour afternoon tea montage

After sampling both the Winter and Spring afternoon teas that Rachel has created, I can attest that the delicate cakes taste as good as they look. The attention to detail and use of seasonal ingredients with a witty twist are excellent – no soggy bottoms here.

Hotel la Tour afternoon tea cakes

The new Spring menu features bite-sized banana and chocolate macaroon, lime and ginger cheesecake, raspberry and mascarpone tart, opera gateau and gluten free muffins, which starts at an exceptionally reasonable £19.95.  (Welsh rarebit, hummus and selection of sandwiches for starters alongside the traditional scones and clotted cream are also part of the tea.)

Rachel Dorrell Hotel la Tour senior chef de partie

Rachel has had one of her recipes featured in the Great British Cookbook and one day she hopes to open her own tearoom and patisserie.

Lets hope it will be within the Midlands so we don’t have to go too far to go for her delightful confections!

Three tiers for afternoon tea

For National Afternoon Tea Week I am recommending five tea rooms in the Midlands that offer something a little bit different.

Hotel la Tour afternoon tea

Best cakes – Hotel la Tour’s pastry chef Rachel livens up the choices of indulgent desserts by adding walnut whips, lemon meringue pie, Eton mess and tiny treacle tartlets to possibly the biggest tea stand in Brum. http://hotel-latour.co.uk

Fourteas Stratford upon Avon

Best vintage interior– Fourteas in Stratford upon Avon source their bread, fruit, vegetables, meat and loose leaf tea from local suppliers. All served on delicate vintage china in the 1940s inspired deco tea room, to a soundtrack of Glenn Miller. http://thefourteas.co.uk

The Dining Room afternoon tea

Best for savoury treats – savoury items are often forgotten in the afternoon tea menu, as the focus is all on the cakes. Not so at The Dining Room at 78 Derngate, the Rennie Mackinstosh house in Northampton. Start with a coronation chicken filo cup, cheese scone and individual leek and broccoli quiche with your selection of sandwiches. http://thediningroom.org

Cafe Opus - Afternoon Tea

Best value – the Café Opus cake stand is layered with sandwiches, cakes, scones and a pot of tea for just £10!   When the sun is shining eat outside under one of the parasols in Brindleyplace, Birmingham. http://www.opusrestaurant.co.uk/cafe-opus

Warwick Castle afternoon tea

Best for a day out  –  Warwick Castle’s afternoon tea consists of an amuse bouche, sandwiches and patisseries all served on Royal Crown Derby fine bone china with specially selected Twinings blends of tea. Leave room for the homemade millionaire’s mousse, a rich caramel mousse with 23 carat gold on top! (The £37 price also includes entrance to the castle and grounds). https://www.warwick-castle.com

So whether you are looking for the best cakes or best value, I hope that these fit the bill.

Time for tea

A colleague asked me for an afternoon tea recommendation this week. She was looking for something luxurious that would suit a day time hen party with two pregnant guests, so without missing a breath I said Hotel la Tour.

Christmas afternoon tea Hotel la Tour

Their pastry chef creates wonderful, sometimes whimsical confections, with a nod towards the seasons that are almost too pretty to eat. As you can see from this Christmas image, the attention to detail is lovely and makes afternoon tea the special treat that it deserves to be.

Most of the Birmingham city centre hotels provide an afternoon tea and now Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and Grill has launched their own version.

Laurent-Perrier afternoon tea

Up on the 25th floor of The Cube, the city views from Laurent- Perrier Bar are stunning. Here a selection of finger sandwiches, Marco’s daily cake selection, a chocolate brownie and the traditional warm sultana scones with clotted cream and preserves are served.

A glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne and unlimited teas are included in the £30 price. Available between 2 – 5pm, five days a week, the restaurant pledges to donate £1 from the sale of each afternoon tea to Cure Leukaemia.

*Thank you to Sarah Morrris at Ed James PR for the invitation and MPW Birmingham for your hospitality.

Christmas Afternoon Tea

Hotel la Tour’s afternoon tea is an all year round favourite, but their festive twist sounds even more delicious.

Hotel la Tour festive afternoon tea

Pastry chef Rachel Dorrell has taken a whimsical twist with some fairy tale creations. The three tiers of treats features a platter of dainty sandwiches with seasonal fillings, freshly-baked scones with clotted cream and preserves, the hotel’s signature Welsh rarebit dip with croutons, chocolate snowballs, edible Christmas trees and a spicy mulled wine and poached pear trifle. Wow!

Gastro Card saving diners pounds

Recently named as Food Heroes by Visit Birmingham, for their support of food businesses and initiatives like #FutureFoodies, Gastro Card is going from strength to strength.

I spoke to Business Director Sally Bowen, (pictured third from right with Hotel La Tour’s Sue Castle-Smith and bloggers Jo Brigdale and Ahmed Ahmed) to find out why foodies in the Midlands can’t get enough of their dining loyalty scheme.

Future Foodies

Gastro Card say that if you eat out regularly at their restaurants, then you can save over £500 per year with your £30 purchase. Since May, fine food and wine lover Sally has been putting this to the test by eating at 14 various Gastro Card restaurants in Birmingham where she has so far saved £272.56!

Sally comments “If you enjoy eating out with family, friends or with business on a regular basis, then the Gastro Card can save you pounds – I am not sure the same can be said of my waistline though!”

Hotel La Tour lobby

 

Gastro Card features some of the best independent restaurants and hotel dining rooms in the Midlands, with a variety of special offers that you won’t find anywhere else. You can find any Gastro Card restaurants featured on this blog with this GC sign so that you don’t miss out on any special offers like these;

  • 25% off food bill for up to four people at Aalto restaurant, Hotel la Tour in Birmingham
  • Three courses for the price of two at Oscar’s Bistro in Leamington
  • 10% off afternoon tea at Stratford upon Avon’s Ettingham Park Hotel

Gastro Card

SPECIAL OFFER FOR READERS Enter the code MGG at www.gastrocard.co.uk to receive a discount on the price of a Gastro Card and start saving pounds on eating out.

#FutureFoodies Wednesday 26 June

#FutureFoodies image

A man after my own heart, fellow blogger Dine Birmingham is passionate about promoting Birmingham’s culinary scene. He is currently working on hosting the city’s first social media event #FutureFoodies to showcase local, independent, food and drink businesses.

Hosted by Hotel La Tour, the evening will introduce food and social media journalists to a fantastic range of artisan producers, restaurants, retailers and culinary training academies. Some of the participants who will be on the menu include;

STARTERS

Lewis's Moslely bread

Lewis’s of Moseley, Kitchen Cookery School and Ubuntu Handmade Bread.

MAINS

Le Truc dish

Le Truc Cafe, Digbeth Dining Club, Heart of England Fine Foods, Punjabi Rasoi, Wrapchic and University College Birmingham.

DESSERTS

Hotel la Tour dessert

Aalto Restaurant, ‘Brigadeiros’ by Miss Apple Sweets, Devenish Girl, Cupkakery.

DRINKS

birmingham whisky club

Aston Manor Cider, Beer Geek Brewery, BYWine and The Birmingham Whisky Club

For further information, or to enquire about joining the guestlist, please send a tweet to @Dine_Birmingham, including the hashtag #futurefoodies. http://www.dinebirmingham.co.uk/futurefoodies

Review of 2012

As this is my last post for 2012, I thought I’d look back on some of the highlights of the food and restaurant scene in Birmingham and Warwickshire.

Scooping awards and accolades – The Malt Shovel in Barstoncelebrated being named Warwickshire Dining Pub of the Year in the 2013 Good Pub Guide.  Pub Restaurant Chef of the Year was Rob Hartwell from Rose & Crown in Warwick. The Bluebell Henley in Arden won Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the year for the Midlands. Blue Bistro in Coventry was awarded Best Newcomer in the Warwickshire Life Food and Drink Award and Peel’s in Hampton Manor were awarded Best Restaurant of the Year. Restaurant Bosquet in Kenilworth (with chef Bernard Linier pictured below) impressed Birmingham Post’s Richard McComb to pick up a McComb Award for Dining (MAD).

Bernard Lingier

 

 

 

 

 

Birmingham’s reputation as a fine dining city continued with Purnell’s named the BMW Squaremeal Best UK Restaurant. Lasan and Simpsons were included in the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants of the Year, as voted by Harden’s readers. In Restaurant magazine’s Top 100 Restaurants in the UK Loves featured. Purnell’s, Simpsons and Turners all retained their Michelin stars.

Purnell's

 

 

 

 

 

 

The region’s hotels saw significant investment and heavyweight chefs drafted in to support new openings. Marcus Wearing consulted on the menu for Hotel La Tour’s Aalto restaurant, where I became a fan of their afternoon tea.  Hogarth’s completed a £4m make-over and chef Martin Blunos was appointed as Culinary Director.

Hotel La Tour scones and afternoon fancies

 

 

 

 

 

 

The popularity of single ingredient restaurants spread from London to the Midlands. High quality steak and chicken cooked well won new customers for the New Inn in Harborne and The Flat Chicken in Stratford. Barbecuing meats was the hottest cooking trend of the year, with the openings of Argentinian Fiesta del Asadoon the Hagley Road and Brazillian Rodizio Rico in The Mailbox.

The competition for the most glamorous makeover was a tie between The Warwickin Hockley Heath and The Star & Garter in Leamington, which was given a £500K make-over by the Peach Pub Co.

The Warwick

 

 

 

 

In the culinary Olympics it was a cook-off between the French and Italians. Funky brasserie Le Truc Café and Purnell’s Bistro opened to give Brummies a Gallic twist to their dining. While the award-winning San Carlo Group launched Fumo in Waterloo Street. The cocktail bar, restaurant and late lounge serves small dishes of Venetian tapas known as Cicchetti (pronounced chi-KET-tee).

Fumo appetisers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chefs on the move included Solihull chef Mathew Ebdon joining The Beeches in Hampton in Arden and it was all change at Edmunds in Brindleyplace, who welcomed Dider Philipot to head up the French fine dining restaurant as Andy Waters left to run the restaurant at The Queens at Belbroughton Worcester.

Didier Philipot Edmunds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sunglasses and crowds came out for food festivals. Kenilworth followed the successful Stratford and Leamington food festivals by launching their first Foodie Fortnight promoting local restaurants and food producers. I went to the Chilli Festival in Brindley Place for the first time and admired how the contestants kept their cool, as the torture of hotter and hotter chillies were administered. The Colmore Row Food Festival returned for a second year and filled Victoria Square with tasters from local restaurants including Saffron and Opus.

Birmingham Chilli Festival stall

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Leamington Spa Restaurant 23 moved to bigger premises in Holly Walk and the bar/ restaurant / club Altoria opened its three floors to diners. High Pavement in Warwick and The Lazy Cow in Stratford were welcome additions to the towns’ dining offers.

High Pavement Warwick

 

 

 

 

 

Going to events meant that I was able to meet lots of local producers. I met the Mini Jar Company and Napton Water Buffalo Company at the BBC Good Food Show Winter, Tan Rosie and cheesemaker David Jowett at the Stratford Food Festival and  Jabberwocky at the Leamington Food Festival.

David Jowett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artisan food producers saw the benefits of collaboration in Kings Heath Birmingham. Lucky13 Bakehouse, Change Kitchen, Cuffufle Chutney, Wanton & Furious and Capeling & Co joined forces to form B14 collective. Delish Deli in Rugby moved to bigger premises and Summersaults opened their new deli next to their vegetarian restaurant.

Summersaults deli counter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our regional food sector is thriving and I hope that my blog has highlighted how easy it is to shop local, eat local and support Warwickshire’s food heroes.