Celebrating National Afternoon Tea Week | Taking Tea At The Old Swan Hotel In Harrogate | A Review.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017
I love this quote by Henry James, he sounds like quite the chap, don't you think?! 

Anyway, Good Afternoon! 

Having just come back from having Afternoon Tea at The Old Swan Hotel here in Harrogate I thought I would share it with you! Everyone loves tea and cake, right?! Thought so! So grab yourself a cuppa and a slice of something sweet and let me tell you all about the history of afternoon tea..... 

It was started in about 1840 by The Duchess of Bedford whom, after having had lunch some hours before and having her evening meal until late she felt the need for something to stave off the hunger pangs. (Sensible woman!) She would ask for some bread and butter and a pot of tea be brought to her room everyday at around 4pm, this became something of a habit of hers and she would ask friends to join her. 

It became something of a fashion in the 1880s where high-fashioned women and society ladies would don their gloves, long gowns and hats and take part in Afternoon Tea, usually served in their drawing rooms between 4 and 5 o'clock each afternoon. There would be dainty sandwiches with the crusts removed, scones with clotted cream and jam and other sweet treats. Proper tea from tea leaves would be poured from silver teapots into delicate bone china cups. It was quite the honour to be invited to high tea by the neighbouring well-to-do family! 

Nowadays of course, Afternoon Tea can simply be a slice of cake or a biscuit and a mug of tea from a teabag but I like to think that there are still people out there like me who agree that tea made from proper tea leaves, in a proper teapot and poured into china cups with saucers always makes the tea taste better! (And we all know that when made this way the milk always goes in first!) 

I have been fortunate enough to have Afternoon Tea at various establishments over the last few years, I always think of it as a little bit of luxury when you're visiting friends, a new town, celebrating a birthday or an anniversary. It's lovely to be able to properly take the time to sit down with a cup of tea and not be bothered by outside distractions. This tradition demands proper time spent with those closest to you.

The Afternoon Tea served at The Old Swan Hotel wasn't as good as others I have had, for a few reasons:

 1) There wasn't a choice of teas (Shocking I know!), 

2) We could only choose 2 different sandwiches each from a list of 6 (and even then we got 2 meat slices and 3 fish ones!)  

3) The service was appalling! 

We were the first ones to arrive for our seating at 1pm and the dining room was empty but as the afternoon wore on more and more people were coming in, either for drinks/food outside, wanting separate food in the dining room or for their own bookings and there were only 2 staff on when clearly more were needed! It took 30 minutes for our request for a doggie bag to be fulfilled when it was made obvious that the box was literally behind the counter!? 

Plus we had to ask for more tea and coffee when our cake stand was first brought out. We were offered drinks as soon as we were seated which was good, but like I said there was no choice given, just "tea or coffee" which for an establishment such as The Old Swan Hotel you'd expect them to have a multitude! Anyway, the tea was good and hot so I can't complain really! 

The dainty sandwiches were tasty actually, spicy coronation chicken, hot mustard ham and tomato, smooth smoked salmon and cream cheese and tasty tuna and cucumber. I liked how they were presented, in fingers with no crusts but why we were given 2 meat ones and 3 fish ones I have no idea? We were sharing so it was fine but what if we weren't? What if one of us liked fish and the other didn't for whatever reason?? Surely choosing two sandwiches means we'd get two of each? Anyway, they were tasty and not too filling. 

The mini cakes we had were pretty and the two mousse ones were actually really tasty but that was it really. I had the one which resembles a crumble but found it to be an odd taste and not one I was particularly fond of or wanting to repeat. I did have the scone with clotted cream and jam though and that was a win! I hope everyone knows that they're pronounced 'scones' to rhyme with 'con' and NOT 'scones' to rhyme with 'cones' and that the cream goes on FIRST THEN the jam!! Ok, are we clear now?! Good, I'll move  on...!

It was good that neither of us had to be anywhere afterwards because the time it took to pay and get that doggie bag was quite frankly, ridiculous! It would have been nice if at some point during our Afternoon Tea we had been asked how it was, if we needed any more refills or had finished. But this simply didn't happen and because I work in the hospitality industry I know that it should have. I feel very let down by The Old Swan Hotel because I was very excited about this Afternoon Tea and felt that because of its appearance - decadent and seemingly high-class - we would be afforded a better standard of service!

The dining room itself was beautiful with high backed chairs and comfy sofas to recline upon and enjoy your Afternoon Tea. The room oozes opulence and would be quite the lounge to enjoy a cocktail in before heading for dinner. I can imagine travellers coming into Harrogate and stepping inside needing a place to rest whilst they take the waters in Harrogate and then continue on their way. 

Having never been to The Old Swan Hotel I didn't know what to expect really and upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised by the interior decoration and obvious attention to detail. It's just a shame that I felt so let down by their service!  

Have you been out anywhere to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week?? Have you ever stopped to take tea and cake during the day? What's your preferred sandwich filling? And tell me, how do you pronounce scone?! Is it jam then cream or cream then jam?! Tell me! 

Love, Sarah 

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