Since this post was written, the location for tea has changed to the Peacock Room in the newly named Waldorf Astoria.
You might have guessed by now that Caroline and I really love a good tea and of course particularly enjoy the in-depth research it requires to find just the perfect place! So, I was really pleased to receive an invitation from the Caledonian to experience their Champagne Tea. Located at the west end of Princes Street in Edinburgh, this venerable hotel was once part of the Edinburgh Princes Street railway station buildings and dates back to 1911.
Afternoon tea is served in the Pompadour Room on the first floor between 2 pm and 5 pm each day. It has fine views over the castle (book early to get the best view).
La Pompadour Restaurant was created in 1925 in what was originally the Louis XIV Drawing room. A dinner dance was held each evening, featuring meals with up to 12 courses. The Pompadour soon became the most fashionable eating place in town retaining its status well into the 1930s and attracting clientele from far and wide. Among those who made discreet bookings for dinner were Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor and Duke of Kent who would then head off to the Fountain Bridge Palais de Dance for an anonymous night of amusement. The walls feature delicately painted panels with a 1920s feel – you can just imagine arriving dressed in a beautiful silk dress and with a cloche hat. The panels were actually painted by the designers Roger and Robert Richards in 1953 when they completely refurbished the hotel.
I had asked my friend Neale to come along to share tea with me. Our table was in prime position with views overlooking the castle which unfortunately, due to the haar that day slowly but surely disappeared! Other guests were mainly visitors to the city – was that Amelie sitting near us?
Our lovely waitress Katalin guided us through the tea menu (so many to choose from) whilst we sipped champagne. Soon, a three-tiered tray was delivered with a selection of goodies. I was fascinated to learn that pastry chef Chris Stewart even bakes bread for the sandwiches. Apparently, he has a passion for all types and varieties of cakes and desserts particularly enjoys creating the classics as everyone always enjoys them. He includes up to 7 varieties of cakes, pastries and scones in the Afternoon Tea.
We decided in the interest of research to try a little of everything starting with the sandwiches of course. It was lovely to catch up over the tea and exclaim over the particular item we were tasting and took some time discussing the merits of adding milk or tea first and cream or jam first! The scones (plain and fruit) were some of the most delicious I have ever tasted – particularly lovely with clotted cream. We marvelled over the amount of work that gone into creating éclairs (with proper dark chocolate and coffee cream filling) and a Battenberg cake – beautifully moist with real marzipan round the outside. We ate our way through strawberry tarts and cakes until we could eat no more. A nice touch, if you become too full, you can take the rest away in a box!
I could imagine having afternoon tea with a gaggle of friends (or a well behaved hen party), with your best beloved as a romantic getaway or, of course, with a good chatty friend (thanks Neale). Definitely not just for visitors to Edinburgh. Tea with champagne is £19.95 or £15.95 without.
To make a reservation, ring (0131) 222 8888. You can follow the Caledonian on Twitter. Special diets can be catered for with 2 days notice and themed teas can also be created.
Caledonian Hilton Hotel