‘What are they having? asked the woman who just walked past us with a five-year old on her hip asked the server. I’d noticed her – and the girl – staring at our cake stand. ‘It’s called afternoon tea,’ the server answered. ‘It’s a British tradition – a lovely snack between lunch and dinner.’ They ordered it and we smiled smuggly at each other.
The Hub, an atmospheric café in a converted church at the top of the Royal Mile, stands guard over the cultural activities of Edinburgh. It walks a line between gothic atmosphere, lit by spectacular arched windows, and being an open welcoming space for visitors to Edinburgh. Edinburgh’s other converted churches (and there are a few) have taken a different route, focusing on the ancient (and dark) to deliver the right feel. The Hub is light, open and welcoming.
C & I debated if the Hub’s feel was right for the afternoon tea experience and concluded that yes, it was. It’s not one of the super-glitzy venues with live harp music. Instead, this is somewhere to an enjoy a family tea, without the worry that other guests will be disturbed by louder guests. Toddlers, for example. I felt The Hub to be an inclusive and welcoming space for all your guests. Once the tiered cake stand lands on your table, you can revel in the decadence of tiny sandwiches and sweet temptations, without being overwhelmed by your surroundings (and a deafening whisper of hushed voices).
The afternoon tea
We stuck to the classic afternoon tea for two (£25 for two, and a £6 supplement for bubbles). A key temptation for us was the offer of a vegetarian version without the need to negotiate.
With two pots of tea promptly delivered to our table we could focus on the tiered cake stand. The three tiers were founded on a layer of sandwiches, through a plate of scones, and topped by a sweet layer of treats. The sandwiches were a simple and fresh cheese & tomato, a sweet and earthy red pepper humus, and finished with a crunchy cucumber & dill. (The non-veggie option comes with salmon, ham, and cucumber sandwiches.)
The plain scones were delicious, light and served with tasty strawberry jam & whipped cream. We would have preferred some clotted cream, but that is a small gripe. The top most layer was delightful. The mini tarts had a good crunch in their ice cream waffle cases and a clean strawberry and cream filling; the lemon meringue pies’ zingy sharp curd was topped with an Italian meringue, and the star of the show was the whisky & honey macaroon (exceptionally well-balanced flavours).
We left knowing that we had eaten a good afternoon tea. We were full but no overly full – just as it should be. The Hub is a good introduction to the afternoon tea: it was good value and tasty.
Edinburgh EH1 2NE
Telephone: 0131 473 2015