I have fallen in love with Afternoon Tea but it has to be a good Afternoon Tea.
So what is Afternoon Tea? Afternoon Tea was introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. We have Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford to thank for this most delightful afternoon ritual. Back in the early 1800’s it was usual for people to eat only two meals per day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8pm. The Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon, so she decided to have a pot of tea and a light snack at around 4pm. She started to invite her friends to join her and soon it became the ‘in thing’ for ladies of high society to do in the Afternoons.
Afternoon Tea is a meal composed of sandwiches (usually cut delicately into ‘fingers’), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes.
Afternoon Tea is also known as Low Tea because guests were seated in low armchairs with low side-tables on which to place their cups and saucers.
Nowadays Afternoon Tea has become extremely popular and I visited Ishka recently to try out their Afternoon Tea. I can confidently say that their Afternoon Tea is a million miles away from what Anna would have been partaking in in the 17th century.
I visited Ishka a few months back to try out their lunches (read my review here) and they have possibly the best desserts in Edinburgh so I headed back with very high expectations … and they were met!
Ishka is still a fairly newcomer on the restaurant/bar scene; a restaurant and cocktail bar located directly opposite the EICC, so fairly central and easy to get to. They are open for lunch and dinner, fabulous cocktails and now Afternoon Teas.
On entering Ishka there is a large glitsy bar to your right and the seating area all off to your left. It’s a mixture of booth and chair seating. The interior is quite trendy with the vibrant yellow cushion seating running the length of the restaurant. Great lighting and lots of mirrors certainly give this small restaurant/bar a big feel.
It’s 230pm on a Saturday afternoon and there are already a few ladies that had the same idea as we did! A Cocktail Afternoon Tea. We took a seat in one of the booths and started to browse the cocktail menu. Above is the Afternoon Tea Cocktail menu with five cocktails available which is nice because had there been anymore to choose from, I think I would still have been there trying to make up my mind.
We chose the Speyside Shrub and the Peach Bellini. The Speyside Shrub with Macallan Gold, Quince Liqueur, Pineapple Shrub and Black Walnut Bitters. Quite refreshing but not overly sweet, you could only slightly taste the whisky which made me happy. The Bellini was peach puree and Prosecco. Nice too but I felt it needed more of a peach punch.
You’ll also find three other cocktails – Dawn Chorus with Daffys Gin, Sette Vie Negroni with Edinburgh Gin and Campari and Vintners Fizz with G’Vine Gin and Moet Champagne.
Once the cocktails had arrived, out Afternoon Tea soon followed and its a beautiful sight to behold. The black slate tiers of sweet and savoury goodness.
We start at the bottom with an array of sandwiches including Corn fed chicken, parmesan mayonnaise and rocket; Free Range Egg Mayo with baby spinach; Ham, cream cheese and heirloom tomato roll; Scottish Arran Smoked Cheddar and caramelised red onion; and Scottish Smoked Salmon pate and pickled cucumber crostini.
The sandwich I enjoyed the most was the Scottish Arran Smoked Cheddar one. The cheese was quite thickly cut and the cheese mature and strong yet still creamy. The brown bread was fresh and light and the caramelised red onion chutney was tangy and sweet.
The Ham, cream cheese and Heirloom tomato roll was lovely and fresh. The ham was thick cut and there wasn’t too much cream cheese to overpower the sandwich.
The Scottish Smoked Salmon Crostini was so very pretty and almost too pretty to eat. If you love Salmon, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this.
The middle tier is where it starts to get appetizing for me. I do prefer the sweeter side of an Afternoon Tea and this is where you will find the scones with clotted cream and homemade jam! The scones had a fabulous crust on them and soft and warm in the centre with a slight hint of vanilla. Served with thick whipped clotted cream and raspberry jam. What more do you want?? Well more cake really …
Middle tier is jam packed with a Rich Dark Chocolate Brownie, Banana and Walnut Loaf and a Raspberry Victoria Cream Sponge. The brownie is exactly as it says – rich and dark with a great chocolate hit. It’s quite a large piece of brownie so I ate it in stages, a bite here and a bite there. The Walnut and Banana loaf were perfectly light although I wish it was served with something like butter or jam as it was a little dry (along with the scones the cream and jam had disappeared before I got to the Walnut and Banana Loaf!).
The picture above is of the Raspberry Victoria Cream Sponge and all I can say is I wanted more of this! It delivered. The sponge was soft, with a big dollop of sweet icing with edible flowers and a tart whole raspberry. Pop! and it was gone.
Whilst my dining partner was sipping away on the cocktails I ordered a lovely Shibui Moroccan Mint Tea. You really cant have Afternoon Tea without tea??
And last but not least, the top tier. Here you’ll find Cherry and Almond Bakewell Slice; Vodka and Elderflower Cocktail Jelly and; handcrafted Shortbread.
The Bakewell Slice was thin and crispy, baked well with a decent jam layer. The Vodka Jelly was a little out of place as it had slightly melted and almost tasteless. The shortbread was tasty with a great soft snap.
The thing I love about Afternoon Tea is that everything is bite sized and there is always so much to get through yet you somehow surprise yourself when over the course of an hour or so, you both manage to clear the cake stand.
Ishka Afternoon Tea is up there with some of the best in Edinburgh. It’s well presented and generous and they have a substantial cocktail list and great teas. The staff are lovely, friendly and warm and nothing is too much of a hassle.
A popular spot that is only going to get busier!
Ishka, 83 Morrison Street, Edinburgh Tel : 0131 2287517 www.ishkaedinburgh.co.uk
My Spoon Award : Gold 9/10