I love an afternoon tea. I mean who doesn’t? What’s not to love? Dainty sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and a selection of decadent miniature cakes. It’s basically perfection beautifully arranged atop three plates.
It was with some excitement that we ventured into the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel in Manchester for the launch of their autumn afternoon tea menu. It was fortuitously timed too, as the next day just happened to be our wedding anniversary. Perfect.
We arrived in the sumptuous Manhattan style surroundings of Opus One which is located in the Free Trade Hall. Possibly one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in Manchester. We reminisced about the last time we were in the building, me to see the Halle perform, him to see The Charlatans in 1991. It’s been a while. The building is still beautiful and very, very grand.
We were shown to our seat by Peter, who was effortlessly charming and affable. We made small talk and he discovered we were celebrating our wedding anniversary… more of which later.
My Mister of 13 years ordered the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea which came with a pot of tea of your choice, a selection of rustic sandwiches, mini hot Yorkshire pudding, warm pork pie and mini fish and chips served with freshly baked homemade scones served with clotted cream and preserves. This mammoth feast, suitable for the very greedy gentleman was £18.95 per person.
Being no kind of Gentleman at all, he was a bit miserly on the sharing front, but I did snaffle a cheese savoury sandwich and a forkful of the rather excellent, clearly homemade and not from a tin mushy peas. He said the pork pie, which was served warm in a light but golden hot water crust pastry, was the best pork pie he’s ever had. I can testify (in court if need be) that he has sampled a large range of pork pies. It did look exceptional, as did the crispy Yorkshire pud filled with beef and gravy. Impressive and manly.
As I’m a dainty lady, I opted for the Traditional Afternoon tea, again priced at £18.95 per person. For that you get a pot of tea of your choice, a selection of dainty lady style finger sandwiches, a plethora of delicious cakes and for me the highlight, freshly baked homemade scones served warm with clotted cream and preserves.
The sandwiches were delicious and garnished with a few salad leaves, for my taste there could have been more greenery, but I am a lover of a frilly green leaf. I must confess there was some mixing and matching of the sandwiches between us, but both his rustic and my dainty lady styles were excellent.
I then eagerly moved on to the scones (thus prompting a heated debate about the pronunciation of scone, I say it correctly, he doesn’t. End of). My heart belongs in Devon and we go often, I’m no stranger to the cream tea. I was delighted to see they served proper clotted cream rather than a thick whipped cream which I’ve had elsewhere. The jam was jammy, but the real hit were the warm, light and just the right size without being too much scones. I will look back on those scones with a fondness I usually reserve for beloved relatives.
Then to the top tier of my afternoon tea. There was a banoffee tart, generously topped with a delightfully marshmallowy Italian meringue. A dark chocolate éclair made of the lightest choux, a cider jelly which we were both a little unsure of, but did serve as an excellent palette cleanser and a deliciously moist jaunty little carrot cake.
I always feel a little sorry for the beautiful cakes, visually they are the stars of the show, but as they’re usually left until the very end they’re not fully enjoyed, they get toyed with and left. Thankfully the staff are very happy to box up anything you can’t squeeze in there and then for you to take home for your supper, or for the tram journey home.
Once our plates had been cleared away, the lovely Peter presented us with a beautiful plate with “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate with two mini chocolate brownies and strawberries, it was a lovely, lovely touch and underlines the attention to detail and high standard of customer service we experienced on that day.
It’s a beautiful, relaxed venue; if you can bag a window seat you can watch the hustle and bustle of Manchester from the comfort of a beautifully upholstered velvet chair. We were entertained by a jazz band, they were perfect, the music was not intrusive and they played arrangements of classic songs. I loved it, it all felt so restful apart from the urgent need to slip into something with a looser waistband.
I’ve had a few afternoon teas in my time and this was an excellent quality, great value tea in a stunning, iconic building. I’d very happily go there again and I’d recommend it to anyone. The prices are competitive too so you don’t have to save it for a special occasion tea, though the grand surroundings do make it feel extra special.
Opus One Bar and Restaurant is located in the Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, Manchester M2 5GP; Tel: 0161 8358904.
Disclaimer: We were invited as guests of the restaurant and were not asked to pay for our food or drink. We did love it though and will be back for more!