6th August 2015 2pm
Again, Zomato had pulled a blinder and allowed myself and a friend to go and check out afternoon tea at the recently launched Colonnades based in the Signet Library on the Royal Mile. I have to say I was pretty excited about this, based on some of the photos I had seen from others who had been. The Signet Library is a beautiful room, long with high ceilings and lined with books. We were greeted by incredibly polite yet friendly staff, all whom were splendidly turned out. Although we had come for afternoon tea, we were able to peruse the menu not only to pick our choice of tea (or coffee if that floats your boat) but to see what other offerings they had. There were certainly some great options including sharing platters.
The waiter explained how the afternoon tea worked and then we ordered our teas. I am actually not really a tea or coffee drinker but don’t mind a fruit tea and there were a few decent choices on the menu. I went for a cherry and raspberry option and my friend went for a more classic Darjeeling. These were served in beautiful silver but they did leak a little on pouring, which wasn’t ideal.
First, before the first of two (yes, two) stands of treats came out, we were given an amuse bouche of cullen skink. This was served in a dainty cup and saucer. This was packed with so much depth and flavour that I didn’t want it to end. If I hadn’t been there for the tea, I could have eaten a big bowlful of that.
Then the first stand came out, which was filled with our savoury treats. There were so many things that I didn’t know where to start. In the end I decided that as I didn’t really like cucumber, I was going to eat that first. It was filled with a cream cheese and had a beautiful piece of salmon curled on top. The salmon had so much flavour that I was surprised and didn’t find the cucumber half as traumatic! I then tried the prawn cocktail with marie rose sauce. The prawns were tiny but still tasty. The sauce really packed a punch though, which was a pleasant revelation. Someone must have spent a lot of time shredding lettuce so finely to keep the dish so delicate. Next up was a small slice of frittata which was creamy. There was a nice mini salsa of tomato and onion adorning the top, which meant that it has a freshness to it still. I then moved onto the cheese scone with cheese and bramble jam. At first, I though the scone was a bit heavy but as it went on and developed it all made sense. Again, the taste you got from the cheese was incredible and quite moreish.
Sandwiches were up next. There were two on offer – an egg mayonnaise sandwich with brioche, quails egg and caviar and ham and tomato square with mange tout perched on top. The egg mayonnaise sandwich was light and fluffy, mainly due to the brioche. There were no crusts in sight. The egg was still identifiable in the filling without the chunks being too big. The ham and tomato sandwich was a little less exciting but tasty nevertheless. Moving onto the sausage roll, to keep it light they added just a ring of pastry around the meat. Inside the sausage meat was a mix of additional flavours that were surprisingly good. I am not sure why I had never thought about having extra elements within a sausage roll before because the idea is amazing. The last item left on the stand was a tartlet. This was creamy and rounded off the savoury section perfectly.
We were given the option of having a little breather between stands but we were too excited to see what else we were having to wait. Again, the waiter went through everything that was on the second stand, although to be honest, I was surprised I heard anything he said as I was too busy drooling over the food! We were also told that if we couldn’t finish it all, they had nice little bags for us to take away any leftovers in (they obviously hadn’t seen me eating!).
So, I started on this stand with the two types of scone; plain and fruit with clotted cream and jam (which had champagne in it for some added extravagance). Both of the scones were of a similar size to the cheese one from the savoury stand, which was great as scones can be very filling. These, however, were light and yummy. The clotted cream also managed not to be to heavy, which was an added bonus. I then approached the chocolate tart with caramel. I think the chocolate here had a high cocoa content as it had a bitter element which was evened out by the caramel. It was also quite gooey so made for a slightly messy (but fun) eat. A small sprinkle of sea salt on top helped maintain the balance. Moving on to the blackberry mille feuille, this was creamy and fruity as expected and the pastry gave a good crunch when I bit into it, which was very satisfying. Just watch out for the icing sugar on this one or you’ll be wearing a icing sugar moustache!
Next up was the white chocolate and raspberry éclair. Although nice, this was probably the most sickly sweet out of the bunch, mainly due to the raspberry filling. This might be nicer with a compote type filling but probably then wouldn’t work as an éclair. Moving onto the blackcurrant jelly, this wasn’t jelly in the usual sense as it was not clear and had a grainy texture. This was because there was a high content of fruit within the cube which gave it a burst of flavour. I had saved the two I thought I would like the most until last. I firstly went with the lemon meringue pie. This has some pretty sugar work on top which was crunchy without having a burnt flavour, which can often be the case. The meringue was piped delicately and was a sticky delight. The lemon was zingy and was simply delicious. The last of the elements was a peach melba, presented in a small glass. This was cleverly constructed with a sharpness of fruit which balanced out the creamy vanilla notes. There was even some dried peach skin which not only looked great but tasted strongly of peach too.
At this point, we thought we were done but then we were brought a refreshing lemon sorbet. This was a perfect end to the afternoon tea as it was luscious, energising and left the palate cleansed.
The afternoon tea at the Colonnades is not your run of the mill tea. It’s not cheap but I think it worth it, particularly if you are rather fond of an afternoon tea.
Food – 9.5/10
Service – 9.5/10
Atmosphere – 8.5/10
Value – 9/10
Overall – 36.5/40
Cost – the meal was complementary but would usually be £30 each.
Please note that whilst this meal was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Zomato for arranging.