High Tea at Aalto Restaurant | Hotel La Tour, Birmingham
[by Ahmed Ahmed]
In this year of high national spirit, I thought it was high time to look into Birmingham’s new-found passion for that quintessentially British meal, high tea. Quite a few venues are now offering special teatime menus, and on a torrential August afternoon, I went to take shelter and sample the spread at Aalto Restaurant, in the Hotel La Tour.
Just a few steps up from the hotel lobby, the Aalto restaurant and bar was in tranquil contrast to the chaotic weather outside. I could still see the pouring rain, but the sound of howling winds was replaced by calm. Listen carefully and you’ll recognise chart toppers like Adele and Coldplay translated into gentle piano music. This will either make you smile or cringe. In either case, the relaxed elegant comfort – think high-backed chairs and decadent sofas – means you’ll be in no hurry to leave.
Which is just as well, because making your way through the spread of snacks could take some time. There were some novelties on the table, but all the classics were there, in some form. Most interesting were the cucumber rolls. A twist on the standard crustless sandwiches, these little packages of cucumber and cream cheese are pretty moreish once you get over the slightly odd texture. The welsh rarebit was a solid success, with both of us fighting over the last bit of delicious melted cheese. There was also a selection of ham and chicken sandwiches.
Of course the savouries were just the teaser for a sweet-tooth like me, and so it wasn’t long before I got on to the desserts. The scones with jam and Devonshire clotted cream certainly didn’t disappoint; the texture of the scones was lovely and the cream was gorgeously thick, its richness perfectly set off by the sweet jam. The other desserts – treacle tarts and walnut whips – were pleasant if less incredible. Me not being a fan of meringue, the eton mess was never going to please, but my guest said she enjoyed it, polishing off my share as well as her own.
As you’d expect, the selection of hot drinks is generous. Whether you’re a herbalist, a traditionalist, or even a rebel (a coffee-drinker), you’ll find the right brew for you. I went for my usual earl grey while my guest opted for a fruit blend. Neither of us had any complaints.
What makes the drinks menu extra-special, however, is the teatime cocktail selection. Potentially adding new meaning to the phrase ‘tea party,’ the menu tempts you with gin and tonic, a choice of martinis and even Veuve Clicquot champagne.
The chilled-out atmosphere really makes the meal, which will set you back £15.95 per head. For a chance to relax and enjoy a catch-up with friends or even an alternative to a standard business lunch, I have to say that Aalto was (here it comes!) my cup of tea.
Other teatime options in Birmingham… [List by Sanjeeta Bains]
Browns Bar and Brasserie | 7 Spiceal Street, St Martins Square, B5 4BH
Finger sandwiches, a fruit scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam, cakes: £9.95 per person, £13.95 for two.
Champagne Afternoon Tea: £16.95 per person, £23.95 for two.
Radisson Blu |12 Holloway Circus B1 1BT
Sandwiches, scone with cream and preserve, slice of fruit cake, fresh pastry: £9.95 per person.
High Tea which includes champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries: £19.95 per person.
Hotel Du Vin | 25 Church Street B3 2NR
Finger sandwiches, a slice of tea loaf, cream cake, a fruit or plain scone with strawberry preserve and clotted cream: £18 per person.
Champagne Afternoon Tea: £25
Hyatt Regency | 2 Bridge Street, B1 2JZ
Finger sandwiches, French pastries, two scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam: £19 per person.
Champagne Afternoon Tea: £28
Hilton Garden Inn (formerly The Mint Hotel) | 1 Brunswick Square B1 2HW
Finger sandwiches, two scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, cakes: £12.95 per person.
Champagne Afternoon Tea: £21.70
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