As I haven’t written about tea for a while and it’s been a bit of quiet news week here at Wheelescapades, I thought I’d tell you about a spontaneous afternoon tea I had with a friend a while back.
This was not just any afternoon tea, this was an M&S afternoon tea (I know, sorry). While shopping with a friend and her mini me we decided to go for a spot of lunch in M&S. The Norwich branch has a nice little cafe upstairs (there’s a lift too, don’t worry I haven’t started climbing stairs), it also has coffee shop downstairs but that’s more like a sandwich bar thingy. Anyway we headed upstairs as this was quite spacious for myself and a pram, plus we’d heard rumours of an afternoon tea being served there.
Getting to the correct floor in Norwich M&S is easy if you know where you’re going. I’ve mastered it now as it’s somewhere I like to have a browse, and mostly buy food. If you haven’t visited before then the layout and ‘half-floors’ can be a little confusing. There is a main set of lifts that take you to the main floors, these lifts are plenty big enough to swing a cat in, not that I am promoting the swinging of cats, I love cats, I currently share my house with four. They are big, the lifts that is, some of the best I’ve used. There are also mini lifts that take you to these ‘half-floors I speak of. These lifts go up just few steps to a slightly raised level. Once you’re there you’ll know what I mean!
The cafe entrance is very spacious, plenty of room to browse the delights on offer. There are fridges filled with sandwiches, salads and the like, and island counters displaying cakes, pastries and scones. You can grab a tray and help yourself to any of these, or you can order something freshly prepared from the menu above the tills.
Upon entering we saw a poster advertising the afternoon tea for two and decided what the heck let’s give it a go.
Ok so maybe Marks and Spencer isn’t Claridge’s and may not be the first place you’d think of going for this English favourite, but it’s actually not bad at all for a little treat while out shopping. Like us, you don’t need to plan or book, and could just drop in if you fancy.
You may not get the service of a fine dining restaurant and you may not get unlimited sandwiches or tea. At £15.95 per pair what more can ask for really. That’s not even £8 each for a filling lunch of sandwiches, a scone, cakes and a tea! A bargain when you consider a sandwich alone can cost a fiver in many cafes.
We ordered at the till and were told to find a table and lunch would be brought over. Now although I said this cafe was fairly spacious it was a slightly different matter when trying to find a table. When you have a wheeler and a pram you need a fair bit of space. A lot of space. Many of the tables backed onto each other which made it difficult for me to access them. We needed to find a table that had an end space as such, so that I could drive upto it and park without being in the way of other diners pulling out their chair behind me. It was busy but we spotted the perfect space as it was just becoming vacant.
The table was of a good height for me to get my knees under, and the chairs could be moved easily out of the way.
Our food was served promptly just as we made ourselves comfortable. The afternoon tea was displayed appetisingly on a three tier cake stand.
For less than £8 a person I was impressed by the quantity and taste.
They weren’t dainty finger sandwiches, but who wants to be dainty all the time! They were tasty triangles though and each of us were given four different fillings. Egg mayo, chicken and stuffing (my fave), ham salad and a ploughman’s kind of cheese pickle and salad combo.
The top tier of mini cakes weren’t all the same, so there was a little discussion on who would like what. There were two strawberry and custard tartlets (one for each of us), two macaroons (I had the chocolate one), and two cupcakes (I had the fruity one). Mine were all equally delicious, sweet but not too heavy after the substantial sandwiches and scones. My friend wasn’t overly enamoured by her carrot cake cupcake. That’s a mouthful in more than one way!
For me the highlight was the scone, as it often is with any afternoon tea. There was a choice of scones here. You got to chose when ordering and paying, you also got asked if you wanted them served warm. Of course I did… Yum! The options were cheese, fruit or Devonshire. I’m usually rather partial to a cheese scone but on this day I was really craving the clotted cream, and that’s just not an option with cheese. Not to my taste anyway!
I chose the Devonshire scone on the basis that I didn’t have a clue what it was. I know, shocker! Turns out it’s actually a plain sweet scone, but this was a very tasty one so I wasn’t disappointed. My friend chose a fruit scone and I think we were both equally impressed.
I don’t know which is the correct way, I know there’s serious debate about this! My way is purely practical and I go for jam first as it’s easier to spread straight onto the scone (not that I spread it myself anyway), plus cream works pretty well in a giant dollop so it doesn’t really matter so much if you can’t spread it out. Those that have butter as well… I’m not sure what that’s all about. Butter was made for warm cheese scones only.
Are you a jam or cream first person?