The Assembly House in Norwich is one of my favourite places to go for afternoon tea. In fact it’s probably one of my favourite places to go for a brew or lunch or cake. It’s a grand Georgian building in the middle of a busy city. It feels like another world. It’s beautiful gardens, elegant decor and excellent service make you feel special.
It’s afternoon tea week! Almost as much reason to celebrate as my birthday. I do love tea, and what better way to enjoy a brew than when it’s served with cakes?!
Unfortunately I don’t have any afternoon teas planned this week. However I did celebrate a few days early by attending The Assembly House School Of Magic last week. Their latest themed afternoon tea in honour of it being twenty years ago since The Philosopher’s Stone was published.
I was invited to this afternoon tea by a friend who is a massive Harry Potter fan. I like Harry Potter, I do. But I’m one of those people that read one book and then watched all the films (sorry). I enjoyed them. I love an afternoon tea, and a theme is fun, but I’d have gone whatever the theme.
I have no shame. I was there for the food.
The Assembly House has pretty good access for wheelchair users. I speak about it in much more detail here when I visited for their Pride Rainbow Unicorn Afternoon Tea.
You can also read my review of their accessible toilet here.
Anyways, back to last weeks visit. As we entered the main reception area we were greeted by (as well as a lovely waitress) Hagrid. Each themed afternoon tea is usually celebrated with a giant centrepiece cake. Made by Kate Barmby again this time (Great British Bake Off contestant), was Hagrid sitting at his desk with a ‘Happee Birthdae Harry’ cake. All totally edible, including Hagrid. This isn’t to eat, not now anyway. I don’t want to be the one to chop off Hagrid’s head!
We were shown to our table for 8, not in the main room this time, a side room. Not quite as stunning but still lovely. I found this room less spacious, we were at a table in the corner, and because other diners were already seated at other tables I did feel slightly obtrusive as I pushed through.
Shortly after our tea arrived (I went for the decaffeinated earl grey) the cake stands were brought over. Wow. So stunning, bold and colourful.
Also available (for an added price) was a Butterbeer milkshake or cocktail. A couple of my gang went for the milkshake, but I just couldn’t. I knew I would be way too full by the end as it is.
I started on the bottom tier. The proper place to start! I have to tell you I’ve seen some bizarre ways to eat an afternoon tea. There was this one time I was watching two, very obviously tourists, and they were picking at random bits of the stand, well the food on the stand, a bit of scone, then a sandwich, a bite of cake. They left half of it too. You would not believe how much I wanted to go over and just stop them there and then. Rage was brewing, I couldn’t look, it was too offensive.
So there is a way to eat an afternoon tea, and that’s sandwiches first. We were served three finger sandwiches each, egg mayo, ham, and smoked salmon. I ate them with a fork, but then as you know, I eat everything with a fork. The sandwiches were dainty and tasty, with just the right amount of quality fillings. We were offered more sandwiches by a lovely member of staff, some accepted, I declined. It’s a long way before we get to that top tier, and although I love food, I am not a big eater.
We were chatting, as girls do best when fuelled by cake. And we decided that an afternoon tea is like a mission. When it arrives you think, well that’s just a light bite, those sandwiches are only tiny, I might even need dinner tonight. It actually takes quite the expert to get through every tier. Like a physical and mental challenge, one mission leading to the next. The participants slowly dwindle, one will leave a scone, one will eat too many sandwiches and not be able to consume the final cake, others will drink too much tea, filling up on liquid. You have to know your limits, you have to pace yourself.
This afternoon tea included a cheese toastie! I know, living life outside of the box here. It was a three cheese toastie with a little dollop of tomato chutney on top. Delicious it was. Small, I could have eaten a much bigger one. But one must remember the mission. Get to the top.
Another savoury amidst our feast was a brioche bun filled with smoked chicken and mayonnaise, topped with a crispy bacon bite, smooth avocado purée and tomato. A club sandwich of sorts. Yum.
These savouries were on the middle tier, traditionally the scone tier. But don’t fear, when you’re ready for scones just give the nod and your middle plate will be whisked away and replaced with warm, crumbly (but not too crumbly) scones.
We were treated with two scones each, as is customary at The Assembly House. This time aptly titled The Philosopher’s Scones.
As I stated in my tweet, I’m a bit of scone connoisseur, #sconnoiseur (sorry). I’ll take any excuse to eat a scone, a garden centre trip, one from the bakery.
There is no better scone than this Assembly House cheese and chive scone, if you think there is then I challenge you to send me one!
We also feasted on a traditional fruit scone with jam and cream, in that order. Although I have to confess this is where the mission slightly slips up for me, I didn’t fail, I didn’t cheat, I merely paced myself and asked for the scone (I’d jammed and creamed it first!) to be boxed for me to eat later.
So here we are, at the peak of the mountain. The top tier.
I started with The Wizard’s Choosing Hat. Inspired by the Hogwarts Sorting Hat this delicious chocolate mousse with a crisp chocolate coating had a surprise in the centre. The colour of your vanilla cream filling decides your Hogwarts destiny. As I cut into it a bright blue came oozing out, I was to be in Ravenclaw. A yellow centred Hufflepuff friend was jealous, this must be a good thing. I took one chocolatey forkful and predicted this would be my favourite of the cakes, so I moved on. Wanting to save this delight till last.
My next challenge was The Boy Wizard’s Gateau Opera. This was a twist on an Assembly House signature cake. Every afternoon tea I have ever had here has a version of this layered gateau. The usual non-themed afternoon tea comes with a chocolatey one, which they also sell in large form (I know because I’ve had). Today’s was a vanilla cream, with light and fluffy sponge. So easy to eat. It was topped with Harry Potter’s scarf and coloured Gryffindor theme.
A Bolt Out Of The Blue Macaron was next on my to devour list. This was miniature, bite size with a Butterbeer flavoured filling. I quite like the chewy crispness you get from Macarons. They seem to cause a bit of a stir, they became quite fashionable and people either loved or hated them. I like that you get a little hit of sweetness without the heaviness of some cakes. If I had a cake urge I wouldn’t choose a macaron. But they have their place, and compliment an afternoon tea well, like taking a little break from the richness. I couldn’t tell you if it tasted like Butterbeer, I’m not much of a beer drinker! It was a vanilla caramel flavour, and it was tasty.
We are almost there now, the penultimate challenge. Dudley’s Knickerbocker Glory Topped With Exploding Lemonade. I know who Dudley is, but being a bit of a fake fan I had to ask a friend what the link was to the books. So… Dumbledore’s favourite sweet is a lemon sherbet, this dessert was topped with that. There is an ice cream parlour on Diagon Alley, where they sometimes go. Dudley never did explode, but Uncle Vernon’s sister did?!
This little shot glass was creamy yet refreshing, there were strawberries and cream, then the zesty, sometimes a bit zingy topping. I really liked it. A friend said its possibly her favourite of all time (and she can be fussy!).
I finish off the chocolate mousse. It still comes top for me, I think, but the Knickerbocker comes a very close second!
I saved the Magical Wand until absolute last, it was a thin, rich, smooth rolled chocolate. Crisp.
Challenge complete (kinda) and thoroughly enjoyed!
Good choice Morwenna, thanks for the invite!
I’m off to another Assembly House themed afternoon tea next month. Watch this space…