Afternoon Tea is one of my favourite pastimes so an afternoon tea with a bit of a difference really appeals to me; especially when it is accompanied by good quality loose leaf tea. This meant that when I was invited to try the Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea at Park Plaza, Cardiff I was really excited. Park Plaza is the perfect venue to enjoy afternoon tea in the city centre. Having seen the afternoon tea menu and tea selection in advance I had high hopes and the atmosphere upon entering the lobby only raised them. The fires were crackling away and the chandeliers are imposingly grand with the great atmosphere continuing into the Laguna Kitchen and Bar.
Upon being seated we were shown both the drinks list and the afternoon tea menu. I instantly recognised the teas as being supplied by Waterloo Tea as I know their selection well! Waterloo Tea like to ensure that their teas are served correctly and therefore whenever I see their tea available I anticipate being presented with a pot of tea that has been brewed well.
On the tea list there are 3 black teas to choose from which are all very well suited to drinking with food. The English Breakfast and Assam teas are both strong enough to take milk and sugar and will not be overpowered by food. Earl Grey doesn’t take milk or sugar well but has enough body to be able to accompany food. There is one white tea, Hairy Monkey, on offer. White tea is very delicate and is not a tea I would choose to drink with food because it is completely overpowered. I still think it is a good option to provide as it can be a great palate cleanser before and after food or between dishes. There is one puerh tea (cooked) available. It is a strongly flavoured Blood Orange Puerh and in my opinion it would be too intense to compliment afternoon tea. There is a Peppermint Rooibos on offer which I think would be great to have after finishing the afternoon tea due to the mint flavour. There is one herbal infusion, Cinnamon Spice, on the list. I have tried it before and, although I like cinnamon, I find this infusion quite harsh so I don’t think it would be suitable to accompany savoury food. Both the rooibos and herbal infusion are naturally caffeine free which is a great option to have on the menu. There is one oolong available, Iron Goddess of Mercy, and this is what I decided to pick. Although there is a good selection of tea offered there are no green teas available.
Iron Goddess of Mercy (Tae Kuan Yin) is a an oolong that I often neglect so when I saw it on the tea list it was an easy choice!
Iron Goddess of Mercy is a tea which most commonly comes from Fujian, China but Waterloo Tea source theirs from Taiwan. It is descended from the original Fujian tea bushes and is handpicked which ensures a high quality. This makes for a very unique Iron Goddess of Mercy and it is definitely worth a try. It is a honey-coloured infusion which is very fragrant, floral and buttery. I find it is best brewed at between 80- 85C for around 2 minutes. I’m not sure of the exact temperature Park Plaza serve it but I found it to be a good temperature and a good amount of leaves were used (which can be tricky to judge with tightly rolled oolongs).
Although the tea was served at the correct temperature, and using roughly the right amount of leaves, there were a few minor flaws in how the tea was served. I was not supplied with a dish to place the infuser on when the tea was ready to drink meaning I had to use my saucer.
I wasn’t told that the leaves should be removed, how long to infuse the tea for or given a tea timer. As I have prior knowledge I used a my phone to time two minutes but without this knowledge the tea could easily be over-infused. This would mean that it could become bitter and this would be a huge shame considering the quality of the tea. When I finished the pot and asked for more water I was offered fresh leaves. Oolongs handle multiple infusions very well and, as the leaves unfurl, the flavours of the tea develop with each infusion meaning it’s a waste to discard them. When I asked to keep the same leaves it wasn’t an issue as the staff are very accommodating. One last niggle was that milk was bought over with my tea. Oolong tea shouldn’t be served with milk and doesn’t take it well at all. Despite these few issues the tea was very enjoyable.
Now for the food! The Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea forgoes the traditional finger sandwiches and scones for more ‘manly’ treats. The idea behind this afternoon tea is that is a ‘masculine twist on the traditionally feminine past time’ and just looking at the menu made me feel full! I was told those who had tried it so far had not managed to finish it. This made me determined to be the first.
When the afternoon tea arrived it was even bigger than I had envisaged and extremely inviting. It was served on two slate boards with one for savoury treats and one for sweets which made a nice change from the traditional cake stand.
My favourite savoury treat was the Welsh beef and horseradish Yorkshire pudding as I adore horseradish and the beef was perfectly seared making it melt in my mouth. My favourite sweet treat was the chocolate fondant. It had the gooey middle that a chocolate fondant should have and was not too rich considering the amount of food I had already eaten by that point. I enjoyed every item on the menu without exception. I did finish the entire afternoon tea and I was so comfortably full that I didn’t need to have an evening meal.
It is fantastic value for money considering the amount, and the quality, of food provided. I would highly recommend a visit and I’m already planning to return with both my husband and my Mum as I know they would really appreciate both the food and tea on offer. The main selling point of this twist on afternoon tea is that it will appeal to those who would not generally go for a traditional afternoon tea. I think it would make a great gift for Father’s Day, especially as 8% of the cost will be donated to Velindre Cancer Centre throughout June.
Find out more about afternoon tea at the Park Plaza, Cardiff on their website.
[The afternoon tea was complimentary and I have been very honest in my review]