It is no secret that the Irish love their tea. The Irish drink more of this hot beverage per capita than any other country. The presence of tea making facilities is considered essential in any hotel or bed and breakfast room and is offered at breakfast, 'elevenses', lunch, dinner, and any time in between. Lately we have even begun to embrace that very English tradition of afternoon tea. Legend has it that the ritual of afternoon tea owes its origins to Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. As a young women in the early 1800s at this time, it was common to eat only two main meals a day, with breakfast scheduled in the morning and dinner taken late in the evening. When kerosene lamps were introduced in wealthier homes, eating a late dinner became increasingly fashionable, widening the long wait between meals.
Troubled by the daily hunger pangs, she very sensibly decided to schedule a time to take tea and a snack each afternoon, at first done furtively in her bedroom. Over time well-heeled acquaintances joined her and the idea of an afternoon tea gathering spread across high society and became a favourite pastime of ladies of leisure. Nowadays tea rooms and hotels in London and throughout the UK offer permutations of this centuries-old tradition. Not to be left out of an opportunity to have another cuppa, here in Galway we have a few afternoon teas of our own. You can take your tea while enjoying the old world elegance of the Hotel Meyrick in Eyre Square. The g Hotel offers a delicious tea in its three stylish lounges during the day. But the newest, and by far the best value at €12 per stand, at The Ardilaun the afternoon tea is more than a bargain. Served in the hotel’s comfortable lounge with an open fire, you settle into the plush couches with pillows as soft as marshmallows and are instantly transported from the hustle and bustle of Galway life to the middle of the countryside. Located in spacious leafy grounds, just off Taylor’s Hill, a pleasant stroll from either Salthill or the city centre, this tranquil setting, with beautiful gardens, is an institution in itself and the perfect venue to enjoy this most elegant mini-meal.
The staff, as always, are charming. The menu offers guests a selection of teas and coffee, and even a glass of Prosecco for those who want something a little more celebratory. The waiter flits among the tables busying himself bringing pretty chinaware, a gleaming tea service, and the all-important three tier stand. From the top down it holds, on the smallest plate, sultana and buttermilk scones. Freshly baked plain and still warm, with glistening strawberry jam and silky dollops of clotted cream studded with vanilla seeds. The second tier has savoury finger sandwiches which manage to be both filling and dainty. Crusts are removed from fresh white and brown breads, the delicate slices are filled with smoked salmon, chicken, home baked ham and relish, and garnished with crisp leaves. The final and largest tier is the pièce-de-resistance. A platter of cakes and tartlets, exquisitely presented and scrumptious to boot. Among the irresistible treats are delicate white chocolate eclairs, miniature macaroons, and tiny fruit tartlets, all made in house by the kitchen's secret weapon, pastry chef Lydia.
This is a perfect way to while away an afternoon relaxing with family, catching up with friends, or simply people watching in front of the fire. Guests check in and out, visitors to the leisure centre and the bar are constant, the lobby fills with schoolgirls who descend like a flock of birds after school for hot chocolates, the future afternoon tea takers in the making.
This menu is served daily from 2pm to 4pm, booking is essential so call 091 521433 to make a reservation. Enjoying afternoon tea while perched on a comfy Ardilaun armchair could easily become a regular Galway pursuit.
The Ardilaun Hotel, Taylor’s Hill, Galway. Tel: +353 91 521 433. Email: [email protected].