Afternoon tea at Manchester's Hilton
Emma Mayoh indulges in a classic British afternoon tea in a far from traditional place, Manchester's Hilton
Restaurants and cafes around the country are offering afternoon tea as a way of enticing more people through their doors. But there will be few where the views are just as good as the double cream that you have dolloped on a warm, freshly baked scone. It was too much to resist.Since it opened just a few years ago, Cloud 23, the bar on the 23rd floor of Manchester's Hilton Hotel, has been in demand. Every weekend dozens of people queue up outside vying for a chance to enjoy those 360 degree panoramas of Manchester by night. At these times it is a playground for the fashionable and fabulous, as well as a mecca for the region's celebrities. But, by day, it takes on quite a different guise.This is the place to relax and spend an afternoon watching the world go by. Reclining in the surprisingly comfortable scarlet-coloured lip chairs with a salmon and cream cheese bagel in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, my guest and I feel like royalty. We'd come from an afternoon trudging around a wedding fair so our feet and stomachs were in need of revival. We chose the Champagne High Tea - there are three options for cake and tea; cake, sandwiches and tea and the Champagne High Tea - but when you're treating yourself, why not got the whole hog?And Cloud 23 delivered. As well as enjoying our chilled glasses of Perrier Jouet, we were presented with our delicate tea cups and saucers and a huge pot of tea. Then came the food, a cake stand laden with pesto chicken wraps, roasted vegetables sandwiches, rich chocolate brownies, carrot cakes, those all important scones and, of course, the trademark cucumber sandwich. This was living. Tucking into our delicately presented treats we could look at the views - it was a beautiful winter's day - across the city centre to The Wheel, over to the Trafford Centre and to the Lancashire and Cheshire countryside. Having been to Cloud 23 before, I was expecting these incredible views but for my guest it was an incredible surprise.There was also a pleasing absence of a stuffy attitude and swagger that some traditional places have acquired. Nothing was too much trouble, the staff actually took time to chat and whether you wanted to enjoy a quick bite to eat or enjoy a long, lazy lunch, neither was a problem. Also, there were no hang ups of the expanding waistline as every group walked out with a 'doggy bag' of food they'd not managed to eat. Cloud 23 is worth going to just for the views but the High Tea provides another perfect excuse to take the lift to the 23rd floor.
Tips for your tea:l Cloud 23's afternoon tea has been created by executive chef David Gale, who has worked at restaurants around the world.l You can choose from High Tea with cakes (9.95), High Tea with a selection of finger sandwiches, cream filled scones and other delights (14.95) or the Champagne High Tea (24.95). For more information or to book visit www.cloud23bar.com