Yorkshire Life Afternoon Tea - The Principal York

Afternoon dessert

Afternoon dessert - Credit: Archant

Guests join us at The Principal York where afternoon tea is served with a side-order of style

Head pastry chef Martyn Edmonds prepares afternoon tea

Head pastry chef Martyn Edmonds prepares afternoon tea - Credit: Archant

Creating a great afternoon tea is not easy, but the ever-obliging staff at The Principal York make it look like a piece of cake.

‘Our afternoon tea is, frankly, one of the best,’ said general manager Richard Mansell. ‘We’re very proud of it because we get such amazing feedback. People just love it. That makes us very happy indeed.’

And it shows. The staff at The Principal are among some of the cheeriest in the business. Always professional and courteous, they’re also warm, welcoming and friendly enough to put everyone at their ease.

‘We go out of our way to be warm and welcoming,’ said Richard. ‘When you walk out the door, we want your first thought to be ‘when can I come back?’. At the end of the day, we want York – and Yorkshire – to be proud of us.’

The Ebor Room

The Ebor Room - Credit: Archant

The landmark hotel – formerly known as the Royal York – relaunched last year after a multi-million pound revamp, giving the 139-year-old building a fresher, more stylish look to ramp up its contemporary credentials and underline its place as one of the city’s premier hotels.

It’s a cornerstone of the Principal Collection, a group of hotels that have all had an important role to play in the heritage of their home city, including The Principal London (formerly The Hotel Russell), The Principal Edinburgh (formerly The George Hotel) and The Principal Manchester (formerly The Palace Hotel).

‘The transformation of this hotel has been nothing less than monumental,’ said Richard. ‘It turned out to be one of the biggest refurbishment and restoration projects in Yorkshire.

‘Just two years ago this property was looking very tired and in need of a bit of love and attention. It was all horrible dingy red carpets and dark wood. Now, £15 million later, the hotel has been transformed into a beautiful grand dame fit for the 21st century.’

Tea is served

Tea is served - Credit: Archant

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That £15m has been spent extremely well. The Principal York has always enjoyed a key spot next to the city’s bustling railway hub and within easy walking distance of all the major sights, but now it more than matches its location with an impeccable interior design scheme that takes in more than 150 beautifully appointed bedrooms and suites as well as public dining, drinking and relaxing spaces.

The Refectory Kitchen & Terrace, a light, bright, glazed expanse, has fast become a destination restaurant under the expert guidance of executive chef Jason Wardill. While the Garden Room is now regarded as one of the very best places to enjoy afternoon tea, not least because you also get to enjoy sweeping views across the garden to the historic city walls and, beyond that, to York’s majestic Minster.

While the Refectory specialises in fresh, seasonal Yorkshire produce, served with silver service professionalism, the Garden Room is a haven for those who (quite rightly) believe an afternoon is not complete without an expertly brewed pot of tea and an array of sweet treats.

The Principal sources its tea from the Rare Tea Company, which focuses on developing real relationships with small, carefully chosen farmers growing the very finest leaves and, as a result, the menu includes all manner of intriguing brews, such as the highly fragrant 2nd Flush Muscatel Darjeeling, picked in the foothills of the Himalayas, and Jasmine Silver Tip, a delicate white tea crafted entirely from spring buds scented with fresh jasmine in the Fujian Province of China.

Cherry and almond scones

Cherry and almond scones - Credit: Archant

Let’s not pretend, however, that tea is the star of the show. It might be called ‘afternoon tea’, but it’s actually all about the delicate little sweet and savoury treats that keep coming with pleasing regularity to the table.

Our afternoon tea began, quite sensibly, with something deeply savoury – a sweet potato and chorizo veloute served in a dinky little cup accompanied by crisp mini crackers topped with pate and fruit chutney.

Then came a plate of sandwiches – savoury egg and ham and chutney – that were actually quite robust in size (but no one was complaining), followed swiftly by three tiers of sweet treats created by chef Martyn Edmonds.

There was sultana, almond and cherry scones (leading to the usual light-hearted argument about pronunciation that the seemingly simple s-word inevitably prompts), parkin loaf, passionfruit macarons, curd tarts, Slingsby rhubarb gin cheesecake, white chocolate and raspberry eclairs, and chocolate pots with cream and salted caramel. Each was a mini work of art, a feast for the eyes that gave a true visual indication of the utter deliciousness they delivered.

Perhaps not surprisingly for a hotel at the heart of the county’s historic capital, The Principal’s afternoon tea proved to be of generous Yorkshire proportions, and only one member of our party actually managed to try everything (he shall remain nameless; let’s just say he’s a photographer and leave it at that).

This means, however, that we all got the chance to take a little bit of The Principal home with us in the form of individual boxes of delicious mini desserts. Result!

For more information about The Principal York, visit phcompany.com/principal/york-hotel, call 01904 653 681 or simply pop in when you’re passing (they’re always happy to put the kettle on).

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