On Saturday the Canny Food clan had Afternoon Tea at the Lord Crewe Arms. It’s not the first time we’ve eaten there, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. We visited for my birthday last year and stayed overnight in their beautifully stylish bedrooms. Breakfast the following morning has yet to be topped by any other hotel we’ve frequented over the last 18 months. Read the full review here. But before I tell you about our visit on this particular wet afternoon I’m going to recount a tale from a friend of mine.
My friend Ian loves his grub. We’d spend many a tea break at work talking about the places we’d visited, and I trust his judgement when it comes food. Ian likes good quality food – make no mistake – but he doesn’t subscribe to the notion that small portions fine dining make. This is a guy who successfully completed Zapatista’s Burrito Challenge with time to spare, and is currently working out which Man vs Food Grill Challenge to tackle. Not so long ago he took a trip to Cafe Royal with his other half to try their ‘Big Breakfast’. What he was served, in my opinion, was anything but. Judge for yourself from the picture below.
He paid £9 for what he states was food that had been sat under a heat lamp and barely lived up to its moniker. He was incensed, and said so to the staff. They told him to fill up on toast instead. Helpful. Now you could argue that his chagrin was on account of his more than hearty appetite, and he’d not dispute this. But what he was served that particular morning should not, under any circumstances, be billed as a Big Breakfast. Surely it’s a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act?! Anyway, he’s since discovered The Business at The Butterfly Cabinet and will not darken the doors of Cafe Royal again.
So what has a story about a miniscule breakfast have to do with an Afternoon Tea in the beautiful surroundings of Blanchland? Let me explain.
We popped into the Lord Crewe after a walk around Derwent Reservoir. We fancied trying out their Bar Snacks, but as they were only served 12-3pm we’d yet again missed our chance. Happens every time. Instead we were offered Three-sies, their unique take on the quintessential English Afternoon Tea tradition. I had seen a beautiful picture on Twitter of said offering, and for £16pp we decided to order 2 between us. The bar was super busy even though they weren’t serving food, although a few people did grumble when they were offered crisps instead of the Chips and Curried Tomatoes that had teased them on the Bar Snack menu. We were told that different Three-sies would be available each day, depending on menu availability.
The food arrived and we made space on the table for the other plates. Or so we thought. Even the lady who served us behind the bar asked where the other two plates were. After all, we’d ordered two. We were all informed by the waitress that this was it. The lady was surprised, as were we. She said that she could see there were two small Haggis Sausage Rolls gracing the plate, but she couldn’t understand why the Sea Buckthorn Posset was being served singularly. Same with the Bakewell Tart. There were perhaps two spoonfuls of the Beet Salad between us, two scoops of Chocolate Mousse and the Oban Steak Sandwich was cut in half.
We’re not the sort of folk to be shy of sharing our food, but there will be some who won’t like the idea of ‘double dipping’. The way the Posset was served really surprised us, and not in a good way. I could tell Mr. Canny was not impressed. Each plate of food technically cost us £16, and while it was delicious I just can’t see how that can be justified. If we hadn’t ordered 2 what would we have been presented with? Receiving a plateful of ‘half food’ wouldn’t have been aesthetically pleasing, that’s for sure. Having had the most filling Afternoon Teas at the likes of Jesmond Dene House and Wynyard Hall for £19.95pp and £21.50pp respectively I could understand where he was coming from. With these visits, we took a box of ‘spoils’ home with us afterwards. Here we were likely to be nipping into the White Monk Tearoom across the road for a quiche to fill us up.
I posted a photo on Facebook when we returned home from the Lord Crewe to garner opinion. The general consensus was one of dismay. Ian was less than kind and likened the experience to his Cafe Royal saga. He remarked that we should have refused to pay. I think we were so surprised ourselves, especially as their own staff seemed shocked that what was served to us was supposed to be for two people, that we didn’t really process everything until afterwards. I said that if the Posset had been served in individual glasses or there’d been miniature versions of the food, as most establishments do with their Teas, then perhaps the experience wouldn’t have been so jarring. Mr. Canny said he’d have still felt he was being fleeced.
All I can really do is allow the readers of this blog to form their own opinion. As I stated earlier, we’ll inevitably return to the Lord Crewe in the future, but next time it will be for a proper meal. Much better value for money.
Thanks for reading,
P.S After checking out the Lord Crewe website for information about their ‘more-ish’ (for all the wrong reasons!) Three-sies I discovered that we were not served the tea or coffee which is offered as part of the deal.