Pre-empting the need for a post-Christmas wind-down, it seemed sensible to invest in the conveniently-timed online offer* of afternoon tea for two at Bristol's prestigious hotel, The Grand. For £29, our pre-paid print-out also allowed for a visit to the adjoining (Otium) spa whose facilities include a well-equipped gym, both sauna and steam room, plus an ever-popular jacuzzi and small swimming pool. Consequently, after taking advantage of all the above and shocking our lethargic festively-fed bodies into action, my lovely mum and I made our way to the hotel's restaurant, 'Tyrells' for our intended après-spa refreshment...
Date and Time: Tuesday 27th December 2011 – afternoon tea at 15:00
Name of Establishment: The Grand Hotel*
Location: Broad Street, Bristol
Reason for visit: The notion of a little R&R amidst a chaotic bout of seasonal merry-making!
Shown to a suitably sized table-for-two, mum and I took a moment to visually appreciate our surroundings. The Grand Hotel's classic Victorian architecture has clearly been treated to a degree of modernisation and thus, there is an overriding sophistication that is tinged with bland practicality. That said, with plush carpet under-foot and cut-crystal chandeliers overhead, it's fair to say that touches of opulence attractively punctuate this otherwise neutrally -decorated space. Furthermore, large floor-to-ceiling windows flood the restaurant with natural light (in this case, a momentary burst of winter sunshine) which makes for a buoyant, fundamentally airy ambiance which, coupled with comfortable leather-effect furniture and the subtlety of a chilled-out soundtrack constitutes the stay-a-while appeal that only a thoughtfully determined aesthetic can establish. Consequently, The Grand seemed the perfect location for a spot of afternoon tea which, quintessentially English, is both an age-old tradition and a novel variety of bite-sized indulgences – although on this occasion, these embodied a notably Yuletide theme!
Offered either tea or coffee in the first instance (which transpired to a standard breakfast brew for mum and a rather average filter coffee for me), it wasn't long before the rest of our pristinely-presented fare made an entrance. Glass containers of chilled mineral water had been provided as standard and tumblers of mulled wine accompanied two tiers of edibles. Unfortunately, a coffee versus mulled wine juggling act unfolded as neither particularly complemented the other in terms of one's palate and both required prompt consumption due to proving equally as unpleasant with a tepid composition. I doubt that the addition of mulled wine is available outside of the festive season and yet, it would have been rather better received a little later during the proceedings. Moving onto the gastronomical goings-on and initially the savouries which I'm afraid were not quite up to par; the individual cheese and onion quiches were fairly soggy and underwhelmingly bland in regards to their flavour (or lack of it) and the crust-less, teeny triangular sandwiches, albeit richly filled with good quality ingredients, had been created using bread that was ever so slightly dry – perhaps suggesting that the sandwiches themselves had been prepared (and plated) hours in advance...disappointing.
Things started to look up as we moved on to the duo of scones. The first, a fruit scone which despite looking suspiciously as though it had been ejected from a supermarket multi-pack, had been crammed with juicy sultanas and arrived 'oven-fresh' – lovely. The second was a 'plain' wholemeal scone which, rustically chunky, epitomised the sense of a home-made effort proving crumbly and satisfying – slathering our 'halves' with generous measures of strawberry jam and clotted cream, both were devoured (and entirely enjoyed) in record time! Next up came mini mince pies and dainty fruit tarts; both of which were picture-perfect, with expertly executed fillings portioned within melt-in-the-mouth shortcrust pastry cases, yum! Lastly, mum and I just about managed to make room for the sizeable hunks of Christmas cake which were unanimously the highlight of the experience; proving rich-tasting and moistly textured as well as layered with a commendable marzipan-to-icing ratio. And, leaving the distinctive twang of Christmastime booze as an after-taste marked with its decadence, this was quite simply, a deliciously different final foray!
In conclusion, an enjoyable afternoon spent at The Grand – service was courteous yet relaxed and efficient and the surroundings were calming and comfortable. That said, I'm not sure that I would be willing to pay the usual £18.50 fee (per person) for the same experience (minus the spa) given the number of foodie faux-pas encountered on this occasion. Yet, with a little attention to detail, I think that the quality of the fare could be augmented to a standard that would be rather more likely to warrant a return visit. I also learnt, after liaising with others who had purchased the same deal, that the afternoon tea line-up itself is rather inconsistent; the Best Foodie Friend, for instance, getting rather a raw deal with a lot less offered over her two-tiered arrangement just a few weeks previously. I have noticed that 'Groupon'* are currently offering a similar deal (at £32 for two people including the use of Otium's spa facilities) and so, you may wish to take note of my 'contents may vary' disclaimer before clicking the 'purchase' button! That said, we all know that good old mother-daughter outings are priceless and there is no doubt that you'll have a top afternoon in good company...so do let me know what you think...!
And now for the second opinion...
Mum gave The Grand Hotel (Tyrells Restaurant) a generous 8/10 and in three words described the fare as 'elegant afternoon tea'.