Restaurant reviews

Afternoon Tea in Edinburgh: Visit Palm Court at The Balmoral for an afternoon of pure escapism

Last weekend, we were in Edinburgh. With me being pregnant and more whale-like than is perhaps ideal for a city break, Kyle was keen to think of some activities we could do that didn’t involve too much, well, actual activity!

Knowing my love of afternoon tea, he suggested an afternoon tea experience. After Googling afternoon tea destinations in Edinburgh, we decided to try Palm Court at The Balmoral, one of Edinburgh’s most famous hotels.

The online booking system suggested that we wouldn’t be able to be squeezed in all weekend, but Kyle rang to check and we found that there was a free table on Monday afternoon. Result!

So, how did we find our afternoon tea experience in Edinburgh? Well, read on…

Setting

Palm Court at The Balmoral hotel is truly stunning. Like something out of a movie set, it contrasts huge palm trees with a wow-factor chandelier, a glass domed roof, and comfortable tables and chairs for spending a decadent hour or two in.

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

The glass domed ceiling

Something about the décor and atmosphere reminded me of when we visited Raffles in Singapore for lunch when I was younger. Needless to say it was beautiful, and the women’s toilets were amongst the best I’ve ever visited!

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

Palm Court at The Balmoral

Nice surroundings like these make you forget where you are in the world. It was actually something of a shock when we walked out of The Balmoral after our two hour afternoon tea experience and onto the utterly manic Princes Street!

Service

From the minute we walked into Palm Court, I was really impressed by the service. As I’ve already mentioned, the surroundings are refined and demure, but the service is far from stuffy.

The waiting staff were polite to a tee, attentive, and more than happy to help out with any requests. They did all of this with a sense of humour (one of the waitresses promised us that the palate cleanser brought out to finish the afternoon tea would be the last thing we’d have to eat as she could sense we were full!) and a really good attitude. This compares to The Samling in the Lake District, where, although the afternoon tea experience was sublime, we were made to feel a bit judged by some of the condescending staff.

Top marks to the Balmoral for service and for making us feel at home for the two hours we were there.

Savoury delights

I make no secret of the fact I love sandwiches. I love sandwiches in general and I particularly love sandwiches in pretty afternoon tea form! We had fond memories of the afternoon tea open sandwiches served at The Samling, and I have a special place in my heart for the sandwiches served at Browns in London, but The Balmoral managed to create something a little different for the savoury section of their afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

Savoury tower

First of all, we were presented with a little amuse bouche, something I haven’t experienced before during an afternoon tea. The amuse bouche was a delicate pea soup topped with crème fraiche and it was a really nice taste of what was to come.

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

The lovely pea soup

When the main tower of savoury treats turned up, we were talked through the delights on offer. At the top of the tower were two cheese twists. These were crispy, decadent, cheesy mouthfuls of pure indulgence. I could have eaten a whole plateful of these but they were so rich that it was just as well we only had one each.

Moving down the tower, we enjoyed a coronation chicken tart (spicy and delicate, it was one of the highlights of the afternoon for me), and a pastrami and cheese wrap.

Sitting at the bottom of the tower was a cucumber wrap and a slice of smoked salmon atop some cream cheese on a piece of what looked like dark rye bread. I love cucumber sandwiches and I love smoked salmon sandwiches and I was not let down by either of the offerings here.

It was nice to have something a little bit different as opposed to the usual sandwich selection and needless to say I finished off the savoury selection feeling very impressed indeed with the way The Balmoral do things.

Sweet treats

After a short break, the tower of sweet goodies turned up! There was a pear smoothie, an intriguing rhubarb and dark chocolate creation, some chocolate mousse sandwiched between layers of white chocolate, and passion fruit tarts with meringue on top.

The highlight here was the passion fruit tarts. These weren’t really to my taste (the chocolate mousse was my favourite!) but Kyle thought they were little mouthfuls of heaven.

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

Sweet tower of goodies!

Let’s move on to the main event: the scones. We were presented with a pretty little plate of plain and fruit scones. The plate came presented beautifully, with strawberries on the edge and a dusting of icing sugar across the top.

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

The essentials: jam and clotted cream!

The scones were utterly delicious; smothered in clotted cream and raspberry jam, they were a decadent representation of the flavour and experience of the afternoon tea. They were also huge, and although I’d like to think I could have eaten five more because they were so delicious, I probably couldn’t have!

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

Scones, beautifully presented

To round the afternoon off, there was a visit from the cake trolley! This was so unnecessary but we went with it anyway because the cakes looked so good! Kyle had a strawberry and cream slice and I had a slice of Victoria sponge. Both were genuinely divine.

The final icing on the cake was a palate cleanser of a cute little lemon sorbet in a mini cone, presented cleverly again, and another small touch of luxury that sets Palm Court apart.

Tea, coffee etc

Between us, we tried two different teas: Assam and Rooibos. The Assam was a beautiful tea that perfectly complemented the scones and the cakes and went very well with the nice cold milk supplied, and the Rooibos, a herbal tea from South Africa, provided a really refreshing and light contrast.

Afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Balmoral

Time for tea

Kyle also ordered a double macchiato to wake himself up from the inevitable food coma. I liked how this was included in the overall cost of the afternoon tea. In fact, we could have sampled any one of the teas and coffees on the menu over the course of the afternoon, without paying a penny more.

Value for money

Weighing in at £58 for the two of us, I was pretty impressed by the value for money at Palm Court. If you bear in mind that this afternoon tea was our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and taking into account the quality of the food and the surroundings, you can see why the cost more than justifies the experience.

So, if you’re looking for an afternoon tea experience in Edinburgh, look no further than Palm Court. It really does make for a memorable afternoon.

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