It’s the great British tradition that’s riding the crest of a wave with its resurgence in popularity, but this Durham restaurant is serving afternoon tea with a twist.
Wave bye bye Battenberg and so long soggy sandwiches as Fusion restaurant at Ramside has spiced up the classic past time with an Asian version.
It’s in keeping with the Oriental theme of the restaurant, which opened as part of last year’s £16m investment to up the ante at Ramside Hall Hotel with the opening of a spa.
The large dining area is dominated by a large blossom tree surrounding by hues of green and brown, reminding you that this is a place that aims to bring the calm of nature indoors.
You don’t have to be a spa guest to relax in Fusion, but don’t be surprised to see people eating in their robes as well as a view looking into the hydro pool and its wicker pagoda chairs through the wooden fretwork pattern on the windows.
It all makes for an informal atmosphere, yet one that feels a bit special. If being surrounded by people in robes puts you off though, the afternoon teas are also served in the hotel’s other lounges including the Norman Cornish lounge.
In keeping with the site’s approach to health and wellbeing, we were offered a choice of holistic teas which use ingredients that tackle everything from digestion to circulation and eczema.
The spa has joined forces with award-winning London-based loose tea specialist Camellia’s Tea House to offer a selection of its blends, including its own
specially-created Ramside Revive, which is designed to rejuvenate both body and mind.
We went with the lemon version - served in an Asian teapot just to ensure you can’t resist committing it to Instagram - which is aimed at invigorating and it proved a perfect palate cleanser ahead of our food.
Instead of chintzy china, it’s served on a chunky wooden tray which makes it easier to get stuck straight in. For £18 each you get a selection of steamed Asian dim sums, bang bang chicken and vegetable wrap and duck spring roll as well as a sweet course (which I’ll get on to later) and a choice of tea.
The afternoon tea purists out there needn’t fret, there’s still the classic finger sandwich option available too.
Served in a small steamer basket, the dim sum were a delight, tightly-packed bite-size parcels of meat and shrimp that burst with flavour. There’s also a vegetarian and gluten-free option for those with dietary requirements.
The chicken and vegetable wrap was a more substantial addition to the proceedings, while a Chinese-style savoury egg tart provided a lighter texture.
The sweet course was served in the more traditional sense on a tiered stand and is a pick ‘n’ mix of puddings: moist slabs of chocolate cake; lemon grass and lime posset; macaroons, mango and coconut crème brûlée and fruit scone with jam and cream.
The posset had the zing of Asian flavours executed smoothly in a classic English posset while the velvety crème brûlée was given extra ooomphh with the addition of mango and coconut.
Not sure that fruit scones and chocolate cake are a common feature on Asian menus in their home land, but we weren’t complaining about this English culinary invasion.