The rising popularity of traditional afternoon tea shows no sign of waning.
Since its resurgence on the culinary scene, every cafe and hotel worth their salt seems to be knocking up their own take on the classic.
Roker Hotel were so confident in the revival of tea rooms, cakes and the rather refined pastime of afternoon tea, that they built one.
It was the first in a wave of improvements at this landmark hotel, which has more recently opened Poetic License and the Italian Farmhouse.
It first opened its doors on the site of the former Thai China restaurant in May last year to sate people’s appetite for indulgent treats.
You can’t fault the decor. Tens of thousands of pounds were spent on rubbing out any trace of its Asian guise, and replacing it with nods to British design.
A feature wall is papered with Penguin book classics, the chandeliers evoke a sense of a stately home drawing room, while old tea crates now serve as a counter.
In keeping with the venue’s location overlooking Roker beach, a huge sweeping mural depicts the nearby pier. Bag yourself a window seat in this large tea room – which has a ramp and plenty of space for wheelchair-users – and you can see the real pier for yourself.
I first visited a year ago when I’d heard a few grumbles about slow service. A year later, and we didn’t encounter such a problem on our visit. It wasn’t the fastest service in the world, but then this isn’t a cafe for a quick bite to eat: it’s aimed at those wanting to sit back and take their time over tea.
The latter is served loose leaf, like days of yore, and is Ringtons, which is based down the road in Newcastle. There’s plenty of choice, ranging from the richer flavour of Earl Grey to the lighter China green sencha.
Though it serves breakfasts, elevenses, sandwiches and other savouries, it was afternoon tea which had lured us here on a Saturday afternoon. We’d booked, and it’s best to do so on weekends as it fills up fast.
The regular afternoon tea is £13.95, almost half the price of some hotels, with unlimited tea. Or, you can add some bubbles at £18.95 for afternoon tea with a glass of prosecco.
It wasn’t long after ordering before our tower of afternoon tea arrived and our waitress was particularly great in advising my pregnant friend of which items contained non bump-friendly ingredients.
The base layer was, of course, sandwiches. A selection of tuna, beef and smoked salmon, with the crusts cut off for extra daintiness.
Cakes are the venue’s speciality, and it shows with the middle layer: a rainbow of colourful macarons, gooey mini chocolate eclairs which were the perfect size to devour in two bites, moreish flans topped with fresh fruit and finger-lickingly good cream cakes.
The cherry on the top of this classic cake were piping hot scones. You get a fruit version and a cheese version for those who’ve satisfied their sweet tooth cravings enough already. And dinky pots of butter and jam mean you can smother the inner fluff of the scones liberally.
We took our time over tea, but didn’t feel like we were being hurried along, and our leftovers were boxed up, so we could devour the remains at our leisure.
Forget seafront takeaways, this was a bakeaway.