I never pass up an opportunity to partake in the age-old tradition of afternoon tea. With its inception going back to the late 1800s/early 1900s, afternoon tea has enjoyed a wonderful revival in Ireland over the past ten years. But I don’t just limit my afternoon tea experiences to Ireland – my most recent experience was a delightful afternoon tea in Beijing, but with travelling now on hold, I was delighted to discover that Ballykealy House Hotel in Carlow were now offering afternoon tea. Being only a couple of kilometres from my home, how could I not visit?
It is important to say that, when booking, the staff will run through all their Covid 19 protocols. On arrival you will find hand sanitisers, well spaced tables and staff wearing appropriate PPE, but this does not take away from the wonderful ambience at Ballykealy House. The dining room, with its high ceilings and open fire, provides an atmospheric background for mid afternoon dining.
There is a very good range of teas on offer including Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Pai Mu Tan (white tea) and caffeine-free Rooibos. While I love a lot of these teas, I always drink a breakfast tea with afternoon tea. This is just a personal preference, but I find that the flavour compliments the savoury and sweet treats on offer really well.
We started with the savoury selection. The toppings on crusty rolls were roast beef with caramelized onion and horseradish, smoked chicken with a fig chutney and free-range eggs with watercress. These were accompanied by a delicious bite size St Tola’s goats cheese curd tart with toasted walnuts. Last, but not least on the savoury selection, was some traditional and delightful smoked salmon served with capers on soda bread.
Both plain and fruit scones were on offer and they were fresh, light and the perfect size for afternoon tea. The scones were served with butter, jam and clotted cream. These scones were truly perfection on a plate and something I can’t wait to tuck into again.
Moving on to the sweet treats was definitely not a chore with a wonderful range of sweet bites on offer. The cheesecake, mini macarons and chocolate dipped profiteroles were sumptuous. I particularly loved a beautifully light Mille Feuille and a richly dense lemon drizzle cake.
Throughout afternoon tea service, the staff remained vigilant, remembering to top up teapots and add fresh plates. They were attentive and courteous, but never intrusive.
Afternoon tea at Ballykealy house was a wonderful experience, and for me, rates with some of the best I have experienced over the years. It is keenly priced at €28 per person or €33 if you fancy a glass of bubbly. Their next afternoon tea event is Saturday September 5th and I suspect this date is going to fill very very quickly.
So if you fancy getting away for a few hours, this is the place to go to enjoy a 19th century tradition in 19th century surroundings.
Ballykealy House Hotel, Ballon, Co Carlow
Phone: 059 9159288
Written by Fiona Dillon