The scent of Ronnenfeldt Irish whiskey tea fills the air, the dream-like theme from Love Actually twinkles softly on the piano, in turn with the pop of Laurent Perrier Champagne corks. This, darling, is a dream Sunday, I think to myself as I sink into a teal throne and hit my inner relax button in the Lord Mayor’s Lounge at The Shelbourne.
I like to embrace my inner grand old dame from time to time partaking in the most luxurious of rituals – Afternoon Tea – but somehow had never indulged in the iconic offering at The Shelbourne, surely Dublin’s best known high tea haunt.
It is impossible to feel anything but utterly care-free and catered to as you settle in and peruse the extremely extensive hot drinks list, with over 20 leaf varieties you’re sure to find your cup of tea. That said, my inner caffeine fiend was more than a little thrilled that everything from flat whites to almond milk matcha lattes were also included on the list, and are poured freely throughout your afternoon at The Shelbourne.
Petite Buttermilk Scones, still warm from the oven, are the first bite of simple elegance, topped with lashings of butter and jam to get the ball rolling. Beside them, two mini loaves of beautifully spiced and springy Gingerbread, happily devoured in a mouthful.
Unlike many afternoon tea sandwich selections, here there are savouries with strings to their bow – St Tola Goats Cheese on subtly sweet pumpkin bread was a real standout, topped with bright and juicy cherry tomatoes singing of summer time.
A mini Brioche Roll stuffed with pulled chicken was two bites of rich and delicious goodness and an elegant Smoked Salmon on malty Guinness bread looked and tasted more like a very sophisticated canapé, the perfect accompaniment to a chilled flute of Laurent Perrier.
Although a warm day may not seem like the best time to take high tea, the pastries on offer embody suummer in delicate sugar work and vibrant colour, mirrored by flavours evocative of balmy days luxuriating in the sun.
I don’t envy the task of Pastry Chef Caoimhe Hanafin creating works of patisserie art in sweltering weather, but she must have naturally cool hands as each creation we were presented with was executed perfectly.
‘The Cheesecake’, prettier than any I have ever seen, is a shining ruby red dome of intense berry sweetness, encasing vanilla studded cheesecake and a zingy strawberry lime core and sat atop a buttery, crumbly shortbread base.
Similarly zesty and almost too delicate to destroy, The Lemon Drizzle is far more intricate than the name suggests, revealing layers of lemon and poppy sea sponge, mouth-wateringly tart lemon gel, featherlight sunshine coloured lemon mousse and a centre of creamy raspberry pot de creme. Not your average tea-time treat, but rather a show-stopping take on irresistible summer flavours.
The piece de resistance, however, undoubtedly was the petite but perfectly formed Praline Eclair, the most indulgent and wickedly rich treat of them all and quite possibly the best éclair I have had the pleasure of devouring since Fauchon in Paris. I’d go back for this patisserie perfection alone.
The silverware here is mostly overflowing with ice and chilled bottles of bubbles, and the silver service on offer manages somehow to be warm and inviting rather than stuffy and staged. Very few establishments can claim this feat and it makes an afternoon of lingering all the more difficult to end.
The Lord Mayor’s lounge is steeped in history and remembers its rich past, at the same time creating memorably delicious afternoons filled with both classics and contemporary takes on sweet favourites. If you love Afternoon Tea, the entire experience of taking tea in The Shelbourne, from start to finish, makes it the benchmark against which all others should be judged.
Classic Afternoon Tea costs €49 per person or €64 with a glass of Champagne.
27 St. Stephen’s Green
T: 01 6634500
REVIEW BY DARINA COFFEY