Friday, 6 November 2015

Review: Afternoon Tea in Clontarf Castle Hotel, Dublin

For me, there is nothing more enjoyable than catching up with friends over a delicious afternoon tea in comfortable surroundings. I find that it is one of the most relaxing things to do and as such, I am always on the look-out for new spots to try.

Afternoon Tea is hugely popular these days and with the number of places now offering it, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find something a little different; something that stands out from the crowd. Therefore, I was excited to learn that Clontarf Castle Hotel had recently introduced a new Fusion Afternoon Tea which prides itself on its eclecticism. This is an afternoon tea that aims to blend tradition with contemporary flavours and I was looking forward to trying it out.
 
Roast Beef
Afternoon tea is served in the grand entrance hall tucked away in a cosy area in front of the magnificent stone fireplace. It was rather chilly on the autumn day that I visited so I was delighted to see that the fire was burning away giving out its welcoming heat. This is a beautiful space where the old parts of the castle meet and blend seamlessly with the modern architecture of the newer hotel. Tastefully decorated with tapestries and suits of armour, this really is the perfect location for afternoon tea.
 
As I read through the menu, it was immediately obvious that a lot of care and attention to detail has gone into creating this afternoon tea. There is a good selection of loose-leaf teas available or coffee if you prefer it. I am a huge fan of tea, so this was my beverage of choice and I started with a pot of Lapsang Souchon – a black tea from the Fujian province of China which has a lovely smoky aroma and a rich flavour but is smooth enough to drink without milk.
 
Salmon & Crab-Meat
Sandwiches were first to arrive and came attractively displayed on a beautiful wooden stand with open compartments where you could see everything easily. The sandwiches all looked so tempting and feeling peckish I wanted to dig in immediately.
 
I loved the Salmon and Crab-Meat open sandwich where diced pieces of salmon, cured in-house in the Hotel’s kitchens were bound together with fresh crab meat in a mayonnaise dressing and came presented on thinly sliced and buttered brown soda bread. This was a simple idea but worked really well and was incredibly tasty.
 
Also delicious was the Chicken Breast infused with Truffle Oil in a Soft Maize Roll. Truffle oil is an ingredient which can overpower everything else unless used sparingly and here just the right amount had been used to create a flavoursome and intensely savoury sandwich. I loved this sophisticated interpretation of a ‘chicken roll’.
 
Chicken-filled Maize Roll
I have always had a soft spot for Egg Mayonnaise sandwiches and really enjoyed the ones served here. The eggs had been cooked perfectly so weren’t in the least bit rubbery. They had been well seasoned and tasted wonderful with the finely chopped spring onions which had also been included in the mixture.
 
The Roast Beef Open Sandwich used 28-day aged sirloin beef which came thinly sliced and was served with a sticky onion marmalade and rocket leaves on rye bread. It was outstanding but my favourite sandwich of the day was the Ham Hock on Brioche. Here shredded ham hock was served between thin slices of toasted brioche and included small crisp onion rings and a mouth-watering whole grain mustard dressing. Heavenly!
 
Ham Hock
I then decided to try a different tea, favouring something lighter and fruitier with the sweet treats that were to come. Rooibos Blood Orange was the perfect choice and with its juicy notes was wonderfully refreshing.
 
Next up was an amazing array of cakes and pâtisserie which were placed on a similar presentation stand as the one used for the sandwiches. Looking at the goodies laid out in front of me, I felt like a child given free rein in a sweet shop and didn’t know which to eat first! Scones were also delivered but it was the individual Victoria Sponge Cake which literally took my breath away. I loved the individual mini glass cake stand that it came presented on. The cake was light with a lovely texture. It was filled with fresh strawberries and cream and included a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
 
Victoria Sponge Cake
A Lemongrass Cheesecake with a crushed ginger biscuit base was full of oriental flavours and was also light to eat. The Textures of Chocolate was inventive and made up of chocolate in the form of Belgian chocolate cremeaux, mousse and glaçage on a cocoa biscuit base. However, my favourite was the mini Salted Caramel Éclair with its filling of vanilla crème patissière. It was iced with a caramel glaze and sprinkled with discernible flakes of Maldon sea salt. I thought it was superb.
 
The Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote was the last of the pâtisserie offerings. It came served in an individual glass bowl covered with a glass cloche and was spectacular to look at. The panna cotta was delicately infused with orange oil – a flavour which worked well against the fiery heat of the candied ginger and the crisp sweet meringues.
 
Rhubarb & Ginger
Miniature buttermilk scones finished off this thoroughly enjoyable afternoon tea. Like everything that had gone before, they were well-made and a pleasure to eat. Two types were served; a traditional Fruit Scone and a Raspberry & White Chocolate Scone which was unusual but lovely. The scones were served with homemade Raspberry Jam, Lemon Curd and Clotted Cream.
 
I really enjoyed my afternoon tea in Clontarf Castle Hotel. Although the Fusion Tea has only just been introduced, a lot of thought has gone into developing it. I savoured every mouthful and enjoyed the little flavour surprises along the way. This was an afternoon tea that was pleasing to the eye and to the palate and I would highly recommend it.
 
At €27.50 per person (or €34.95 with a glass of Prosecco), I think that the afternoon tea is well priced. A Children’s afternoon tea (€14.95 per person) is also available.
 
Clontarf Castle Hotel
Castle Avenue
Clontarf
Dublin 3
 
Telephone: 01-8332321