In 1739, Earl FitzGerald commissioned Richard Castles - one of the pre-eminent architects of the day to design and build Carton House. Castles was also responsible for building many of the great Irish houses including Westport House, Powerscourt House and Leinster House which is now home to the Dáil (Irish Parliament).
I have wanted to try the afternoon tea in Carton House for quite a while and was delighted to get the opportunity recently. As I drove through the grounds along the driveway in the approach up to Carton House, I stopped a couple of times to take in the estate’s beautifully maintained grounds. The house itself is stunning and literally takes your breath away when it comes into view. Having built up an appetite, I was really looking forward to my afternoon tea and having the chance to sit down and relax in the hotel’s elegant surroundings.
The afternoon tea menu includes a good selection of loose leaf teas which are supplied by Suki Teas, a boutique master tea blender from Belfast who only use ethically-sourced, Fairtrade teas. The teas are flavoursome with bold, assertive notes and there is something to suit most tastes. If you like you can also order a glass of Champagne or a cocktail to enjoy with your afternoon tea. As I was driving this was a pleasure I had to forego but on this occasion I was more than happy with just my tea.
|Green Tea Luponde|
By way of contrast, Finbarr, my guest for the day decided to go for the Earl Grey Blue Flower tea which, with its floral notes had a delicate and sophisticated flavour. The defining characteristic of Earl Grey teas is provided by the addition of bergamot, usually by the use of essential oils which can sometimes overpower the gentle flavour of the leaf but I thought this was a wonderfully balanced offering. Both teas were served in individual teapots with strainers provided on the side.
|Selection of sandwiches|
Here the cake stand had three layers; one for the sandwiches, one for the scones and preserves and one for the cakes and pastries. Everything looked mouth-wateringly good and we couldn’t wait to tuck in.
The tempting selection of sandwiches included an Open Prawn Cocktail on Rye Bread and a Smoked Salmon & Chive Cream Cheese Roulade which were both generously filled and delicious to eat. Similarly, the Turkey, Cranberry & Stuffing had been well-made and included a crowd-pleasing filling of succulent turkey and a flavoursome herb stuffing served between thin slices of white bread.
|Tomato, Basil & Cherry Tomato Brioche|
All the sandwiches were fabulous but my favourite was definitely the Tomato, Basil and Cherry Tomato Brioche. Although it looked like a simple bread roll filled with cheese and tomato, every element was outstanding. The mini-brioche roll was superbly made with a delicate crumb that accentuated the flavour of the ingredients that were used to fill it.
Santiago Cake is an almond confection which originally hails from Spain. Here hazelnuts had been included along with the almonds and in my opinion, the cake was all the better for it, delivering an intriguing flavour profile. Beautifully light, the cake was topped with a with a 5 Spice Cream which made it seem even more indulgent. The Choux Pastry with Chocolate & Orange Ganache was rich with a lovely citrus kick due to the inclusion of orange-flavoured liqueur in the ganache.
At €24.50 per person (Monday to Friday) and €29.50 (on Saturdays and Sundays) I think that the afternoon tea is well-priced. I loved the relaxed ambiance in Carton House and would have no hesitation in recommending the afternoon tea as the whole experience was wonderful. The food was well-presented and delicious to eat. Service was friendly, attentive and delivered in a professional manner. This was an afternoon tea to remember.