Food review - Afternoon Tea, Mitton Hall
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 March 2016
If you are looking for a special treat, afternoon tea in the Ribble Valley is sure to please, reports Mairead Mahon. Photography by Glynn Ward
Mitton Hall was already centuries old when Anna, Duchess of Bedford, invented that great British institution: The Afternoon Tea.
The Duchess devised it in the early 1800s as she suffered from a mid afternoon ‘sinking feeling’ or, as we might say decades later, the munchies. Anna probably never visited Lancashire but all those who admire her invention can raise an appreciative teacup to her, whilst enjoying afternoon tea in Mitton Hall.
The 550-year-old Grade 11 listed mansion lends itself perfectly to the occasion that caused Agatha Christie to exclaim: ‘Bless Afternoon Tea.’ She might have doubly blessed a champagne afternoon tea, which is what we arrived to enjoy at Mitton Hall on a very wet afternoon.
It might have been cold and miserable outside but it was warm inside the wood panelled walls of the hall - warmth which was matched by the welcome of the staff. They first checked if we had any special dietary requirements before giving us a choice of table, either by the wood burner or by the stone mullioned window. Being hardy souls, we chose the window and settled ourselves at a table elegantly draped in white linen and set with silver cutlery.
The Afternoon Tea consists of unlimited teas and coffees, a selection of sandwiches and cakes, as well as a prawn cocktail. As shellfish is off limits for me, I was immediately offered a selection of alternatives from salads to extra sandwiches or cakes. White china teapots were brought without delay and, while we waited for our food, we were able to sit back and take note of our surroundings.
The present-day owner has said that he wanted to take the hall back to its roots and make it feel like a home again and he has certainly succeeded, albeit a particularly luxurious home. Chandeliers glint and vases of flowers stand on a glass table next to chrome bowls. A carved fireplace is the focal point of the room and rugs lie on the wooden floor, all blending tastefully against the muted decor. Light music plays in the background but not loud enough to interrupt the flow of conversation.
A welcome interruption to our conversation came in the form of the afternoon tea with its accompaniment of champagne. It was served on an eye-catching three tiered cake stand made of slate and the waiter took care to tell us exactly what was on it. The sandwiches were open rather than the usual finger variety and the salmon and cream cheese, in particular, were heaped high. The treacle and mustard baked ham with tomato chutney was a welcome twist while the egg sandwiches provided the traditional tea time taste. They all went very well with the accompanying root vegetable crisps, which somehow sound so much more virtuous than just plain crisps.
Then it was on to the sweet offerings, which began with a delicate ‘amuse bouche’ of vanilla pannacotta and strawberry champagne, served in a miniature kilner jar that was just the right size to enable the small silver teaspoon to scrape out every last delicious bit.
Taste buds dutifully amused, the cakes beckoned and where else to begin than with a scone with jam and Chantilly cream. Of course, afternoon tea is all about indulgence and so we saw no need to stop there, sampling the other three varieties of cake. special mention to the chocolate brownie which was densely ‘chocolatey’ but employed a special kind of alchemy which meant it was still deliciously light.
We raised our glasses to Duchess Anna who, without doubt, would have heartily approved of Mitton Hall’s afternoon tea.