Easter weekend, everybody talks about long weekends, four days off work, etc… except for people like me who work in customer service, or people in shops, or hospitality, or care. Myself, I worked Good Friday, Saturday. And I will be in on Easter Monday, so having Easter Sunday off my dad decided we should go for afternoon tea at Samlesbury Hall, just outside of Preston.
Samlesbury Hall is an impressive Grade I listed medieval Manor House, which back in 1925 was rightfully saved from demolition for its timber! Something that lasted for 6 centuries (it was completed in 1325) should never have had demolition considered! Thankfully it’s since been restored and is an impressive place to look around. The house is supposedly haunted by several ghosts, but we all know that they don’t exist. In the 1600s Samlesbury Hall was home to Jane Southworth, who along with two other local girls, was tried for witchcraft at Lancaster Castle! All very interesting, and it makes for a great afternoon out, but what about the afternoon tea?
We followed the signs through to the restaurant and shown to our table that had been reserved. We were the first there, so it was really lovely to be put at a table in the corner right next to a stereo blasting out adverts from Magic FM(!) which I immediately turned off.
It’s a pleasant dining room, though quite cold at the far end. It would have been nicer to be closer to the fire! Our waitress asked whether we would like any drinks as we were walking to our table. Given we were booked in for Afternoon Tea, this seemed like an irrelevant question, perhaps it would have been better to wait til we were seated and ask if we would like tea or coffee. I went for Earl Grey, my dad asked for English Breakfast.
Our pots mugs of tea arrived, not really what I would expect at Afternoon Tea, which to me should be a little more refined. I’m no snob, I always use teabags at home, and I don’t mind teabags in a pot, either, because at least in a pot you don’t end up with a teabag on the side of the saucer, slowly leaking tea onto the bottom of your mug to drip down your shirt when you drink.
Onto the sandwiches and cakes…
The first thing that struck me was the ham fisted placement of superfluous foliage on the top plate. Absolutely no need for that much dry greenery, which was mostly left. I’m no salad dodger, but here it’s pointles and actually unpleasantly bitter.
Sandwiches were roast ham and whole grain mustard, a lovely thick bit of quality ham and bite from the mustard, cheese with chutney of some variety, which was also really good, I’m always partial to a cheese butty! Not so good was the pedestrian tuna mayonnaise sandwich and the bland, flavour vacuum of an egg mayo sandwich. Egg mayo needs a generous crack of salt, pepper and ideally some paprika to bring it to life!
There was also a slice of pork pie, it was okay, but just tasted like a slice of bog standard pork pie. Perhaps not supermarket own brand, but no better than Pork Farms. I don’t expect them to make pork pies fresh every day, but a quality butchers pork pie would have been a welcome addition.
Sweet treats were a warm chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce, which by the time I’d finished my sandwiches was merely tepid. I think there were hazelnuts through it providing it with some crunch, and a little pot of much needed cream on the side to cut through the dense richness. I swapped my scone for my dads brownie, as I’m a Fussy Git and can’t stand dried fruit.
The menu for the afternoon tea describes the above photo as “a mini Kilner jar full to bursting with Eton Mess.”
Two problems with that sentence, this is NOT an Eton Mess, and nor is it full to bursting. I could have closed the lid quite easily should I have wanted to. Now to me, Eton Mess is a mix of strawberries, double cream and meringue. I was thankful that this was a raspberry version, as I much prefer them to strawberries but this was just a raspberry, some coulis, a wafer thin, blink and you’ll miss it piece of meringue and double cream… LAYERED. Perhaps this would have resembled an Eton Mess if I’d removed it from its jar (don’t get me started on food being served in something that I use to store spices in at home) and mushed it up, but still, the meringue was barely present, and it’s only from poking at the photograph I noticed that it actually had meringue in it! This looked more like a trifle without the sponge than any Eton Mess I’ve ever seen!
We had another pot mug of tea and went for a look around the house.
Samlesbury Hall is a great place to visit, it’s now free most days and they do guided tours told by actors dressed as Henry the Eighth and Janey the witch! Also, there’s some animals to look at too!
Just a bunny, not the Easter Bunny.
Goats and chickens, too! There was also a rare breed pig, but I couldn’t get a picture as some guy with an SLR was hogging him! (See what I did there?)
Would I visit Samlesbury Hall for afternoon tea again? Probably not, I think there are probably some better examples to be found. Also, as we left the restaurant, I noticed people eating sandwiches with salad in a mini colander on their plate. One for my new favourite Twitter account, @WeWantPlates, I think.