Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

Taking some time out to take tea for two…

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2013 at 10:12 am

Further to my plans to invest a bit more time into enjoying myself , I decided to kick my good intentions off in style, with a jaunt into Birmingham with my aunt to indulge in High Tea at the fabulous Hotel la Tour this week.

If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. Seriously cool, Hotel La Tour is a beautiful retreat a stone’s throw from the shopping hub, decorated in sumptuous fabrics, with a mellow ambience and friendly, professional service.

 Afternoon tea has become a popular weekend treat for many, but Hotel la Tour’s really is something special. It’s not just the way it’s served – on a three-tier floor-mounted stand, with crisp white cloths and gleaming crockery, but the attention to detail – the delightful home-made delicacies to round off the finger sandwiches and scones and the specially-created exclusive cocktails.

The cocktail of choice for us was created to celebrate the birth of Prince George.  Created from passion fruit syrup, gin, vodka and egg white and presented in a crystal glass, The Little Prince is refreshing and light – a perfect choice for a summer afternoon.


What I love about HLT’s High Tea is the relatively simple, but very unusual addition to the sandwich course of a modern-take on cheese on toast. The ham, smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and mint, and coronation chicken sandwiches are neatly stacked beside a host of toast fingers with a creamy cheese dip that you just can’t get enough of. You can be as lady-like as you please to begin with, but by the time you take your last soldier, you’ll be scooping up as much of the cheese as you can…

Plain and fruit scones (at the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, not too big, not too small, but just the right size) served with heaps of thick clotted cream and strawberry jam  are a must for any afternoon tea, but the best is yet to come…and requires a bit of an interlude before you can really appreciate them properly.


Forget your average French fancies, these over-sized mini desserts are the only way to round off an afternoon.  A blackberry jammie dodger, light chocolate biscuit with a thick blackberry jam filling, is HLT’s take on the old teatime favourite , served alongside a shot glass filled with a light and creamy panacotta with summer berries and cucumber, a strawberry macaron filled with a chocolate paste, and a moist lemon sponge with butter icing.

It takes a while to work your way through it all, but it’s well worth the effort…

While I shan’t be able to justify mid-week treats like this as a matter of course, since I’m a season ticket widow once again this year, along with my mum and my aunt, we can think of little better to do while the boys spend 90 minutes watching men fight over a ball. I think it’s fair to say HLT will be seeing a lot more of us before the year is out – and since anyone who books afternoon tea in August and mentions that they’ve read this will get a complimentary glass of fizz, I might be seeing you there too…

Afternoon tea costs £18.95 per person. Hotel La Tour is located in Albert Street – book on 0121 718 8000. Every Sunday, afternoon tea is accompanied by a live music set for additional ambience.




It’s (nearly) the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeear

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

Flood warnings aside, I am starting to feel slightly Christmassy now. I’ve got my organised head on and started stocking up (mainly on wine, to be fair) for the festive period, and have planned the Christmas Day menu, games and movie-schedule. Control freak? Me?

And the spare room is now piled high with gifts ready to wrap. I will not put the tree up until December 1st on principle, but as far as parties and festivities go, I’m all set to go.

I tried to get into the mood last Saturday. I spent the day buying gifts in Solihull before heading to the famous Frankfurt Christmas market in Birmingham in the evening. Should have left it.

 I understand the concept, and I like the idea of it, but sadly, in reality, I find it frustrating and annoying. I dislike having to fight my way through hoards of people to queue for 30 minutes for my hot wine. I get annoyed when I then have most of my hot wine knocked all over me as I fight my way away from the sales stand. I reeeeeeally don’t like being coughed all over and being engulfed in clouds of cigarette smoke, and the icing on the cake is having to fight my way back to the sales stand again to get my £3 deposit back for the plastic cup that the sales team mistakenly think I’m going to fall in love with and steal.

But I do like the caramelised nuts.

Maybe I went too early – as I say, I don’t think Christmas should start until December 1st when I can open my advent calendar (this year: Star Wars Lego). I love putting the iPod festive playlist on, unravelling the fairy lights and  putting the tree up while singing my head off and drinking hot chocolate. And on Christmas Eve, I love cracking a bottle of bubbly and sitting in front of the fire to argue with Adam about what constitutes a Christmas movie (me: The Holiday, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, A Christmas Carol. Adam: Gremlins, Die Hard, Elf) before watching The Holiday and preparing for our guests’ arrival…



But it’s a good four weeks before I get to that stage and there’s a lot to look forward to first.

Naturally, I’ve started stocking up on Christmassy outfits for various gatherings – one berry-coloured sequinned little number should arrive today – and I’m counting down to the first festive occasion in my calendar, the BPA Christmas lunch, which this year for the first time ever will need to be a dry affair as I have evening commitments (I don’t see it ending well). The highlight though, will be BeerBeauty’s Christmas Party – hosted by the legendary Beer Beauty herself, Marverine Cole, who will be guiding myself and 40 other ladies through a range of tasty ales – not a sparkling wine in sight – and matching them to mini pies and bites. A ladies-only affair, it looks set to be a fantastic night at the Old Joint Stock.

With a festive spa-break with my best friend Donna planned and my annual girls’ Christmas Eve champagne brunch to look forward to, I am so looking forward to cracking open the glitter and high heels and getting into the spirit of things. With heaps of work to do, something’s got to give, and I fear it’ll be the gym regime, but hey, Christmas is a time to be merry is it not? 

High time for High Tea

In food, Hotels on June 7, 2012 at 10:46 am

I’ve been a bit over-wrought in recent weeks due to illness, work and bad payers, so it was something of an unexpected treat to be invited to the recently opened Hotel La Tour in Birmingham city centre last week to indulge in high tea.

My gorgeous friend Sarah invited me along for a long-overdue catch up over cocktails, sandwiches and scones, and, well, who am I to say no?

The hotel is perfectly located for anyone seeking beautiful surroundings for a city shopping break, with fabulous décor and friendly, helpful staff. Within seconds of settling into our comfy chairs, the discreet background music washed over us and we instantly felt more relaxed and ready for a few hours’ indulgence.



And indulge we did, choosing a pot of white pomegranate tea, which I must confess was sidelined somewhat by the stupendous earl grey bellinis we sipped as the team brought over a floor-standing feast of mouth-watering treats.

Image A fondue of cheese with dipping toast soldiers, finger sandwiches of fine smoked salmon, wafer thin ham and delicately spiced chicken nestled alongside delicious cucumber sandwiches, each tastier than the last.

I swear we took tiny, ladylike bites to savour the flavours but in no time at all, the top tier had gone…


Our second course of light and fluffy scones, naturally served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, was enough to make us start looking at properties in Cornwall, if only for an excuse to tuck into them every day, and with two sumptuous courses gone, and the delectable-looking dessert plate left, we agreed we had to have a short break.

Our host brought us the hotel’s speciality cocktail, the 1889 (named for the year that Birmingham achieved city status) to cleanse our palates before the final tier. A frothy, perfumed confection of Bombay Sapphire, apple juice, grated ginger and whipped egg-whites, the tiny drink was light yet rich, almost a mini syllabub to prepare for the amazing four mini desserts that followed.


A quick game of eeny-meeny-miney-mo later, I chose the first of my four sumptuous sweets – a bite-sized Eton Mess that melted in the mouth. Tastebuds exploding, I found it hard to choose what to have next – it’s a big decision after all, the food was so exquisite that I wanted to ensure that the last thing I ate was my favourite. The Walnut Whip (not your shop-bought version but a stylish cone of wafer, chocolate and walnuts), the Jaffa Cake (again, a blend of chocolate, orange and sponge but nothing like the McVities variety) and the individual treacle tart, served with a smear of rich clotted cream, were all magnificent.

It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a wonderfully decadent afternoon tea – the most memorable being those served in Harrods and in the Pump Rooms at Bath – but this one was simply amazing, and right on the doorstep. It may be too extravagant to indulge every day – or even every week – but next time I need a pick me up to help me forget my troubles, I know where to head…