How many of you actually knew today was St. George’s Day? Less than those who would care to admit it, sad to say.
At the risk of sounding racist – as I have been accused of being multiple times in the past – I will say now that the amount of multiculturalism and our obsession with binge drinking in this country is such that we forget the things that are actually important to this country. There used to be celebrations of the Queen’s birthday, which was two days ago. We celebrate the Irish patron saint day more readily than our own:- an excuse for a piss-up, no less (although I do quite like some of the Irish traditions – see St Patrick’s Day – What I Call Irish Traditions.) And in schools we are too busy teaching about other faiths and their traditions and their legends that we’re actually not teaching our own kids those of England. I’m not just talking about St. George and the dragon, but Robin Hood and King Arthur. And I’m not saying that teaching them to respect other religions is bad either, but it seems a bit wrong to have them celebrate the Diwali in schools but completely omit St. George’s Day.
Onto what you came here for: food. This little culinary adventure took place on the 3rd of the month, coinciding with the 70th birthday my grandmother, whose house I lodge in. We – my mother, my sister and I – had decided to surprise her with an afternoon tea at the highly-rated Christchurch Harbour Hotel.
We were led into the dining room-restaurant area – a huge room as well – and had our drink orders taken immediately – as one came free with the offer. I wasn’t aware champagne was on the menu as my mother and sister had ordered tea and hot chocolate respectively. I went with the crowd and ordered hot chocolate (pictured left) too, but my grandmother was presented with a glass of bubbly (pictured right). We’re not champagne connoisseurs – we just drink anything with alcohol in it – so I can’t say what sort of champagne it was. Knowing a hotel of its sort of calibre, it is likely the Christchurch Harbour opened a bottle of Codorniú (Brut Cava – cheap Spanish stuff). As I said, my Nan wouldn’t know the difference between that and Louis Dornier, so she was happy either way.
My hot chocolate – quite bittersweet at first, I have to say. I had to stir a couple of cubes of brown sugar into it to assist the flavours. In that, it was easy to tell it had been made with water rather than milk (A TERRIBLE MISTAKE).
We’ll move on now to the main event here, which was of course the little stands of cakes and sandwiches (see pictured), which served as the afternoon tea refreshment. There were two stands between four of us.
Starting from the bottom, there were finger sandwiches of egg mayonnaise, smoked salmon and ham and tomato on mine and my sister’s side. My Nan and my mother were presented with cheese, cucumber (as traditionally English as you’re going to get) and tuna. I wish I’d sat on the opposite end of the table now – there’s a great deal more there for me to eat – to the extent that my mother and I were swapping sandwiches.
Yes, sadly not an impressive start as far as variety is concerned. Moving on up, a small selection of cakes: carrot cake, chocolate cupcakes (my nemesis) and chocolate éclaires. The carrot cake first of all was gorgeous, moist and sweet, and not filled with cinnamon cream or any such like. Just exactly what it says on the tin, no fuss made. It’s a pity then that the éclaires did not live up to the same standard. The choux pastry was so dry one could have made actual shoes with it.
I’ve deliberately saved the best for last though. These scones – two varieties – plain and raisin – were almost on par with what my Nan is capable of making herself. These weren’t from a defrosted packet like what we used to serve at the Wessex Hotel. These scones were only slightly sweet (as they should be), but sumptuously fluffy inside. I was disappointed that my sister changed her mind and actually ate two of them, having said initially that she was going to ignore them altogether.
I think my mother deliberately kept the price of all this a secret from me, because I know she’d think I’d complain. But for the purposes of a review, I do need to know, really. For now, I can say for your own grandmother’s milestone birthday, you may be better off baking all the things yourself for a much cheaper price. I know, it’s nice to treat them to an afternoon tea in a hotel. But be sure of getting the best deal if you can.