The Midland Hotel is a Manchester landmark. Opening in 1903, it was originally built by the Midland Railway to serve Manchester Central Station. Apparently Adolf Hitler had his eye on the hotel as a possible Nazi headquarters in the UK and it has been suggested that the area surrounding Manchester’s Town Hall was spared from bombing during the Second World War in order to preserve the Midland.
A building steeped in Manchester history makes an opulent venue for afternoon tea and a weekend catch up with the girls was the perfect excuse to give it a try.
Afternoon tea at the Midland is served in the sumptuous surroundings of the Octagon Lounge. A complementary glass of Madeira wine set the tone while while we waited for sandwiches and cake.
Sandwiches and sweet treats were presented on a contemporary box stand instead of a tiered cake stand. There’s nothing chintzy about this affair.
There is an extensive menu of loose leaf teas and the waiters were able to recommend something to suit the palates of my non tea drinking friends. I, on the other hand like my tea to be straightforward; English Breakfast, well brewed and with plenty of milk. As you would expect, they cater for this too.
The sandwich selection was comparable to most afternoon teas, with ham, coronation chicken, salmon, and egg. They were given a unique twist with multicoloured, multi flavoured bread. I particularly liked the tomato bread that accompanied the coronation chicken. Unfortunately however, all the sandwiches were slightly dry round the edges, suggesting that they had been prepared some time in advance. Apparently the mini crayfish baguette was better although I decided against it, seafood not being my thing.
Next up were the scones, which had been kept warm in a linen napkin. Both plain and fruit scones came with the requisite clotted cream and strawberry jam. Disappointingly there was not enough clotted cream but more was provided when we asked for it.
The cake selection included a dense and sticky pistachio cake, a tangy lemon meringue pie, a light and gooey chocolatey slice and the Midland’s own take on a Manchester tart.
Despite the opulence and grandeur of the Midland Hotel I was a little disappointed by the service. The staff were friendly and accommodating overall but there were a few niggles that I wouldn’t have expected.
After being shown to our table we were told that someone would come back to explain the menu to us. This didn’t happen, which meant that our afternoon tea arrived before we had made a tea selection.
It was a hot day so we also wanted plenty of water, which was poured by an allocated waiter. It would have been easier if they had just left a jug on the table as we found ourselves making repeated requests for water and it didn’t feel like anyone kept an eye on our glasses.
As we neared the end of meal the staff were less attentive. Offers of more tea and opportunities for water stopped altogether. We even had to go to the till to ask for and pay the bill at the end, and luckily noticed that we had been charged for a champagne afternoon tea, which we hadn’t been offered let alone ordered.
£22.00 per person for the basic afternoon tea is not cheap, although it’s a price I’m happy to pay if the quality and service live up to it.
Overall it was a nice experience and one I’m pleased to have partaken in. However, I’m in no rush to go back. There are plenty of other venues offering similarly lovely surroundings with better service and better food.
Sorry The Midland, you won’t be making it on to my list of best afternoon teas in Manchester.
The Midland Hotel: Peter St, Manchester, M60 2DS, Tel: 0161 236 3333
If you fancy giving it a try you will need to make a reservation, which you can do via the hotel’s website. It’s worth searching for any special offers before you book.
Traditional Afternoon Tea: £22.00 per person
Champagne Afternoon Tea: £28.00 per person