On a rainy Valentine’s Day, the Park Plaza hotel on Cardiff’s Greyfriars Road offers visitors a sophisticated afternoon treat. Nancy Connolly investigates what’s on offer.
One good way to avoid the floods and storms is to park your brolly and book yourself in for a sumptuous afternoon tea washed down with a glass of champagne.
The Park Plaza hotel in Cardiff reports a huge rise in the popularity of afternoon tea, particularly among young women. “On Fridays and Saturdays we get about 150 people,” said head chef Justin Llewellyn.
“It’s such a good way to spend an afternoon, there’s something special about it,” he said.
At the moment it’s mostly women who “take” afternoon tea at the hotel, but Justin and his team think they’ve found a way to attract men into their elegant dining room.
“We’re going to start offering a male version of afternoon tea, complete with game sandwiches, whiskey and a cigar,” he said. “The gentlemen’s clubs in London have started doing this and we think we’ve found a niche market here in Cardiff.”
But there’ll be no place at his linen tables for the beer-swilling burly rugby supporters who frequent the capital. Oh no, the gentlemen who take tea at the Park Plaza will be discerning city types who know a good single malt when they see one.
There’s a nice atmosphere in the dining room, subtle piano music, discreet waiters and tables buzzing with animated chat.
There’s something immensely decadent about indulging yourself at this time of day. It’s a secret, almost guilty, pleasure – like love on a cold afternoon. The tower tray of cakes and pastries has a feeling of wicked indulgence about it.
Justin likes to give a Welsh flavour to this most English of traditions.
“We like to use Welsh produce, even the butter is Welsh and we use our own Welsh cakes,” he said. “Almost everything on the tray comes from Wales.”
The trays come filled with beautiful hand-trimmed sandwiches, warm sugarcoated scones with Welsh butter and jam, and all sorts of fancy cakes.
“The key word is dainty,” said Justin. “Afternoon tea is usually a special occasion, so we make everything very dainty and pretty.”
Does he cut the crusts off the sandwiches?
“Of course! And we trim and skin the cucumber. The secret of cucumber sandwiches is to make them fresh, if you leave them too long the bread will go soggy.”
Afternoon tea at the Park Plaza hotel in Cardiff is £16.50 or £22.95 with champagne. The advice is to book early especially on Friday and Saturday.