The launch of Afternoon Tea at The Colonnades was filled with homemade pastries made by chefs with over 20 years experience and set in one of the most beautiful venues in Edinburgh. Does afternoon tea get better than that?
There are no two ways about it, the team at Pagoda Porter Novelli, Heritage Portfolio and The Signet Library know how to throw an event.
Tucked away in Parliament Square, just off the Royal Mile, Colonnades in The Signet Library embodies elegance and class. After being greeted by a dapper gentleman at the front entrance, we were escorted into the lower level of the Signet Library. Purpose built for the Writers of the Signet, and following a £250,000 refurbishment, the lower library will host the afternoon teas launching on June 4th, as well as the legal collection of books, which are still in use.
Upon arrival, we were shown around the impressive venue and presented with an array of custom designed silver bowls filled with fragrant Wee Tea Company loose tea. The aromas filled the air and somehow, each managed to surpass the one before. Alongside the silverware, elegant glasses were topped up with Edinburgh Gin infused with tea while guests chatted and marvelled at their surroundings.
The wonderful Signet Library team, supported by Pagoda Porter Novelli ensured that every element of the afternoon tea was explained and all guests had the opportunity to have questions answered.
One of the few silversmiths left in the UK is in the process of making custom afternoon tea stands, which we were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of. The shapes used in the trays echo the shapes of the building itself, from ceiling to columns, and will host a multitude of savoury and sweet delights.
The library hosts events throughout the year, including weddings and private parties, as well as the annual Pommery Champagne Bar.
“This opening represents the crowning glory to ten years’ work by the WS Society and Heritage Portfolio. This is a new era of the Society which goes back over 500 years to when the Signet Library was built for the Writers to the Signet as a library and meeting place at the height of the Enlightenment period in Edinburgh.” – Robert Pirie, Chief Executive, Society of Writers to HM Signet
Talented pastry chef Matthew Oates (direct from The Cromlix and experience working under Andrew Fairlie) together with fellow Cromlix chef, Jamie, have worked alongside the Heritage team to design an afternoon tea menu to suit all palates. The afternoon teas will reflect not only the variety of produce available n Scotland, but the seasons in which they are available. The signature afternoon tea will work in partnership with local producers year through, including the Wee Tea Company and Summerhouse Drinks to provide diners with rich variety, including options for gluten free diners.
Now, for the food itself. After beginning with a delightful profiterole filled with melted Gruyere, the lovely Erin from Visit Scotland, Alison from Girls Afternoon Tea and I were presented with a tower of savoury delights. These included canapé sized portions of Shetland salmon infused with Edinburgh Gin, a goat’s cheese mousse with roasted beetroot and dill and a mini Aberdeen Angus beef burger served with caramelised onion. Sandwiches made with an assortment quail’s egg mayonnaise and Ramsay’s of Carluke ham followed, served with accompaniments of Avruga caviar, Arran mustard and locally grown asparagus.
Alongside the savoury selection, we all tried a number of different teas; from a fruity and aromatic Cherry and Raspberry blend to a magnificent ginger chai, a take on a traditional Masala Chai. Aromas filled the air and the guests marvelled at the smells of spiced teas, poured from delightful transparent teapots, a must have for any tea aficionados.
As you can see from our photos, the scones, miniature cakes and sweet treats played havoc with any diet plans we might have had. As the tower of sugary delights was placed on the table, we simultaneously cursed at ourselves for overindulging so heavily in the savoury round, but we didn’t allow that to stop us fully enjoying course two.
The lemon meringue tart in homemade pastry tartlet with lemon curd and Italian meringue immediately caught my eye. I marvelled (for a split second) at it’s magnificence, the peaks of the meringue set against the canary yellow of that lemon curd, before eating it all too quickly, in its entirety. A perfect balance of crumbling pastry, sharp lemon and sweetness of meringue fulfilled my taste bud’s wildest dreams, however, out the corner of my eye, I spotted the Belgian chocolate and rich chocolate tart.
Once again, the homemade pastry, rich, indulgent chocolate and salted caramel was Moorish and left you wanting more, my only suggestion for improvement to pastry chef Matthew was the substitution on Malden sea salt for something more local, perhaps one of my favourites, Hebridean Sea Salt.
I certainly won’t spoil the afternoon by describing each of the desserts, but I would like to highlight three final sweet treats. The rhubarb fool (made with rhubarb grown in the team’s very own Heritage garden), Mille Feuille (using Graham’s ice cream and Perthshire berries) and miniature scones were all triumphant. My only recommendation for this afternoon tea would be to remember to breathe, don’t rush it and enjoy the surroundings as well as the culinary delights.
Note: The wonderful team will be happy to provide you with a branded Heritage ‘doggy box’ for any leftovers. Take them up on the offer and enjoy every morsel that you’re given…the only challenge is not to eat them on the car ride home.