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Grub Spy: Fit for royal tea

It's grand, elegant and will always be considered a little bit posh, but afternoon tea is the perfect post-lockdown treat for everyone

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Afternoon tea at the Castlemartyr Resort.

Afternoon tea at the Castlemartyr Resort.

Afternoon tea at the Castlemartyr Resort.

For some people, afternoon tea was always the ultimate indulgence, a personal extravagance that can only be truly enjoyed when shared with friends or loved ones - a team eating experience if you like.

CASTLEMARTYR RESORT

Castlemartyr, Co Cork

4.5 Stars

Afternoon tea for two €68; Prosecco €20

 

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The Castlemartyr Resort exterior.

The Castlemartyr Resort exterior.

The Castlemartyr Resort exterior.

Much-admired and derided in equal measure, there is no other 'meal' that has pretty much gained such a semi-mythical status. I was never attracted to the idea. Call me an old contrarian, but there was always something too impeccable about it, too swanky and ritualistic and ever-so-slightly intimidating. It was a rare snooty event you might arrange for gossipy grannies or visiting easily impressed American relatives.

With its painted-on Victorian elegance, idyllic poshness and tit-bits of grandeur, I was absolutely convinced it could never be a celebratory experience, even the term 'special treat' always felt not quite right. Passé sounded just about spot-on.

Then lockdown happened. And by the end of it, like everybody else, I desperately needed an escape route to save my sanity. Lorry loads of craic and delicious food was all I craved.

The opening of pubs and restaurants was and is a godsend, and I've splurged and gorged and drank with the best of them.

But it's still not quite like it used to be. And then the Boss suggested an afternoon tea at the Castlemartyr Resort.

One thing you cannot do is compare a three-tier afternoon tea to a breakfast, a lunch, or a dinner ­- not even to a sandwich and a pint.

It is right out there on its own and can only be enjoyed around 3.30pm in a grand terrace/tea room of a grand hotel. Castlemartyr fits that requirement perfectly. Service is calm, smiley and timely. And although the 'tea menu' is filled with a fantastic range of loose teas, we decide on Americanos (gorgeous) and a couple of glasses of chilled prosecco (even more gorgeous).

And on the subject of gorgeous, a starter of two lemon possets topped with strawberry granita is that exactly. Next is a dainty selection of canapé-sized crusts-off sandwiches. Cucumber and cream cheese; chicken, rocket and mustard; brioche with egg mayo; and best of the lot, poached salmon with herby mayo, boiled quail egg, trout caviar on squid ink bread. Warm scones with clotted cream and jam are very good, as are the neat slices of lemon drizzle cake, seed cake, and a chocolatey coloured slice we don't try. We are now at the top tier adorned with all the fancy stuff.

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The lemon posset starter at the Castlemartyr Resort .

The lemon posset starter at the Castlemartyr Resort .

The lemon posset starter at the Castlemartyr Resort .

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Petite chocolate wedges, baby macaroons, tiny lemon meringues and crème caramels in glasses.

Wow. I never thought I'd be saying this, but when it comes to emotional break-out spaces, this sugar binge is hard to argue against. It's all about contrasting looks, textures and tastes, and especially tradition.

We can't finish everything, nor can we doggy-bag because we have such a long drive ahead. But for an hour or so we are gloriously adrift on a cloud of decadence and calm. Nowadays, there are vegan afternoon teas and vegetarian afternoon teas - and probably carnivore versions.

The Savoy in London has been serving the same afternoon tea experience since 1889. I never imagined it might become part of the new normal.

 

Grape Spy: Jean Smullen

Aldi  has expanded its amazing Specially Selected range. Look out for lots of new wines as the popularity of Aldi’s offers are fantastic value with an easy-drinking style.

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2021 Castellore Organico Prosecco Rosé €13.99

Aldi’s Organic Prosecco Rosé is this year’s must-drink sparkling wine. Prosecco is a light, fresh sparkling wine, low in alcohol (this one has an ABV of 11.5pc) and intensely aromatic. The Castellore Prosecco Rosé is a spumante, or fully sparking prosecco, and offers great value at this price. With lovely stone fruit aromas, because it is slightly sweeter it has a more full-bodied feel when tasted, it has lots of ripe summer fruit flavours of strawberry and cherry.

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2020 Chassaux et Fils Roussane €8.99

Aldi’s Specially Selected Roussane is a limited edition IGP wine from the Languedoc region in the south of France. If you like your white wine to have less acidity and lots of ripe fruit flavours, then you will definitely enjoy this one. Rousanne, a native white grape of the Rhône Valley, makes fine wines with lots of floral aromas and peach flavours.

This has lovely honeysuckle aromas and lots of ripe stone fruit flavours of peach and pear. It is a richer style of white wine.

  • For wine events, see jeansmullen.com

 

Quick Bites: Grásome idea

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Imagine being able to enjoy a real Irish pub experience anywhere in the world? Now you can thanks to a brilliant new Irish company called The Paddy Box.

From cards to crisps to candles, all with a distinctly Irish flair, customers can already send a little box of grá to loved ones all over the world in the click of a mouse. Now The Pub Snacks Box is offering family and friends near and far the warm and fuzzy feeling of being back home in a traditional Irish pub too.

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QUICK BITES SUNDAY 19 SEPTEMBER

QUICK BITES SUNDAY 19 SEPTEMBER

QUICK BITES SUNDAY 19 SEPTEMBER

 

Harking back to the nostalgia of the 1980s, when kids ran free around pubs slugging Cidona and eating crisps while their parents enjoyed other forms of fizzy drinks, the box is stuffed with 16 gifts to help transform your sitting room into a snug.

Priced €59.99, it includes a pub quiz card game, vintage beer mats, Irish bar sign and limited edition pint glass, as well as the all important Manhattan Pub Crisps, Bacon Fries and your choice of a fizzy drink.

Check out thepaddybox.com.

  • Have you got foodie news we should know about? Email quickbites@sundayworld.com

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