Afternoon Tea, but what’s the twist?


 Last weekend Helen and I jumped on the Groupon bandwagon with what [on paper] seemed a very exciting deal: afternoon tea with a twist, [from the Groupon ad]
“adding a twist to afternoon tea, Beluga's version of the pre-dinner pinky lifter eschews warm beverages in favour of the more exciting cocktail. Bellini cocktails will be poured from a teapot and served with a selection of sandwiches, such as cucumber, smoked salmon, and cheese and ham. Scones with clotted cream and a cake stand flanked by teatime treats will also be included for duos to feast on.”


Hmmmm. Well. I’m not sure I’d call it Afternoon Tea but there was certainly a twist, if the fact that is was potentially the worst dining experience of my life counts as a twist.

We had a table booked for 5pm and arrived at about 4.55 where we were kept waiting for almost ten minutes, the waiter, when he finally arrived glanced at his watch and snippishly told us we were late. Actually, no, we were on time. Black mark number one, then.
The dining area was split into two: a low-lit area of cosy tables for two and big comfy booths and a smaller area near the kitchen. Our table was near the kitchen. Oh hang on,  I tell a lie, our table was all but in the kitchen. In the kitchen and in full view of the chef who had a plaster on every finger and the kitchen staff who sauntered through the restaurant with bags of food from Macdonalds and the trays of ready prepared sandwiches only partly covered with clingfilm.  Appetising. Almost as appetising as the lingering smell of chips and gravy, which is a lovely aroma in my dining room when we’re having a chippy tea but less lovely in what is supposed to be one of Manchester’s up and coming bar-restaurants.

We were given a piece of A4 paper, printed with [slightly smudged] details of three cocktails and left to choose. That took all of ten seconds – there were only three choices after all – and we both went for a pornstar martini, having had one before at a nice cocktail bar before and knowing we liked it. It took 20 minutes for anyone to come and take our drinks order which was rich, considering the attitude we’d gotten for our allegedly tardiness upon arrival. 20 minutes for our drinks order to be taken and another 20 minutes for our drinks to be poured from a jug on the bar and into a teapot and brought to us and here’s a note Beluga if you’re reading this: a pornstar martini should contain  vanilla sugar, vanilla vodka,  passionfruit and a shot of champagne, not just vodka and J2O. You might want to bear that in mind. Oh and serving drinks in chipped glasses is pretty bad form. AND, the flyer clearly stated 4 cocktails. We only got two. We would have complained but to be honest we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.

The food [and I use that term loosely] when it eventually arrived was not served on a lovely cake stand as promised but instead on a chopping board. This wasn’t altogether unusual; I’ve eaten in several places where the food is served on wooden slabs instead of plates. Those wooden slabs though, aren’t usually used. Yes, that’s right, our selection of cakes and sandwiches came to our table on a chopping board complete with grooves from the knives used to chop whatever the hell they chopped. I’m trying hard to convince myself it wasn’t raw meat. The bread was stale due to the aforementioned pre-prepared sandwiches only partly covered with clingfilm and the sandwiches a little warm, the cakes seemed to us like the ones you buy at Iceland, you know the type? They’re frozen and come in party-packs of 40 and they tasted like shite.   The scones were not home-made, the cream was whipped and not clotted and there was something on that chopping board that I could not identify and that I had to force myself to swallow. Forget Revels Roulette, this was Afternoon Tea Roulette and it was a whole other ball-game.

The place was freezing cold, there was food spatter down the backs of the chairs, one big table in the corner was separated from the kitchen by only a black velvet curtain, I’m not even kidding, the toilets smelt like sewers, and there was a hole in the wall covered over with parcel tape. The icing on the cake though was this conversation, overheard between another diner and a waiter:

‘Could I please see the wine list?’
‘We don’t have a wine list, it’s either white or red.’

I will never go back to that place not ever, not if you paid me. If I’d paid full price I’d have lodged a complaint: I was tempted to do so anyway. The only saving grace was that……actually there was no saving grace; it was utter shite.

Worst dining experience ever.

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