Prestonfield House knows how to make Christmas magical. It begins as soon as you enter their long driveway and see the historic hotel lit up against the night sky and continues as their courteous and friendly staff welcome you with genuine warmth.
The hotel is a maximalist’s dream, expertly decorated and layered with old-world finery, antiques and textiles to create a luxurious atmosphere that still feels warm and cosy. For Christmas, that intimate charm is enhanced with lavishly lit trees, light, wreaths, and garlands that transport you to a Christmas wonderland.
The hotel doesn’t stop with its Christmas theme on interior design, however, as my guest and I had specifically come for their Festive Afternoon Tea.
Shown to an intimate and toasty room, my guest and I sat on the cosy sofas near to the crackling fireplace and in full view of the well-lit tree. We were quickly offered a drink or something to tide us over while we looked over the afternoon tea menu.
Once the member of staff returned, we gave them our choices of tea and opted for the Champagne Afternoon Tea. We sipped our bubbles with delight, and even though there were other people in the room, it often felt like it was just the two of us.
The tea service itself was splendid, as was the service from both members of serving staff. I had opted for the Roasted Chestnut Oolong while my companion went for the Evening Chai. Both, served in silver-plated teapots, matched up to their descriptions and paired wonderfully with our spread.
Afternoon tea can be a hit or a miss for me, as I often find it too dense, cream heavy and overly sweet. However, Prestonfield surprised us with its consistently flavoursome options that combined holiday favourites with traditional afternoon tea fare. From the hot savoury food to the sandwiches to the scones (even the jam and cream pairing) and the sweets, nothing on the three-tiered plate was a miss.
Kudos to the clever chef who designed the menu because the food perfectly blended Christmas favourites like pig in a blanket, a duck parfait shaped and dressed like a Christmas pudding and a whipped brie and Christmas spiced apple chutney sandwich. Oftentimes when something looks clever on the outside, it misses in flavour or texture, but both the hot savoury food and sandwiches were consumed with enthusiasm.
I am completely, 100% a dessert person, but oftentimes when I finally reach the dessert option in afternoon tea, I find the dessert too rich to finish after the carb heavy food before it. My guest and I decided to counteract this by alternating sweet and savoury foods, but we were pleasantly surprised by the mixture of flavours, combining light mouses and fresh Christmas flavours.
The passionfruit and coconut snowballs were refreshing and zesty and the caramel and date mousse was decadent without being too heavy – and I think my guest would have come for the mulled wine macaron alone. Even the chocolaty truffle-looking hazelnut praline rocher – which I usually end up leaving its kin on the plate due to its overwhelming richness – was perfectly airy and melted on the tongue.
This was a wonderful, highly rated afternoon tea experience, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return both for the festive season and to see what offerings it had during every other season. Don’t forget to say hi to Raven, the black cat who was once a stray and is now living the high life.
Festive afternoon tea at Prestonfield begins at £50pp or £65pp with a glass of Billecart champagne. www.prestonfield.com/eat-drink/afternoon-tea/