One of my missions in life is to sample as many afternoon teas in Ireland as possible. It’s a slow, sugar filled but very enjoyable activity! There are the old reliables in Dublin such as the Westin, the Westbury and the Shelbourne where generations of women meet and wile the afternoons away. Then there are places like the Clarence or Fota Island Resort that do great afternoon teas but that aren't the first to spring to mind when trying to think of a place to go. Then once in a while, a place you never knew existed, comes along and makes all your inner Downton fantasies come true and all without breaking the bank!
This place is Ariel House, a beautiful Victorian house located in the heart of Ballsbridge. I first got to experience the beauty and hospitality of Ariel House at an event way back in December. The place looked wonderful with a giant Christmas tree in the living room and roaring fires in the fireplaces. I knew then that I had to return with friends and family and share this special place with them.
So on a bright sunny Saturday in February Mrs G and I met up for one of our usual sessions. By sessions I mean copious amounts of tea, cake and three hour long gossips! We were seated in the beautifully bright sun room with a view of the Aviva and their Victorian garden. One of the first things that just made us go ‘Aww’ were the table settings. It was beautifully laid with delicate china and our inner Cath Kidsons were screaming 'I want to bring this all home'!!
First up were the sandwiches with delightful cucumber ones, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise and mustard and ham all on offer. There was more than enough for the two of us and after them we were ready to get stuck into the sweet stuff of which there was an abundance.
Plate after delicious tiered plate arrived at the table. There were vanilla melting moments, plum and frangipane tart, scones, tea brack, coffee cake, strawberry shortbreads and more. We also got an amazing chocolate dessert which I thought was a great addition. One of the lovely things about what you get served for afternoon tea is that a lot of the recipes are from Irish cookbooks such as ‘Like Mam used to Bake’ or Rachael Allen. There was a stack of cookbooks on the windowsill beside us and I have to admit we did flick though them to see if we could find our favourites of the day.
The staff in Ariel House were fantastic and we had a constant supply of tea and coffee brought to us throughout our stay. We were so well looked after that we didn’t even feel the time pass. Before we knew it we had sat there for three whole hours chatting about everything under the sun. As my friend said it was like having a wonderful visit to a friend’s house. It was one of the most relaxing afternoon teas I have ever experienced. Afternoon tea cost us €17.50 each which is one of the best priced ones around. I am a bit loathe to let this great afternoon tea secret out of the bag but it’s ok because I have already booked my next visit back with 14 friends and family in tow!