There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. – Henry James
During my recent trip to Scotland with my mother-in-law, I decided that having afternoon tea at The Balmoral, one of the swankiest establishments in Edinburgh was a MUST! I have experienced afternoon tea once before while visiting London and it did not disappoint. Due to the success of my first experience and the fact that Mother’s Day landed on the weekend we visited, there couldn’t have been a better reason to get fancy and sip on tea! I was so excited for afternoon tea, not only because it’s the best thing ever, but because it was my mother-in-law’s first time! Prior to our visit I had already started hyping her up and telling her how much she was going to love it, so I’m pretty sure her expectations were high. With that being said, I also felt a little pressure and hoped that The Balmoral would deliver and exceed our expectations.
Before I dive into our experience, I would like to give you some history on The Balmoral. I truly find the history of the world’s most famous hotels fascinating and The Balmoral is full of it.
- The Balmoral opened on October 25, 1902.
- The Balmoral means “majestic dwelling” in Gaelic.
- It was known as the North British Station Hotel, a traditional railway hotel built for the North British Railway Company.
- In 1988 the hotel closed for a £23-million refurbishment and reopened in 1991 as The Balmoral.
- Famous guests have frequented The Balmoral like Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney, Edward Heath and Harold Wilson. The Queen Mother was even a regular for lunch. I mean, how cool is that?
- Any Harry potter fans might find it interesting that it was confirmed that author J. K. Rowling finished the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at this hotel. Oprah Winfrey then filmed a one-hour episode at The Balmoral, where she interviewed J.K. Rowling from room 230, the Scone & Crombie Royal Suite.
- Since 1902, the hotel’s clock has been set three minutes fast to ensure that the people of Edinburgh wouldn’t miss their trains. This is still the case today. The only day that the clock runs on time is December 31st for the city’s New Year celebrations.
For the reasons stated above, you can clearly see why The Balmoral was my choice for afternoon tea in Edinburgh, especially for Mother’s Day. It is undeniable that The Balmoral is a historical treasure to the city of Edinburgh. Without further ado, here is a look at this beautiful hotel and my experience.
The Balmoral is located in the heart of the city at the east end of Princes Street, the main shopping street beneath the Edinburgh Castle.
Upon entering the hotel you will be greeted by the most polite, Scottish kilted doorman. Be prepared for 5 star luxury treatment, as this fine gentlemen guides you to Palm Court where afternoon tea is held daily.
Once inside Palm Court, it is hard to miss the stunning chandelier in the center of the room that hangs from a glass dome. Palm court is bright, elegant and sophisticated. Make sure to wear your Sunday’s best.
Like all celebrations, or any day that ends in Y, Champagne should be flowing! We were poured a generous glass of French Champagne to begin our afternoon tea experience.
After enjoying some of our champagne, our waitress went over the menu, presentation of dishes, allergies and tea options. I informed the waitress of my gluten allergy, which she noted and stated that Chef Jeff Bland offers gluten free options for all menu items. Super awesome for me!
At this point, we ordered our tea, which we chose the Royal Scottish Balmoral Blend. This is a blend consists of Assam and Ceylon, malty and rich yet aromatic with a wonderfully rounded taste. I found the tea to be very light and flavorful and really enjoyed it. We alternated sipping between our champagne and tea and anxiously awaited our crumpets!
First on the menu, was a tomato basil soup drizzled with olive oil in preparation of the main dish to stimulate our appetite.
After watching endless amounts of scones be delivered to other tables, it was finally our turn! The scones were a highlight. Served with jam and clotted cream, which we slathered on guiltlessly. If you’re on a diet, forget about it! We savoured those scones and washed them down with our French champagne without a care in the world!
We tried hard not to fill up on the scones because we knew there was more to come. Before we knew it, a three tier serving tray arrived filled with quiche, haggis fritters, antipasti salad, crustless sandwiches including curried chicken salad, ham and mustard, Scottish smoked salmon, egg salad on brioche bread and the classic cucumber and cream cheese. The middle tier was gluten free (for me) and the bottom tier was the regular assortments for my mother-in-law. All the sandwiches were tasty and light, however my favorite was the curried chicken salad.
Following all of our sandwiches, we were presented with dessert. We each were served our own plate with three types of dessert. Now this is where The Balmoral exceeded my expectations on the caliber of their gluten free cakes and pastries. I was served a tapioca pudding topped with fresh fruit, red velvet cake topped with blackberries and a chocolate raspberry tart topped with pistachio. All of these desserts were delectable, however my favorite was the chocolate raspberry tart topped with pistachio. My mother-in-law also raved about her desserts and agreed her favorite was the chocolate raspberry tart topped with pistachio. Chef Jeff Bland did a fantastic job at creating desserts that are not only delicious, but a work of art.
You thought it was over after the dessert?! Ha! There is still more, I know, crazy! The last of the courses included a refreshing mango sorbet to cleanse the palate. I mean, what a great touch! The Balmoral even gives you chocolate and a sample of their signature tea to take home! Pretty sure my mother-in-law had one of the best Mother’s Day at The Balmoral afternoon tea!
Our server was outstanding. Attentive, yet not to the point where it was overbearing. She was knowledgeable of the hotel, menu and teas, answering all questions we had throughout our afternoon tea experience. She was warm, kind and personable, which made a refreshing change from the stuffiness you can sometimes get in luxury hotels.
Palm Court is a small area and quite intimate and I liked the fact that we were able to have conversation without a noisy environment. There was also plenty of space between tables so you didn’t feel like you were involved in your neighbors conversation.
Would I recommend afternoon tea at The Balmoral, ABSOLUTELY, especially if you have a gluten allergy or any other dietary restriction as there are so many options for you.
I loved spending 2 hours sipping on champagne and tea, while eating savory sandwiches and sweets. There is just something about the whole experience that is so elegant and charming. The Balmoral really steps it up a notch by having a harpist playing in the background, which is a lovely touch. If you’re looking for a swanky and classy affair for afternoon tea in Edinburgh then look no further!
Whether you are looking for afternoon tea, a stay, spa or dinner at a Michelin star restaurant, The Balmoral is the perfect place!
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