sky high afternoon tea with Roberts bakery

 

Man I hate heights. Really really hate them. I remember walking along the top of a castle wall in Harlech crouched down to ground level because I was scared of swaying and falling off. I remember the time we tried to make it to the top of the TV tower in Rotterdam and I had to hold G’s hand up the stair because the wind was so strong and at the top I plastered myself against the wall to once again, stop myself from falling off. It’s funny because I LOVE a good view point, I love climbing to the top but somehow the moment my mind concocts a way for me to tumble to my death… then the knees turn to jelly and I physically struggle to move or enjoy myself.

So, naturally, when the WeBloggers decided to meet up and experience afternoon tea on a sky high platform suspended by a crane, I happily accepted (poor them right?).

My fear of heights has always been a bit of a running joke amongst friends and family, as most of them have had the pleasure (for them, not me) of experiencing my comical solutions to dealing with my issues. I decided this was a great opportunity for me to spend time with my WeBloggers who I hadn’t seen in yeeeears, to enjoy some good food and drink and to show my friends and family that I could do it.

I arrived on time, bumping into a new blogger friend Kirsten, from the LIFB Issue, where we came off the tram and saw this mysterious sky high dining table in action. Didn’t look that high, what was I so worried about?

 

 

Great. On we went to registration, where we were briefed by some of the Roberts Bakery team, the event organisers. Have you heard of them? I hadn’t and couldn’t believe that considering how much I love bread, I had never seen them in the supermarkets. This was a great opportunity to learn more about the brand, and judging by the way of their brand promotion… I liked what I saw.

 

 

Wristbanded. Boarding pass in hand. Security brief completed. Valuables locked away. Off we went.

It had started to rain so we all gathered close around the table, under the canopy and I just happened to be stood by a corner seat. A second later I was somehow being strapped into said seat, whilst the security chap chirpily pointed out that I had the best seat in the house as I could turn all the way round to enjoy the view.

Yes you heard that right, turn all the way round.

No thanks was the thought that came to my mind, and after asking him to return and re-tighten my harness and tuck my chair closer to the table so I was well and truly wedged in, I waited for all the others to take their place.

All safe, the infamous opening track to Star Wars bellowed around us as we rose gracefully into the air. It was beautiful. Magical. The views as I turned were spectacular and…

It’s lies.

 

 

At the start I was terrified, not even the excitement of having my favourite opening sequence song made me feel better. The wind didn’t help and being on the corner left me feeling very vulnerable. Internalising a whole load of fear and anxiety whilst trying to be a cool-I-can-handle-anything blogger was harder than I thought. But I think I pulled it off 😉

I say it’s lies, but actually it did become the truth. It was quite magical being that high up and surreal to be doing it at a dinner table looking out over Greater Manchester.

 

see I did calm down eventually 🙂

 

Roberts bakery knew exactly how to put us at ease too, by serving up a scrumptiously innovative afternoon tea. Their exploratory had created a range of new flavours and the meal presented to us was created using some of their hot off the press and a number of secret squirrel items…

 

 

As soon as the food landed in front of me I started to relax and enjoy myself. It was so nice catching up with fellow bloggers, Diane, Holly, Kat, Jacinta and Laura. We worked our way through the tiers, Roberts bakery hosts explaining their new creations as we went on, they were so good at making us all comfortable and they kept the tea flowing!

 

 

The marbled red pesto and pink peppercorn was the most unusual one I tried, we enjoyed trying to work out the spices and tastes, sharp pepper flavour definitely was a bit of a talking point. There was even mini loaves with turmeric and ones with cheesy centres!

If I had to pick a favourite there is no question whatsoever that the sticky toffee scone with soft fudge and sticky dates (doesn’t it just SOUND amazing?!?!) was my winner. I could’ve eaten a whole pack and I will most definitely be purchasing some the minute it hits the shelves! (I look out for it all. the. time.)

The sky high afternoon tea was one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had to date, and it was so nice to share it with such great company too. The hospitality we received from Etihad and Roberts Bakery was fantastic. Their campaign was tailored around #EmbraceTheNew and they sure had found a way for us all to do just that!

Once back on firm ground we were all quite excitedly chatting about how nice it was to do something different, without having to leave Manchester! I called my fantastic four team hoping to hear words of pride – which there were some, but my plan backfired a little as I was faced predominantly with words of upset for not including them 🙄.

We ended the afternoon with a giant goody bag and Kirsten and I shared a tram ride back to the City as it was back to work for me.

I was a little bit disappointed that none of us were able to get a photo of us actually suspended up there, but as it turns out a friend of Mo’s in Leeds shared a tweet from his friend in Manchester – who managed to take a pic of us up above the Etihad! (credit for this pic goes to @thegingerwig)

 

 

My mum came to stay over the weekend and it was the perfect opportunity to crack open the Roberts bloomer loaf and give it a try. I’m not usually one for seeded bread but this was delicious! We caned the loaf within a few days, it worked perfectly on it’s own or teamed up with Mo’s marvellous masala egg.

 

 

Looking forward to seeing some of the new and exciting flavours on the shelf in the near future and it’s time to hunt for a new experience to challenge myself with…

The sky’s the limit! (right?)

 

 

What’s the most unusual dining experience you’ve ever had?

 

 

*** Thank you to Roberts Bakery and WeBlogNorth for inviting me on this very special afternoon tea. Of course all opinions and photos are my own (unless stated) ***

 

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Last weekend I was invited to explore the Bolton food and drink festival and attend a Slattery afternoon tea picnic with demonstrations led by the one and only Nadiya Hussain. They pretty much had me at the word ‘Slattery’ as I loved that place when we went last year and I just haven’t had the chance to go back since.

I’d seen a lot of hype about the food festival, but I was at the stage where I couldn’t help but think – ‘meh’. Once you’ve seen one food festival, you’ve seen them all, right?

Sunday morning came and when I walked through Bolton town centre and saw the endless rows of stalls shining in the sunlight, well, my scepticism very quickly turned to excitement.

As I looked around at the variety of food, inhaled the intoxicating scents and soaked in the buzzing atmosphere of the crowds around me, I completely understood why people come from far to visit this event.

Strolling through the main festival square I was stopped by a lady who asked if I knew where Debenhams was, I replied that unfortunately I had no idea as I was not from Bolton and she laughed and said – “I’ve asked five people so far and not a single one is from round here’ – that right there was proof enough that Bolton Food Festival had pulled out all the stops to make a name for themselves.

I smiled at vendors as I walked around, determined not to fill up too much before my afternoon tea session, all of whom were friendly and inviting and proud of their creations.

I finally found the festival marquee and was relieved to settle down in the shade for a few moments. The tables were all set and there waiting for us was our Slattery picnic box (vegetarian for me), festival flask with coffee and of course a tea cup and saucer ready for that afternoon cuppa.

 

 

The marquee filled up quickly, not a single seat to spare and before long we were graced with the presence of the wonderful Nadiya Hussain. After watching her show that week, The Chronicles of Nadiya (if you haven’t seen it you really should!) I knew that she would have a lot to talk about but I really didn’t expect her to be such a wonderful presenter.

And that she was. Considering this time last year Nadiya was just starting off as a participant on the Great British Bake Off, she was able to captivate the whole audience and keep us thoroughly entertained as she demonstrated how to cook a wonderful curry from her recently released cook book (which sadly was sold out by the time I got there!)

 

 

Whilst she was busy talking us through how to cook (something I’m really not great at) we started tucking into our pre-prepared meal. So I loved Slatterys when I visited, and with good reason as even when they’re tasked with creating picnic sandwiches, they really do make it interesting. There was a roast vegetable one which was delicious! And lots of other little treats too. The portions were perfectly sized. Perfectly cooked. And they were all washed down with a fresh cup of tea served by the wonderful marquee staff.

 

 

After Nadiya had completed her demonstration she was then joined on stage by a few other famous faces, Jennie McAlpine (Fizz in Corrie), Luis Troyano and Rose Dummer. It was great to hear them all giving their opinions (some quite controversial!) and as a table of bloggers, we were even able to nip backstage at the event.

 

 

Speaking of bloggers, I made some lovely new friends at this event, all with wonderful sites that you should check out:

Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to see them all again soon 🙂

After such a wonderful afternoon I was feeling incredibly guilty for misjudging this event. Yes I was excited to attend after watching the fantastic videos they published online (you can see some on my Facebook page, but go to theirs to catch them all). But it wasn’t until I walked through town did I realise how fantastically well put together this festival was. In all honesty, I had more fun there than I’ve ever had at the Manchester Food Festival! (I know it really does kill me to not side with Manchester, but alas I can’t hide my true feelings)

All in all, I’m excited to see what else is round the corner. Needless to say I’ll keeping a beady eye on events on the outskirts of Manchester from now on.

 

** Thank you to Bolton Council for inviting me to attend the Afternoon Tea Picnic in collaboration with Slattery. Of course all opinions are my own.**

 

Did you visit the Bolton Food Festival this year? What did you think??

 

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When you think of Up North, one of the many things that (should) come to mind, is that we know how to make a good brew. And by brew, I mean tea. A good cuppa’ tea.

And if you work in an office like mine, then you tend to drink a lot of them. So when I was advised by my nutritionist to give up black tea as part of my new diet program, I was slightly worried. She pointed out that I should experiment and indulge in green or floral teas instead – all of which I either wasn’t that keen on or had never tasted.

I took this as an opportunity to broaden my palate and have some fun so I decided to book an afternoon tea tasting class at a specialist tea house in Stockport. I came across it whilst browsing through what offers I could take advantage of with my Discover Manchester card.

For hundreds of years this elixir has been the answer to all sorts of problems, as well as being the solution to numerous physical and mental health issues.

Himalayas tea is tucked away in Stockport, not far from Manchester city centre, in an old grade two listed cotton mill, dating back to the 1860’s.

First of all – don’t do what we did and drive into the wrong car park entrance. There are two for Houldsworth mill, one side is apartments and offices, the other is for the shops. You need the shops one. The car park is free and you’ll see the lift that takes you to Himalayas as you drive in on the left.

Once you’re at the right side it’s pretty well signposted (just don’t listen to anyone who says its on the third floor – there is no third floor!!).

The building looks as though it hasn’t had any TLC for some time, but Himalayas tea room was a welcoming nook to walk into. Host and tea connoisseur Maryam greeted us at the door, her big personality hits you straight away, as does the aromatic scents of flowers and herbs.

There were 14 of us that afternoon, I believe that’s the maximum, and I can see why, as any more and it would have been quite cramped. But 14 was the right number to create a good atmosphere and there was space for us all to sit comfortably.

The class started at exactly 1pm, armed with our ice cold tea cocktails, Maryam delved into her expansive knowledge on the types of teas and their benefits … always throwing a question out into the crowd to make sure none of us were drifting.

After learning the ins and outs, it was time for some practical work. The tea tasting bench was beautifully set up with small plates of each of the different categories laid out, ready for us all to create our own blend.

After a briefing on the process, and a few quick tips on how to truly ‘taste,’ (slurping is apparently allowed here) we all set out on a mission to create the next best selling brand of tea. Of course, the fact that the winning blend does actually gain a place on the ‘winners shelf’ along with a £50 voucher, meant the concentration levels did knock up a few notches at this point.

Blends created, a lesson on time keeping (the responsibility it holds) and a few short stories later we were ready to taste the 14 concoctions. It brings me great sadness to report I did not manage to win but pleased to say the prize did go to a very deserving contestant (well done John!).

Once the class was over, we were then given the opportunity to relax and enjoy a homemade afternoon tea. Not just any afternoon tea – an afternoon tea where each layer of treats was in fact infused with  different teas, from Arabic to Matcha, so creative! Oh and so delicious?!?! The scone infused with Arabic tea and black seed was the highlight (we are definitely emailing Maryam for the recipe).

You can tell Maryam has a great passion for what she does, it shines through from the minute you walk in to the moment you leave. It’s completely infectious. I read a quote from her on a press release “I want everybody that comes here to become part of my family and enjoy teas the way I do” and you know what, with her no-nonsense attitude, that is exactly how she made us feel. Part of the family.

Honestly, the tea tasting wasn’t at all what I expected it to be but I took away everything I needed – I found that I actually enjoy floral teas, I learnt  the best way to ‘make a brew’ and I learnt how versatile it is as a product – tea sandwiches; tea cakes; tea candles; teachino… the list goes on!

I went away with everything I needed to spark an interest in the art of tea-making (my strainer is on its way!) and as a group day out, we had an immense amount of fun.

 

 

Thanks to Maryam and the ever-so-helpful Mobeen for a wonderful afternoon!

Himalayas Tea

Unit16, First floor, Houldsworth Mill ( Houldsworth Parking), Houldsworth Street, Reddish, SK5 6DS

 

 

Are there any other experience days that we should branch out and try? Any other tea houses that are worth visiting for a day of blending?

 

*T’s & C’s apply

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Why would anyone want to grab breakfast to go, simply to window shop at Tiffanys?

Surely the best way to start a weekend, is to book a table and indulge in a fine dining breakfast experience at Manchesters award winning chocolate house.

Over the years people have gushed about this great sweet haven hidden away in North Manchester, but as I’m more of a savoury lover, it’s never really drawn me in.

To celebrate my mum’s birthday, my lovely sister decided to book us all in for afternoon tea. Two weeks before we were set to go, she called to make a reservation – afternoon tea was already fully booked. We decided to take one of the earlier available breakfast slots instead. So there’s your first tip right there: be sure to plan ahead and always make a reservation.

Unlike most places we tend to frequent, Slattery’s, a family business, is based just outside of the city on Bury Old Road, Whitefield. Not far from town if you’re driving and there is a parking area on site.

So used to being in quirky, industrial, Northern-quarter-esque type buildings, it was nice to enter this three-storey Victorian building and… well gasp.

I don’t really like chocolate (please don’t screw your face in disgust, some of us are more drawn to carbs) but if I did, this would be heaven on earth. It was everywhere!

Counters lined with all sorts of interesting shaped bitesize pieces, tools to make your own, gift boxes, bags, sweets I really could go on and on. And if all that wasn’t enough, the space in front of the tall period window frames was lined with the most extravagant looking wedding cakes. I saw some great pieces at the Cake and Bake event some time ago, but these were up there with some of the best I’ve ever seen (no wonder celebrities commission these guys).

If you were doubting whether everything was made onsite, then worry not. Amongst the shop floor, there are ‘viewing windows’ where you can actually watch the masters at work. Quite hypnotic.

Moving swiftly on to the first floor Masons dining room (we all know its never good to do food/chocolate shopping on an empty stomach), again I was so surprised at how grand it was. So grand in fact, there was even a grand piano! This is not some sideline cafe to compliment the shop, this was a well thought out, comfortable eating space. And it was already pretty busy.

We had a lovely corner booth, friendly waiter and an extensive breakfast and all-day dining menu to keep us occupied.

I’m not even going to talk you through everything we had, because you know what, all of it was faultless. Even my dear mother, who usually has eyes bigger than her stomach, polished off her meal.

Now if you are having a meal at Slattery’s, there is one thing you cannot forget to do and that is leave space for some kind of dessert. I stupidly did not, but I wasn’t about to leave without ordering one of their famous hot chocolates. It’s a bloody good thing I did too, because even as a non-chocolate eater, this final course was melt-in-your-mouth amazing. It comes in a glass, coated in chocolate, filled with liquid chocolate (thats not sickly sweet) and then topped off with a perfectly fitting Slattery chocolate disc. Boy does this place have style. Not even some of the five star restaurants we’ve been to have been able to pull off something so simple and good looking.

We must’ve spent around an hour in the shop before we finally left to carry on with our day. Everything had the same wow factor that I found when we looked at chocolate shops in Brussels.

Slattery’s also provides courses for those who want to learn the art of chocolate making, cake decorating, sugar crafting etc. They’re not cheap, but from what I saw on the course material, it looks like you’d be learning some advanced skills. I checked out the website after our visit and read that the whole third floor is exclusively for the ‘Slattery School of Excellence,’ I love that they’ve managed to keep all the different elements of the business under one roof.

All in all considering Slattery’s started in 1967, I can’t believe it’s taken me until now to finally visit! If I were to describe it in a sentence, I would say it is the Tiffany’s version of Willy Wonkas chocolate factory. Sleek, sophisticated, with everything inside beautifully hand-crafted, topped off with a huge chunk of fun and out-there originality.

The only downside, I’ll never be able to enjoy a normal hot chocolate ever again.

Slattery-Manchester-13

 

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I’ve only just started watching ‘Gotham’ the TV series and it was this very show that inspired my dear friend to book our reunion lunch at Hotel Gotham, on the very prestigious King Street in Manchester.

We’d booked in for afternoon tea at the Honey restaurant and I was probably a lot more excited to be catching up with friends to pay much attention to the fact we were visiting some place new.

The week before our booking, I just happened to read a review by Jonathan Schofield (who’s articles I love) on the Manchester Confidential website, about said Hotel and its dining establishments. It was not at all flattering.

Trusting his words, I carried on reserving my excitement for the catching up with friends side of the visit. However, on walking up to the grand Hotel Gotham, I thought it looked… well pretty grand actually.

The ‘themed’ branding works perfectly with this classical-looking, Grade II listed building. I particularly love the outdoor lighting scheme – deliberate areas of light framing the angles, casting light over the tall windows, keeping the overall look within one of the architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens, mantras – “simplicity of intention and directness of purpose.” And the white stone! Oh, how I love how something as simple as lightening the building material can make such a huge impact.

It’s tiered outer appearance, likens this British designed ex-Midland Bank to the tall skyscrapers that make up the famous skylines in Gotham City. A perfect amalgamation of English architecture, good enough for the likes of American comic hero Bruce Wayne.

The Honey restaurant sits on the sixth floor. Tables are laid out surrounding a central serving point and you’ll find the inside not only celebrates the dynasty that is Batman, but there are also a number of sneaky banking references thrown in for good measure amongst the Gotham inspired nick knacks (I’ve heard this continues on into the guest rooms). In Honey, I loved the bankers lamp wall lights and quirky filing cabinet-style dresser drawers, very on point.

I will sympathise with Jonathon about the food though, it wasn’t the wow factor I was expecting. It wasn’t bad – but there were certain elements which for me, didn’t work (i.e. the banana clotted cream – not a fan). Saying that, the Ivory Coast white hot chocolate was nearly on par with that of Slatterys (which is not an easy feat!) and I think it’s hard to judge food quality when you’re simply snacking on sandwiches.

Afternoon tea is usually something you book as a group, or special occasion… for both of these, Hotel Gotham Works well. Bag yourself a window seat though, as you’ll definitely want to be sipping your tea looking out over the glorious rooftops of Manchester.

We were a bit sneaky and somehow managed to slip in and have a quick nosy around Club Brass (apt name right?). It’s a shame they’ve decided to reserve this as a VIP members only area, as it’s a super cool hidden gem to enjoy an evening out with friends. Very stylish, comfortable and the outdoor balcony areas are a fabulous extension of the space. You can also admire some of the beautifully sculpted elements of the building exterior from up here, the handiwork of a local artist.

Sadly, only those who have subscribed to the £700+ member services, or are guests of the hotel are able to enjoy this exclusive vault.

All in all, I actually enjoyed our afternoon tea experience, and I would return to try an evening meal regardless of what I’ve read. I’m also intrigued enough to consider an overnight stay.

‘Themed’ anythings can come across as gimmicky, cheesy and let’s face it, cheap. But I sincerely don’t think that’s the case here. Hotel Gotham is none of those things. Yes it might seem bizarre to find a gold butler statue tray in hand by the lifts, a line of wall-mounted typewriters with classical printed news pages or even looking up to a montage of large black brollies and bare bulbs as you walk through the foyer. All of this just adds character to a building that has always been known as the ‘King of King Street.’

 

Anyone else a fan of themed venues?? 

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