When looking to treat someone special in your life, it’s always a great start when you arrive somewhere that requires a trip in a private lift!
I thought long and hard about the best place to take my dear mother for afternoon tea in Manchester – there are many many options. They are all so different, all come highly recommended, all places I’m dying to try but I knew that for Mum, the Hilton would be perfect.
Cloud 23 sits on, surprise surprise, the 23rd floor of Beetham tower – the building that dominates over the Manchester skyline. A beacon for all those times I’ve ever got lost. A building that is relatively new but has become a strong symbol of the city.
I had pre-booked our party of five reservation a few weeks before. Tip number one: it is near enough impossible to get hold of anyone over the phone! It took me a number of days, calling at different times before I eventually managed to speak with someone. I now realise all this hassle could have been avoided if I had emailed in. But a creature of habit, I have a lot of restaurants in my phone book as I like to have them accessible at any time. The fact that I was having to work so hard to communicate with this place, did frustrate me quite a bit.
However, upon arriving for tea on the day of our booking, I could understand why. It was incredibly busy. Near enough every seat was filled and as we were waiting for the lift, there were still people turning up hoping to get last minute tables. So I’ll let them off. It’s pretty hard not to when you notice they have saved you a great corner seat by the window, just as I had hoped. Oh and tip number two, if you want a guaranteed table, make sure you’ve booked in advance!
It’s very hard to fault the interiors of Cloud 23, sleek neutral tones, velvet chairs, solid marble tables. It’s also quite easy to miss them as of course the main attraction is the floor to ceiling windows offering what I can only imagine is the best view of Manchester. Tip number two: Make sure you walk around the whole bar to see all the different sights and landmarks.
I had ordered four of their regular afternoon teas and for the woman of the hour, one of their specials – the Best of British. As the meat isn’t halal, of course we would only be indulging in the seafood and vegetarian options. I expected a number of duplicate sandwiches but there was, thankfully, a good variety.
Teas and coffees are unlimited throughout the meal, a number of us had top ups. The chai gingerbread latte stood out as a tea with a difference. Scones with clotted cream, perfect. On the standard afternoon tea the sandwich of the moment was the olive bread with cheese and chive filling, really delicious! But the best one overall was the open cob prawn mayonnaise on the special (Mum didn’t particularly want to share that one round).
The atmosphere was buzzing, there were couples, families, girls on champagne, baby showers… so much going on. I mentioned before how busy it was so I think for that reason a few things were let slip, things I only realised after looking online.
1. We weren’t given a drinks/tea menu, we were simply asked what we would like to order. We kind of went off teas we’ve enjoyed in the past or asked the waitress to recommend one. Looking online there are a number of flavours on their list I would have liked to have tried had I known they existed! For example the Cloud 23 blends Nimbostratus and Altocumulus both look right up my street!
2. We should have received a ‘British’ cocktail with the Best of British Afternoon Tea. Now I know we mentioned we don’t drink alcohol but surely their is a non-alcoholic equivalent??
I would recommend booking a table here at least once to experience it. However, as it’s not cheap, check what you’re entitled to with whatever package you book to make sure you get everything you’re paying for!
With those two points aside, all in all, I really enjoyed our visit. Mo and I have been here for pre-dinner drinks in an evening and the views are just as impressive in the dark as they were during the day. I love a good view and this one of Manchester is particularly special.
Who needs The Shard right?