There’s something quite special about afternoon tea, in my opinion. I’m a big fan of getting together with friends or family to share food and enjoy a more intimate dining experience. I know it’s a little bit fussy and old fashioned to some, but I enjoy the cuteness of it all. I especially enjoy a leisurely lunch that’s based on combining delicate savoury mouthfuls and decadent sweet treats that you ordinarily wouldn’t get the chance to try. I mean, maybe you do but on a daily basis I don’t often grab four different sandwiches and five types of cake, although thinking about it maybe I should…
I know an afternoon tea is now common place in many hotels across Brum, and each location offers its own ‘brand’ of this type of dining experience (I’m a big fan of the gin-based ones myself!) but I had heard such good things about the fizzy afternoon tea at AC Hotel Birmingham I couldn’t wait to try it.
Grabbing my pal Lauren, who happened to be celebrating her birthday, we headed to the hotel at 1pm on a Saturday in June. In a prime corner location of (the newly spruced up) Mailbox, AC Hotel Birmingham sits beside the likes of Gas Street Social, although with the minimalist front you could be forgiven for walking past it.
Upon arrival we were greeted at reception and directed to the AC Lounge (the social hub of the hotel) and the setting for afternoon tea, drinks, and food. First impressions are good and the earthy muted colours and soft furnishings are beautiful; I particularly like the subtle local nods including the bull which are, quite literally, part of the furniture.
A stylish but relaxed open plan space, it provides a modern take on the restaurant concept, with the bar taking centre stage – I’m told at night this becomes the hub of the lounge, offering local craft beers, wines and signature cocktails.
We were seated in the window by our lovely hostess, Inese, who immediately offered us a choice of hot drinks. Choosing to try the cappuccinos, these arrived within minutes and were a decent size, frothy and delicious. So much so that we had another immediately after. Other warm drink options included the usual coffees you’d expect, various teas and hot chcocolate.
Soon after our two person afternoon tea platter was delivered, along with two glasses of prosecco. Presented on a delicate silver and black three-tier platter, there was a delightful selection of finger food – quite a generous bounty for just two people, it must be said.
As well as the usual crustless finger sandwiches and cakes one would expect, there were also several wraps to ramp up the savoury section. We both agreed it was a pleasant change to have 50/50 sweet and savoury, as often afternoon teas focus much more on the sugary treats.
Inese kindly talked us through the hearty selection of food, starting with the top tier of sandwiches. First up we had cucumber on white (an absolute staple of afternoon tea, let’s be honest), followed by smoked salmon and cream cheese on wholemeal, and lastly ham and mustard on white. The smoked salmon was the star of the savoury show, and the flecks of dill ensured it was both pretty and tasty.
On the second tier was a section of desserts including cake, choc chip brownies, mini fruit tarts and chocolate eclairs. Special shout out to the lemon drizzle sponge which was beautifully light but packed a flavour punch. It was nice that each mini tart was a different fruit flavour, and the pear one specifically was light and just sweet enough.
On the bottom tier four wraps were nestled: two chicken and sweetcorn and two turkey and onion jam. Without doubt the most filling element to the spread, the wraps were generously filled, although the latter was more enjoyable. The chicken wrap was very dense but a little dry, and could perhaps have benefited from more mayonnaise, or even being flavoured with ceaser as an alternative.
Finally we were given two (big!) warm sultana scones with individual portions of clotted cream and jam. For me the scone was the highlight of the sweet treats and a very welcome addition to the feast.
My only small criticism is that I would’ve liked a more flavoursome chicken wrap, or perhaps the addition of another ‘traditional’ sandwich filling like egg and cress, which potentially may have been more in keeping with the theme of the other savoury treats. A minor gripe though, and I appreciate that more people would probably like/choose chicken over egg. *I can’t help it, I was born in the 80’s, egg mayo in my jam*
All in the all a very satisfying afternoon tea in a nice central hotel (and setting) led by some really sweet and attentive staff. Heads up – the venue is modern and this is reflected in the presentation, so if you’re looking for china cups and saucers you may want to look elsewhere. I personally prefer this new approach over the old school tea party, but worth mentioning if you’re looking for a grand, ‘Manor House’ type vibe.
Note: it was also a really sweet touch that when we left they presented Lauren with a birthday card, showing they had listened to us on arrival. Great service!
The basic afternoon tea is priced at £17pp with an additional glass of prosecco available at £4.95, or you can have a whole bottle at £14.95 (I’d call that a bargain in the Mailbox, wouldn’t you?!) The hotel also offers strong fruity tipples from the cocktail menu – at an extra cost to the tea – including a “cocktail of the week” for £6 which changes weekly.
Afternoon tea is served daily in the AC Lounge but must be booked in advanced, and any dietary requirements need to be given at the time of booking. More information can be found here. As well as swish AT’s I’m told the other food options, including small sharing tapas style plates, are popular with guests looking for a bite to eat with their fancy cocktails. I can imagine if I was staying here it would be a great base for a night out in Mailbox, for sure.
AC Hotel Birmingham, 160 Wharfside Street, Mailbox, Birmingham, B1 1RL
*Diaclaimer: I was kindly invited to try the afternoon tea with fizz by the AC Hotel Birmingham management team in return for an honest review. All opinions, words or photos are very much my own*