Park Regis Hotel - 4 out of 5
There's a new hotel in town and a rather fancy one too. It's called the Park Regis and it's located at Five Ways Island off Broad Street in what used to be the Five Ways Shopping Centre complex. The shopping centre has been replaced by a car park and the tower has been completely refurbished into this marvellous hotel.
When we heard good reports about their afternoon tea we felt that we must make this our next afternoon tea destination. And so we did!
Image courtesy of The Park Regis Hotel
A lot of the old shopping centre has been razed to the ground thus providing plenty of hotel parking, which is very convenient. However, this is a private car park unafilliated with the hotel and the hourly rate is a bit steep. Alternatively, there is on street parking nearby, at the usual council rates, which you can use if you can find a space. If you choose to use public transport then the hotel is well served by buses and Five Ways railway station is nearby.
Anyway, seeing as the rain was pouring down, I chose the expensive option and parked in the hotel car park. In the foyer we were greeted by a very friendly and chatty receptionist who waxed lyrical about the afternoon tea we were about to enjoy. This made me quite excited about what was to come.
A lift took us to the 1565 Restaurant on the fourth floor. The restaurant is very modern, glitzy and luxurious and it's definitely a place to impress. We were guided to our table by a welcoming member of staff where we were sat by the terrace overlooking a view of Five Ways Island. The weather was very wet on the day of our visit so sitting on the terrace was out of the question, but I can imagine that on a fine sunny day the terrace would be delightful.
We were each given a luxurious leather bound tea menu where I noted that they also provide an afternoon tea designed for men, which basically involves steak. It sounded great and is definitely one to try in the future. But, on our visit, we all chose to stick to the classic afternoon tea option.
I opted for the Smokey Russian Caravan tea and all of our tea arrived pre-steeped so no bags or leaves were left in the pot. Now, I thought that this was a fab idea as the first cup is often too weak and the second cup can become stewed, so having the tea properly brewed for us and then removed from the pot is an excellent idea. Normally, I take the tea bag out the pot to avoid stewing, however, with loose leaf tea this isn't possible. The Chinese use small tea pots and add fresh hot water after each steep. With good tea leaves, you can get around 5 steeps out of one spoonful of tea leaves, and each steep results in a differing flavour. That's the proper way to do things. Anyway, I have digressed. Another bonus of the "Park Regis Way" is that there's no faffing around with tea strainers because there's alway someone who forgets to use the strainer and ends up with a cup full of leaves. Usually my dad!
Now, my usual gauge of how good an afternoon tea is hinges on whether the establishment gives me a tea bag or loose leaf tea. Seeing as the Park Regis hid the evidence I couldn't tell you for certain. But, I'm a bit of a tea buff, and my taste buds told me that my Smokey Russian Caravan tea was a loose leaf tea as there was no harsh bitter after taste one normally gets from the low quality bagged tea. The tea I drank was smooth on the palate and didn't need sugar or milk to take away any roughness.
Before our afternoon tea arrived we were treated to an amuse bouche, which is a common sight at afternoon teas these days. At Hotel La Tour we were given a fun take on Welsh rarebit and at Netherstowe House we had a fruit mousse presented in a bowl of dry ice for dramatic effect. At the Park Regis we had pate on toast. Now, to be fair, it had a fancier name than that which involved the word 'terrine' but to all intents and purposes it was pate on toast and that left us a bit flat. We weren't amused by our amuse bouche.
Things improved when the main afternoon tea arrived. The sandwiches were delicious and comprised of roast beef and horseradish, cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and ham and mayonnaise. All were perfectly good and went down rather well.
Next up were the handmade scones. Normally you get two scones, one being plain and one being fruit. But at the Park Regis we had a fruit scone and savoury scone. The fruit scone came with clotted cream, jam and what looked like passionfruit or mango curd. It was orange, and it put my mom off from having it as she isn't a fan of trying new things. I tried it after she had eaten her fruit scone and it was lemon curd and it was delicious. It was obviously made from scratch being such a deep colour! My mom is a huge fan of lemon curd so she was deeply distressed at missing out. Although, she did manage to have a teaspoon's worth of it much to her delight. It's just a shame that the fruit scone was rubbish. The one I had was really flat and dry. The savoury scone was much better though. It was cheddar and chive and it came with a sea salt butter. Oh my days was it delicious! So scrummy. My mom wasn't keen on it but I thought it was the bees knees. I'm still dreaming about it now!
We had a choice of five cakes each, which is more generous than most afternoon teas. A dark chocolate delice, which was amazing. It had a chocolate sponge bottom, and a smooth chocolate mousse on top and it was all coated in dark chocolate. That was my favourite cake by far. Next up was the fruit tart with slices of blueberry, plum, strawberry, redcurrant and blackberrry topped with gold leaf. Very fancy. We also had a salted caramel eclair, which didn't taste much of caramel and it was rather sharp in the mouth. Ouch. There was a fondant fancy shaped like a cute hat and a pistachio macaron, which, as usual, just tasted of almonds. They were all definitely handmade and of a high standard and quality. Top marks there.
At £24.95 each it was one of the more expsenive afternoon teas available in the city and comparable to that of Hotel La Tour. And if I compare the two I would say that Hotel La Tour pips The Park Regis to the post. Now, don't get me wrong, The Park Regis afternoon tea is amazing, and well worth the money. You'll be seated in a grand setting, provided with excellent and friendly service, treated to handmade and high quality food and loose leaf tea presented with attention to detail. The same can be said of Hotel La Tour's afternoon tea, but theirs had no drawbacks. The Park Regis was let down by their boring amuse bouche, under par fruit scone and a 10% service charge applied to the bill. It's the first time I have come across that for an afternoon tea and it certainly soured the end of my visit.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable visit and we will go again. But next time I will pay more attention when settling the bill and refuse to pay the service charge. What a cheek!
So there you go, 4 out of 5 for The Park Regis Hotel.
Why not have some fun and make your own afternoon tea in the comfort of your own home. Choose your cakes at www.togri.co.uk and let us do the hard baking for you.