Afternoon tea has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the 19th century, when one hungry person decided lunch and dinner were too far apart. (As someone who, as a kid, invented the concept of ‘Breakfast Dessert’, I sympathise with this misunderstood, hungry genius.) Since its rise in popularity during the Victorian era, Britain has seen this meal go through a variety of trends and changes. Today, afternoon tea is something of a British institution, with venues across the country striving to make theirs the most unique, delicious or memorable. And who are we to argue with a British institution?
As a vegan (sorry), afternoon tea isn’t something that’s always been available to me, so I was excited to hear that Hotel Du Vin could cater to my – ever so slightly pretentious – dietary requirements.
Walking through the winding, quirky North Lanes on the way to our booking, we headed down Ship Street and spotted the grand, sea-green structure of Hotel Du Vin in the distance, the waves of Brighton seafront visible just behind it. We walked into the foyer of the hotel, and were greeted by the friendly receptionists who led us through the dining room.
The room’s light and opulent interiors gave it the elevated feel of luxury, with afternoon sunlight streaming in through the tall windows, and the tinkle of conversation from other diners enjoying their food. We were seated at a reserved booth near the entrance, so had the pleasure of taking in the full effect of the room while we ate. The chairs were upholstered in a luxurious sea-green fabric matching the hotel’s exterior, and the tables were white marble. The overall colour-scheme made the room feel airy and open, the perfect environment in which to enjoy some food and conversation.
We were served by a friendly waitress, who let us know we could have unlimited refills of our chosen tea, supplied by Brighton locals, Bird & Blend. Ayla went for the Gingerbread Chai, while I opted for Peppy Mint flavour. I found the cool, minty sensation of the tea the perfect accompaniment to our fairly indulgent meal.
The tea arrived in adorable teapots, and we chatted and sipped away while we waited for the food, which came on ornate cake stands. Ayla had the traditional afternoon tea, while I had the vegan alternative. Tucking into our first layer – the savoury – I was impressed with how unique the selection on offer was. I started with a vegan cheese and onion tart, which was freshly baked and piping hot. The two flavours really complimented one another – after all, even as a vegan (sorry), I have to admit that cheese and onion is a classic combination. Accompanying this was a small, savoury vegan scone with peppers, a serving of tempura cauliflower with vegan cream cheese, and a little decorative box of salted popcorn.
On Ayla’s savoury layer were five delicate finger sandwiches, filled with all the traditional favourite fillings: cheese and pickle, coronation chicken, cucumber and mint, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and egg and cress. She also had fresh fruit scones, accompanied by jam and clotted cream.
Next, onto the sweet layer – because what is an afternoon tea without sweetness? Ayla had a carrot cake adorably topped with a mini carrot made out of icing, a fruit-flavoured macaron decorated with multi-coloured faux-paint splatters, a mini Paris-Brest, a black forest gateau, and a rum baba with its own its own pipette of sugar syrup sticking out of its side; a delightfully quirky touch.
My sweet layer consisted of a layered pistachio cake, a sweet yellow macaron with jam filling, a rich truffle-style chocolate cake, and a sweet, round pastry.
Part-way through our meal, we saw Georgios walking through the dining room, who had been our sommelier for the wine tasting two nights prior. He came over to say hello, and couldn’t resist pairing a wine with our afternoon tea. He went to find the perfect dessert wine: A Royal Tokaji 2013, from Hungary. He told us this was the perfect accompaniment to the afternoon tea, and had us take a sip of it, clear our palettes with water, then eat our cake again. The two sweet flavours balanced each other, levelling out their relative intensity.
As the afternoon went on and the restaurant buzzed around us, we chatted, sipped our wine and tea, and finished our selection of sweet and savoury treats. Full and satisfied, we left the hotel late in the afternoon, enjoying the cool sea breeze from the beach as we walked back to the office.
We want to say a huge thank you to the staff at Hotel Du Vin for a delicious and attentive experience, and to Melissa for organising the booking. If you, like me, think the gap between lunch and dinner is far too long to wait for food, I’d definitely recommend Hotel Du Vin as your place to stop for afternoon tea. (Shh, don’t tell anyone, but you can also have it for lunch...) With luxurious interiors, high-quality food and sea views, there’s no better place to stave off that pesky mid-afternoon hunger! If you fancy a little extra sparkle, you can also opt for the Brighton Champagne Afternoon Tea for 2. Thanks again, Hotel Du Vin!