Thursday 14 November 2013

A Low for High Tea

My taxi pulled up in front of Manchester's Radisson Blu Edwardian and deposited me in front of the window proudly displaying the Opus One logo. I turned to look for the entrance. No indication as to which way to go to enter. First I hobbled to the right to find a disabled entrance - alas for the office-block next door. I limped back to where I was dropped off and staggered in the opposite direction. Lots of steps. Lots of steps. There must be some step-free access in this day and age, I encouraged myself. At the corner of the building, puffing and panting, I turned and found, tucked away, the ramp to get me inside. Some signage at the front of the edifice would have proved helpful, and I suggested such as I was met by a door-keeper once I had entered the building under my own steam.

[Image description: inside Opus One - not this bright; courtesy & © Radisson]

One enters the restaurant to be confounded by poorly lit gloom and the discreet, sub-optimal red-lighting of a brothel. There was no-one at the entrance nor at the bar to greet us, so we wound our circumspect way towards the day-light by the windows in the tea-room annexe. No salutation here either. We stood and waited to be seated at our pre-booked table. And we waited.

Not a good start but thankfully we had plenty to chat about. Once seated, we might have glanced at the menus, but there were none. A politely spoken waiter eventually decided to apprise us of the afternoon's offerings, a choice of two high teas. That was it. No offer of coffee if tea was not one's beverage.

We all selected the cold choice @ £18.95: finger sandwiches; scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam; three small cakes - a mini éclair, a mini walnut cake and a mini banoffee pie; and a jelly in a shot glass.

Some time later the waiter deposited our respective pots of tea, mixing up my Earl Grey and one of the breakfast teas, though I was brought my requested lemon. No hot water pot was brought over nor offered. We were given pot cups & saucers and not china.

Shortly afterwards the maître d' unceremoniously dumped on the table the tiered stands, which we had to swap over ourselves as he rushed away.

Sandwiches: there was a good choice of fillings - beef, egg, cheese, tuna, salmon, etc.; but some of the bread had already dried out and gone 'crusty' - not the most pleasant of mouth sensations.

[Image description: scone; courtesy Wikipedia]

Scones: these were light and to be sure the highlight of the repast; no butter was offered; no alternative to (overly sweet for my tastes) strawberry jam was offered; the clotted cream had a good firm texture but was not particularly flavoursome. One of my companions loved the spun-sugar decoration though, stating that it tasted of toffee-apples to her.

Cakes: The choux pastry on the éclair was tough and hard, the chocolate-coloured topping did not seem to have ever heard of cocoa let alone visited it; the walnut cake was just sugary sickliness; and I did not even attempt to sample the banoffee pie offering.

Jelly: there was so much gelatine in the jelly that it was almost set firm. There was not a hint of the alleged cider that was supposed to have flavoured it.

We ran out of tea rather quickly and before we had completed our meal. There were no staff on hand throughout most of our time at Opus One, so it took me some time to be able to order an Americano. It was served in the same style of ceramic as the tea and may have been instant as it was watery and flavourless brown water.

Attempting to settle the bill was also an ordeal. No staff anywhere. One of my other companions went to the bar only to find the barman pouring the remnants of one bottle of wine into another - which is just not done, ever.

There is plenty of choice for high tea in Manchester. Avoid Opus One and try one of the other venues! Nonetheless, I have eaten at other Radisson hotels across Europe. Manchester's Opus One on this occasion failed to live up to the chain's usually very high standards.

Thankfully, my companions were such jolly good company that the poor food and service were merely a minor irritant.

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