The chefs at the Fairmont St Andrews have recently launched a brand-new afternoon tea menu for their airy Atrium. They invited me along for a taster, and even let me bring my husband!
“A unique afternoon tea? Surely there can’t be that much difference between one five-star hotel’s selection and another’s?”
To some extent this is true. The afternoon tea at the Fairmont St Andrews was still a three-tiered afternoon of decadence, with sandwiches, scones, sweets and hot drinks. In my opinion however, the ambience in the Atrium, and the selection of food on offer at the Fairmont St Andrews set it apart from the traditional afternoon tea experience.
On walking into the Atrium at the Fairmont St Andrews for the first time, I was stunned at the inside space. The glass roof stands several floors above the atrium area, and the glass wall at one end of the building overlooks the Fairmont’s golf courses, and the North Sea.
The section of the Atrium dedicated to afternoon tea feels much more like a living room – a huge, very tastefully furnished living room – than a dining room. Plush sofas surround coffee tables sized to accommodate many different sorts of groups, from couples, to families, to tea parties. Each area is well-defined, and there is enough space between them to feel assured that you can chat away to your heart’s content, without disturbing other guests or staff.
While we were there, an extended family with young children came in for a quick snack, a few couples occupied the more intimate tables, and some ladies lingered for the entire afternoon. It was great to see such excellent service, as the Fairmont St Andrews’ staff managed to make the afternoon tea service both child-friendly and couple-friendly at the same time, in the same place.
Despite the grandeur of the Atrium’s soaring space, the clever interior design instantly set me at ease and made me feel that I could relax and enjoy this afternoon tea without having to be on my best five-star behaviour. The smiley, friendly nature of the staff only added to this, and I was made to feel that I could while away the afternoon at my leisure.
The Fairmont St Andrews offers a select but unusual choice of teas – including masala chai, maple, lemon rooibos, and apple spice alongside Earl Grey and peppermint – to accompany its afternoon morsels. We were in the mood for something simple, so Tim ordered a standard tea, and I ordered a standard coffee. They were delivered promptly, in large, gleaming silver pots, and both were deliciously smooth. I particularly enjoyed the hot milk that was offered with my coffee: it was so fresh and frothy that I could make a cappuccino-style top for my cuppa. During the two hours we spent enjoying our tea, we were offered top-ups several times, and Tim readily accepted.
The classic three-tiered plate of delicacies appeared shortly after the drinks. Afternoon tea always looks delicious, but this food didn’t just have a pretty face. Wherever possible, the Fairmont St Andrews source their ingredients within a 25-mile radius of the hotel. There were even edible flowers garnishing the pudding plate, grown in the Fairmont St Andrews’ own vegetable garden.
We decided to take the traditional (and very disciplined) approach: sandwiches first, then scones, then the mini-puddings. We had been given two of everything on offer, and despite having skipped lunch on purpose, we weren’t able to polish off the platefuls. Cheekily, we asked whether it would be possible to have the leftovers packed into a box for us, and the waitress didn’t bat an eyelid. She returned quickly with a pretty white cardboard pastry box into which we carefully laid the remaining snacks.
The sandwiches were excellent. The themes were quite traditional: egg, ham, salmon and cucumber, but each was created with a subtle twist. The Loch Fyne smoked salmon was about three layers thick within the granary bread, and was spread with a subtle horseradish sauce which gave it a slightly sushi vibe. The cucumber was slathered in cream cheese and seasoned with cracked black pepper; certainly not the frugal cucumber sandwiches your great-aunt served.
The surprise star of the sandwich course, however, was the open egg and tomato on tomato bread. The local Kilduncan eggs had vivid orange yolks, and their creamy texture perfectly complemented the chewiness of the soft tomato rolls. I would normally avoid egg sandwiches but this one thoroughly won me over.
Then came the scones. Oh, the scones! Light, and melt-in-the-mouth but with the perfect level crumb. We were served four of them – two raisin and two plain, with a huge, glossy, oval scoop of clotted cream. Before starting the scones we did wonder whether the scoop was on the over-generous side, but it turned out to be the perfect amount; just a little more than we needed.
The table was set with raspberry jam, blackcurrant jam, marmalade and honey, and we elected to stick with the classic raspberry. I was a little surprised to see that the jam came from Tiptree, England. Tiptree is a famous jam-making place, and the jam was delicious, but I would have been more impressed if the Fairmont made their jam on site from local seasonal fruits. Still, the scone course was divine.
Finally, we embarked upon the cake plate. There were five varieties to try: opera cake, Mississipi mud pie slice, strawberry shortcake, banoffee cheesecake, and a lemon meringue stack. They were all incredibly rich and delicious in their own rights, and probably the best examples of each that I’ve ever tried.
We both particularly enjoyed the banoffee cheesecake – it had all the creamy, salty, toffee goodness of a banoffee pie, but without the heaviness. The Mississipi mud pie slice was essentially a sticky chocolate ganache with lumps of either fudge or biscuit swirled through, and was chocolate heaven. The lemon meringue stack was a sweet lemony cushion of air, but its height made it a bit of an etiquette nightmare. Thank goodness that the Fairmont St Andrews seems so laid back!
In all, I would highly recommend trying the afternoon tea at the Fairmont St Andrews. At £16.95 per person it isn’t cheap, but considering the quality of the food, drinks, and service I’d say it’s excellent value. So, next time you fancy a treat in St Andrews, consider the Fairmont St Andrews’ afternoon tea; do let us know how you get on!