I venture out to Knutsford in Cheshire to try out their Afternoon Tea at the recently refurbished Courthouse. There’s something I really like about an Afternoon Tea. I know that it’s an all day affair and you are essentially gorging yourself on a combination of sandwiches, scones and desserts. You essentially need to forgo food on either side of the Afternoon Tea (or at least, I’ve had to)! It is usually nothing overly special, and yet I have thoroughly enjoy each Afternoon Tea I’ve eaten. I think because of the way it’s presented, you can essentially take your time and enjoy a long conversation with people without staff bringing and taking plates around you (apart from the occasional tea top up).*
Exterior of the Courthouse
The Courthouse is located conveniently near Knutsford train station and has plenty of parking (paid) at the front. It was in this very same Courthouse that Alan Turing was trialed for gross indecency. The Ministry of Justice decided to sell this grand building in 2010 where brothers Oliver and Dominic Heywood then took it upon themselves to transform it into a grand hotel, restaurant and events space. The restaurant is located to the right of the grand entrance of the Courthouse itself. I accidentally walked through the entrance leading to the middle of the corridor and was lost as there was no one to greet me. Thankfully, one of the members of staff eventually emerged after what felt like ages (probably more like 5 minutes), and guided me to the restaurant.
There are two adjoining large rooms, which you can use for events, and one has its own bar! The decor remains in keeping with the period of the time. Who doesn’t love those blue walls! I also like the cheerful addition of Betty Boop positioned in the corridor. The space has been used for parties, but also meetings and team building exercises. 10 luxury bedrooms are due to open in 2018 with an additional 40 added later, allowing you to stay over and fully appreciate the environment.
Much of the interior has been saved from the old Crown Court including the wood paneling separating different areas of the old courtroom, the wall features and of course, the glass dome. The colours chosen for the walls offset all of this beautifully and lots of artwork adorns the walls. I am also fond of the plants behind the bar, which used to be the old dock (where the prisoners stood). 7 bowler hats are above the doorway, a nod to the 7 people who were hanged. There is also a rooftop garden, which would be useful once those sunny days come to grace Knutsford!
There are many Afternoon Tea options offered at the Barristers Restaurant:
- Cream Tea (that’s tea and scones) £7.95
- Traditional Afternoon Tea £15.95
- Rose Bubbles Afternoon tea, served with a Rose Bubble cocktail; rose petal liqueur, lavender and prosecco £22.95
- Perrier Jouet Champagne Afternoon Tea £26.95
- Yorkshire G&Tea, served with Mason’s Yorkshire Tea cocktail £22.95
Sampling different teas is something I love doing. When I travel, I tend to go to the local supermarket in the area and bring back a box of tea as it’s lightweight, compact and not usually under travel restrictions. I was impressed to see that the tea was displayed in a box, so you can smell and handle the tea leaves before deciding which one to go for. There is a wide variety from traditional English Breakfast, to green tea, to uncaffeinated options. The tea supplied is from a brand called Tea from the Manor, based in Denton, Manchester. It’s great to see a local brand being used!
I decided to go with a Chun Mee, a type of green tea. I generally go for something light in flavour so err away from fruit infusions as I find the desserts in an Afternoon Tea is all the sweetness I need from the meal. Sometimes I go for a plain green tea, sometimes I go for something more full bodied like an English Breakfast. Whichever you decide, there’s a tea for you!
The teapots used are a mixture of metal and glass, so be careful with those fingers! They are stunning looking teapots, having said that. The teapots came with mismatched teacups and saucers from which to drink your tea from.
Traditional Afternoon Tea
The Traditional Afternoon Tea arrived on a traditional three-tier stand; each one held a maximum of three person’s worth of Afternoon Tea goodies. Delicate finger sandwiches were placed at the bottom with the scones and desserts sharing both the top and second tier. These will of course vary with the seasons, like every afternoon tea.
I was very happy to see finger sandwiches, as I feel these are a staple of a Traditional Afternoon Tea. A mixture of white and brown bread was used, and our fillings include egg mayonnaise, smoked salmon and cream cheese, cheese and pickle and what I suspect were ham and cheese. Your sandwich options may be different, and if anything, I hope they are as the variety could have been better. Each sandwich as a standalone was good, however, I’m just picky with having variety and balance to my food.
The second staples are of course, the scones! These came served with the traditional clotted cream and strawberry jam. We had one plain scone and one with currents in; both of these were a nice size. The clotted cream was fresh and spread easily, whereas the jam was a little disappointing as it was too solid; maybe too much pectin?
Finally the desserts. We had pistachio and chocolate opera cake, sour apple macarons, vanilla profiteroles and raspberry bombs,. The pistachio and chocolate opera cake had nice even layers (Mary Berry would have been proud!) with a distinct pistachio and chocolate taste. The texture was perfect too. The texture of the macarons were ok, but I’m not overly fond of macarons except for the ones by Pierre Hermé (yes, I even dislike Ladurée macarons). I’m not so sold on the sour apple flavour of them either. The vanilla profiteroles were as expected, but still tasty and enjoyable. The raspberry bombs were probably my favourite from the selection, being light and fruity.
Savoury Afternoon Tea
When I went to the Courthouse, they were just perfecting their Savoury Afternoon Tea offering, due to launch on Mother’s Day (2018). They were considering calling it the High Court Afternoon Tea, which I thought was a rather appropriate name for it. We shall have to see if this happens. This was again served on a three-tier stand with croque monsieurs replacing finger sandwiches and savoury walnut scones complete with red onion jam and blue cheese cream. The croque monsieurs were nice and thin with a good quality ham inside, but no contest compared to the ones I’ve had in Paris. The red onion jam was perfectly sweet and acidic, the blue cheese cream is a cheese lover’s dream and those walnut scones complemented both of these but I could have also happily eaten these on their own!
The savoury bites consisted of chilli scotch eggs, savoury beef and Guinness doughnut, black pudding roll, lamb and mint pastie and potted shrimps. The chilli scotch eggs were good, with a nice amount of chilli that you can taste it, but not too overpowering, my favourite item on this plate. The savoury beef and Guinness doughnut were an interesting experiment, but needed further tweaking as the filling didn’t contain enough beef (or Guinness for that matter) and the sugar on the doughnut could be taken down a tad. The black pudding roll was as you would expect it. The lamb and mint pastie had a good amount of filling and was flavoured well. The potted shrimps were excellent and were the highlight to my fellow pescaterian eaters.
Overall Rating and Comments
7.5/10: -0.5 for my own confusion of where I was supposed to go. I knew I was to meet at the Courthouse and thought any entrance would do. I imagine others have found the Barristers Restaurant more easily than I did.-0.5 for the variety of sandwiches, more variety please! -0.5 for the macarons (personal scoring, sorry if you like all macarons) -0.5 for the croque monsieurs, -0.5 for the savoury doughnut, it is work in progress and the idea is intriguing.
There’s a lot that the Courthouse does offer both in terms of food and their events space. I’m excited to see how the hotel rooms turn out. Perhaps I can visit again and book into one of these rooms one day? Come for the food and the history!
Other reviews from the same event, to give you more opinions of the same Afternoon Tea experience:
Would visit again?
If I’m up Cheshire way, it’ll definitely be on the list.
Address: Toft Road, Knutsford WA16 0PB
Do you like Afternoon Tea? Which would you go for, sweet or savoury?
Leave your comments below!
I was invited to the Courthouse and did not have to pay for my meal. All opinions are my own.