What’s not to love about ABode Hotel? It’s on the very cusp of the Northern Quarter, minutes away from the city’s biggest train station, and within walking distance of practically everything worth visiting in Manchester city centre.
Best of all, it looks superb.
Architecturally, it’s a combination of old school glamour, with grand fixtures and fittings that hark back to Manchester’s pomp, while also feeling thoroughly modern. It has a look that won’t go out of style.
Which brings us neatly on to the reason we’re here today: afternoon tea.
It’s a meal invented by English high society back in the mid-1800s and has never gone out of fashion. And ABode’s offering is precisely what the modern diner wants – enough traditional elements to feel elegant and satisfy those cravings for nostalgia, but with a number of smart modern flourishes that bring this time-honoured meal into the roaring 2020s.
First up, the tea itself. Served in two teapots, with teabags thankfully (life’s too short to fish tea leaves from your brew), with a mini pewter tankard of creamy milk, and a pot of brown and white sugar cubes. It’s precisely what you want from a good cuppa – appealing to the eye, and easy to drink.
But, of course, we’re all waiting for the main event, the reason we’re here today – the three-tier platter of snacks: sweet, savoury and everything in between.
We begin with the sandwiches. First, a classic egg and cress sandwich on beautifully light and fluffy white bread. Then we work our way through the smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, this time on a taste-appropriate brown bread – a touch more heft to the dough but just as soft and lip-lickingly delicious.
But the best of all is undoubtedly the ham hock and piccalilli sandwich. The ham is impressively thick – a more substantial slab of ham than you’ll find at any other afternoon tea in and around Manchester – and coated with a dab of piccalilli.
Now, piccalilli can be seen as outdated by some, but they’d change their mind after one taste of this. It’s sweet and sour, smooth and crunchy, all at once – a whole host of flavours that combine into something truly delicious. If ABode sold it by the jar, I’d leave with a bagful.
The sweet snacks keep up this level of quality. First, two pleasingly-pink macarons, practically lighter than air and with a glorious gooey centre. These are far, far better than any of their shop-bought meringue-based cousins.
Not to mention an espresso cup each filled with perfectly-made creme brulee (yes, the top layer cracks with a truly satisfying crunch), and a rich brown fruit cake topped with a blob of toffee cream and chunks of honeycomb. And, finally, a glass jar containing soft berries, thick whipped cream and a fat juicy raspberry on top.
And we’ve not even got to the scones yet. They’re exactly what a good scone should be – buttery, crumbly, packed with thick raisins, soft in the middle and firm on the outside from being baked in the oven for the perfect amount of time.
They come with a little jar of strawberry jam, a pot of rich clotted cream, and a little pot of butter. My guest today hasn’t tried scones before, to my surprise, but after one bite declares himself a total convert. As well he should, as these are a prime example of this classic English snack.
But ABode don’t just do afternoon tea well, they do everything well.
From our charming host who instantly puts us at ease, to the comfy seating and overall air of relaxed glamour, this is one of Manchester’s must-visit hotel spaces, whether you’re craving scones and tea or something a little more substantial.
And they offer some great packages, too, such as the Manchester City Hospitality Overnight Package, which offers footie fans a night in a luxurious room, panoramic views of the pitch, the chance to welcome the players as they make their way to the changing room, plus complimentary beers and snacks. A two-night stay includes a three-course dinner, too.
Afternoon tea at ABode is served from 12pm to 6pm. The full afternoon tea, described above, costs just £19 per person (you can choose between teas or coffees). For those looking for something with a little more fizz, the Champagne afternoon tea costs £26 per person and comes with a glass of Champagne.