When we arrived at the Marine Hotel in North Berwick, the opulent reception and lounge area of the hotel was flooded with bright sunshine, our eyes naturally drawn to the stunning panorama of the coastline. From the wall-to-wall windows you could see from Fidra Island to Bass Rock, with the Firth of Forth shining a brilliant blue and the golf course in the foreground.
We were here for that favourite of grannies and hen dos – afternoon tea, a new addition to the menu here. We were led by a friendly member of staff to our comfortable window seat and ‘tee’d off’ with a glass of Champagne, always a good start to anything.
The only choice to make was which tea you would like, which certainly keeps things simple. We ordered an English Breakfast and an Earl Grey, though caffeine-free options were available, and sat back to enjoy our fizz and the view, until the afternoon tea itself was put into shot and demanded our attention.
When you think of afternoon tea, those tiny sandwiches with the crusts cut off always come to mind, and this was typical of the genre. While the fillings of duck egg, smoked salmon and roast beef were very flavoursome, the bread itself was a little dry. However, the ‘Pork and haggis sausage roll with Arran mustard mayo’ was exceptional, leaving us wishing the other savouries were equally creative.
In contrast, the ‘sweets’ were definitely above par. Four mini scones formed the next course, two fruit and two plain, with homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream, the only acceptable type for a cream tea. A choice of jam might have been nice, but strawberry is traditional and the scones were definitely up to scratch, with the perfect, slightly doughy quality.
The other sweets were thoughtfully conceived, with a good balance of textures and flavours. Usually sickly sweet, the Macaron’s sweetness was tempered with ginger, lemon and clove, while the Chocolate and caramel rocher had a pleasant dark chocolate bitterness. The Almond, praline & orange blossom tart was deliciously light and nutty, alongside a decadently fluffy citrus hit from the Chestnut & mandarin mont blanc.
Ultimately, the beautiful surroundings were the real stars of the show. At £39 per person for the Champagne afternoon tea, this is perhaps at the top end of the price range, but for special occasion, I can’t imagine a more indulgent way to spend the afternoon (Di Spencer).