Huge fans of Cloud 23’s plush setting and gorgeous views, we decided to check out their afternoon tea offering, which we’d heard was one of the best in town. Recent twists on the standard afternoon tea have included a pink and purple afternoon tea for cancer research (pictured above) and, more recently, the spook-tacular Halloween afternoon tea with plenty of seasonal sass (see pictures below).
We were lucky enough to try this last seasonal offering, although we hear there’s probably a Christmas-themed afternoon tea being cooked up as we write which promises a jolly Yuletide indeed. Consider this our review of their expert matching of ingredients and colours to suit a seasonal theme, as well as of the general high standard of their afternoon teas and service – whichever time of year you visit.
Firstly, Cloud 23 offers a very glamorous experience for anyone hoping for a break from the bustle of Deansgate and the city centre. Once you swish into the lavish lobby at Hilton Manchester Deansgate, you’ll find an express elevator all the way up to the 23rd floor where the restaurant-bar overlooks the rooftops of some of Manchester’s most iconic buildings. Glide in and be propelled towards the stars.
As soon as the lift doors opened, we were greeted by the restaurant’s exquisitely mannered staff and given a seat in the vast floor-to-ceiling windows. This was where the visual excitement began and set the tone for the foodie delights to follow.
All guests booked in for the afternoon teas can drink unlimited tea and coffee for the duration of their visit. So, in the spirit of meeting the sumptuous view outside with an equally eye-pleasing tea, I started with the Double Dragon Pearl flowering tea (an additional £1.50), which promised an exciting and beautiful cuppa. This came quickly, so that I could see the petals unfurl slowly while waiting for the food to arrive. Watching this drink brew was like ballet in a cup – superb.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for theatrics, and this tea proved to be an inviting flourish among the clouds. The petals opened and the flavours were released, and from the right angle you could see two dragon’s heads rising from the middle. Sipping the tea, I was greeted with a light, floral taste that was exceedingly quaffable. I recommend this tea to anyone.
My partner ordered the Venetian rose, which was a more understated affair, but no less delicious. It turned out to be a flowery drink with a slightly pungent note which gave it the strength of a black tea – and therefore justifies the addition of milk, if you want it. We tried it both with and without milk, and the votes were evenly split between which was best – so go with your heart or try it both ways.
When the afternoon tea itself came, the chef had clearly found some unique inspiration from this holiday’s colour palette. What we had was a seasonal flurry of colour, suggesting pumpkins, bonfires, ghouls and gore (in the most tasteful way possible, of course). The Pumpkin Cooler cocktail that accompanied the food was a tasteful blend of El Dorado five-year, apple schnapps, lemon, cinnamon, cranberry, pumpkin puree and a dash of Angostura bitters (if you’re driving, give half to your dining buddy!). It was a delicious accompaniment, and fairly strong too, so you can afford to sip this one slowly.
You can see from the range of items on offer, there was plenty to be getting on with. The savoury dishes included a petite butternut squash and nutmeg quiche, which suffered only for being so small (which, considering the number of dishes you get, is actually a blessing in disguise…). Next up was the prawn cob with a suitably sepulchral-looking black lemon and mayonnaise. If you’ve had prawn mayonnaise on a baguette before, this won’t be anything surprising, but it was a creamy treat and looked great. The Russian salad and beetroot wrap suggested cartoon horror, with its bright pink-red colours, but the taste was the opposite: a pure delight. The paprika chicken and guacamole wrap was perhaps my favourite, although my partner preferred the Red Leicester and sweet pickle.
For our sweet dishes, we kicked things off with the tangy lime tart. Witchy green, the chef had cleverly decorated the cake (rather like a key lime pie) with white chocolate buttons that looked like eyes. These were my favourite dish of the bunch, with the citrus serving as the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness. My partner preferred the more traditional fruit scones, which trounce the ones we had a few weeks back at a local ‘tea room’ which crumbled to bits. These ones were firm but yielding, so that they could be cut in half without scattering your table in crumbs, and served with Dorset clotted cream and jam. Besides these favourites, there was a richly decadent chocolate mousse with chocolate cookie crumb, suspended in caramel. Only the size of a shot glass, this was neverthless a lovely treat and goes down well with a fresh espresso. Last but not least was a red velvet cake wit cream cheese frosting that crackled wickedly in the mouth.
The service we had, it must be said, was impeccable. Our server was friendly and well informed, leaving us to feel pampered and spoiled without being harassed. He struck up just the right amount of conversation and ensured we didn’t go without teas or coffee.
If you get chance, you should check out the marvellous afternoon teas at Cloud 23. The afternoon teas start at £25, with champagne options available from £35.
To make a reservation, call 0161 870 1670 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively book online via cloud23bar.com.