22/02/14 - Richmond Tea Rooms

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which is one of my favourite children's books and one of the most celebrated of all time, with multiple adaptations of the story in various mediums and many of the references falling into everyday parlance.  And I thought it only right to celebrate this literary phenomenon in the most appropriate way I could think of; with lunch at the elegant Richmond Tea Rooms in Manchester.  I found this little gem in a book called Secret Manchester by Phil Page and Ian Littlechilds which is a wonderful read if you're looking for places to explore around the city that are a little off the beaten track.  There are likely to be several upcoming blog posts which have been inspired by this book, so keep your eyes peeled for those!

From the outside, the building doesn't look particularly special.  Tucked away down a side street near Canal Street, it isn't the easiest place to find.  But the wandering around was worth it because as soon as you step inside, it really is like going down the rabbit hole into a more magical place away from the dreary Manchester rain.

The decor is whimsical and certainly Wonderland-inspired, with nods to Tim Burton's quirky aesthetic as well as references to the original source material and John Tenniel's iconic illustrations.  From the floral gazebo in one corner to the teapot lampshades, everything about the room is a pastel-coloured delight with something new to notice every which way you turn.

The beautiful room is just a precursor to the excellent varied menu.  With an extensive range of teas to choose from, we opted for a pot of the house blend described as a "malty black tea".  I'm not really a big tea drinker but I really enjoyed this one and I think the presentation certainly helps...much better than a sad little teabag plonked into a mug.  There's something so sophisticated about loose leaf tea and the whole process makes drinking it even more enjoyable.

In terms of food, there is so much choice that it was pretty tricky to narrow it down.  I intend to go back again in order to have the full afternoon tea experience (complete with adorable tiered cake stand) but this time, we both opted for Alice's Rarebit.  You can't beat a doorstep slab of toast topped with cheese and mustard which a healthy glug of Worcestershire sauce for good measure.  The homemade chutney and side salad were the perfect accompaniment to a hearty warming lunch, while rain lashed the windows beyond our cosy retreat.

The atmosphere in the room is warm and rather comforting; the low level chatter from the other tables, the soft background music and the friendly staff all made for a very pleasant dining experience.  The service was very prompt and the whole experience was impressive...and we hadn't even reached the best part yet.

The cake cabinet caught my eye as soon as we entered the room and I was excited to get to the point of the meal where I could explore it properly.  After much deliberation, we selected coffee and walnut and it was an absolute delight - I could happily have eaten a bowl of just that icing, although I suspect it might have been a bit sickly!

Overall, the Richmond Tea Rooms provided a fantastic experience.  If you're a foodie, an Alice fan, or even just in the area and fancy something a bit more exciting than your usual Costa, I would highly recommend a visit!

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