Pump Room vs. Royal Crescent
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to serve your scones with just champagne, so we must also consider the contents of the teapots. At both venues, the selection was wonderful and the staff very happy to make recommendations, but we think the Pump Room just edged it with their Earl Grey Lady Blue, a beautifully floral, perfumed tea that’s perfect to serve with cake.
Next up, it’s the battle of the savouries. It’s tough to beat a good finger sandwich, and both acquitted themselves well on this front, but both also made the effort to go above and beyond. At the Pump Room, we absolutely loved the poached salmon shot with crispbreads (in fact, we both ended up scraping out the shot glasses with teaspoons) but I think the Royal Crescent wins the day with their imaginative range of savoury afternoon tea options. You can go for an almost completely savoury afternoon tea, The Duke of York, or do what I did and pick the Elizabeth Montagu, which combines the traditional cakes, scones and sandwiches with a delicious selection of warm canapés. Special mention must go to my absolute favourite, kedgeree with spiced mango yoghurt.Now, of course, we come to the crux of the matter – the sweet dainties. As you might expect, both of these beautiful venues really stepped up to the plate on this one. The macarons at the Royal Crescent were gorgeous (particularly the rhubarb and custard) but the chocolate and coffee opera cake at the Pump Room was also fabulous (the solid chocolate coffee beans were a lovely touch). However, since the Pump Room also included my absolute favourite thing, tarte aux fraises, I have to give them the point here.
Although the quality of the afternoon tea itself is crucial, it’s nothing without those who serve it. We were thoroughly impressed by the staff on both occasions, who were always pleasant, knowledgeable and happy to help. However, we did feel that the staff at the Royal Crescent were just a little more attentive – there weren’t quite enough people working at the Pump Room for the number of diners – so the Royal Crescent wins here.
Finally, atmosphere – if you’re going out for a champagne afternoon tea, you want it to feel like a seriously special occasion. The Pump Room has the chandeliers, the pianist, and the view of the Royal Baths, and the Royal Crescent has possibly the most beautiful, tranquil garden in Bath. It’s impossible to choose. I think, really, it depends what you’re after. If you’re a tourist looking to immerse yourself in the history and splendour of Bath, then you probably want the Pump Room – visit the Baths first, and round off your afternoon tea with a glass of the famous spa water to cure all ills. If you’re a resident of Bath seeking to celebrate a special occasion, go and wrap yourself up in the sumptuous elegance of the Royal Crescent, a little quieter and less touristy. There’s not much that compares with arriving at the great golden sweep of the Crescent and stepping through the doors of this famous hotel – it’s the very last word in refinement.
Images Copyright Sal Godfrey / Sal’s Kitchen