With the weather for August and the Edinburgh Festival looking more than a little damp, I hanker for the glorious sunny day when I had afternoon tea at the beautiful Greywalls in Gullane.
For those of you who don’t know of this stunning country house, it was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901 and built for the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, a keen golfer (I’m not). With its honey coloured stonework, gorgeous interior and a garden that has hidden nooks and crannies, it whisks you back to a more genteel era and I love it here. However, I digress; this isn’t architectural based ramblings, this is about afternoon tea in glorious surroundings, in the sun and with good company.
I have to confess that I am biased; pastry chef Ross Baxter received Pâtissier Gold Medal 2011 from the Scottish Hotel Awards, (I’m the principal food judge for SHA) and it isn’t surprising really, as he is under the wing of one of my food heroes, Albert Roux!
As a keen baker, cake to me is an important part of life; afternoon tea at Greywalls had been on my cakey agenda for sometime. So with a ping-pong of tweets with Alison aka @EdinburghCake, Ross and me, a day and time was confirmed.
The pair of us were lucky, with perfect weather for an alfresco indulgence in the gardens. We chose our teas and waited for the cake stand and sandwiches to arrive.
Our eyes lit up when the young waiter appeared with plates of luscious looking cakes, slices, macarons, scones and entremets (multi-layered mousse-based cake comprising of different complementary flavours with varying texture contrasts).
We started, as instructed, with the chocolatey, gooey cakes that would melt in the sun if left until last. This ended up as our favourite; different chocolate layers decorated with edible gold leaf. We ate with occasional murmurings of, “This is stunning!” or “I can’t believe how good these are!” But mostly we didn’t speak but mmmm’d an awful lot.
Next the macarons, one of my addictions. Tongue nipping lemon and a fragrant chocolate and passionfruit; some of the best outside Paris.
I loved the snow-white dome of meringue filled with a soft pistachio cream with an almond paste base. Topped with a fresh raspberry jelly and whole pistachios, it was so delicate, getting it to my mouth was a tricky operation as it crumpled between my clumsy fingers.
We nearly overlooked the sandwiches, which to us, were an afterthought, a nice afterthought, but a lovely savoury diversion to all the sweet delights presented to us.
It’s not usual to have a miniature dessert for after tea, but I liked the idea of this chocolate mousse, layered with strawberry compote, dreamy custard and cream. With no-one around, I have to admit I did swipe a finger round the inside of the glass – waste not, want not!
With another pot of tea, we finished with scones – one plain, one fruit both dolloped with clotted cream and homemade jams. Ross’ scones were light, moist and could give me a run for me money!
Unlike Alison who scoffed everything and still had room an hour and half later to polish off fish and chips in North Berwick (respect, girlfriend!), I was defeated by half a scone; oh the shame of it all.
So if the weather doesn’t improve and I can’t face traipsing around the city during the Festival, you might just find me snuggled down on one of the overstuffed sofas in front of a real fire indulging in another one of Greywalls’ glorious afternoon teas.
Please note, Ross kindly gave us extra cakes that aren’t normally included and when we came to pay, we were told it was on the house.
Full Afternoon Tea – £17.00 per person
French Afternoon Tea – £13.50 per person
Champagne Afternoon Tea – £26.00 per person
You can also have a game of tennis, putting or croquet (not as gentle as one would think –it can get quite vicious).
Tel: 01620 842144
(C) Lea Harris, Off the Eaten Track, 2001