We managed to snag an afternoon tea for two at the Royal Crescent Hotel courtesy of Maximiles.co.uk (I had been saving my points up for a while for this one). It granted us an afternoon tea for two people worth £25 each, and we were rewarded with a languorous afternoon in a beautiful setting.

You of course enter via the famous Royal Crescent in Bath, a semi-circle of Georgian houses that have been inhabited in the past by such luminaries as Isaac Pitman, George Saintsbury and Thomas Falconer. Service at the front desk is slick, polite and smart, with us being immediately directed through the door and across the garden to where afternoon tea is served. This took us across a beautiful lavender path and into a tastefully-decorated salon, where the purple theme is wonderfully continued alongside shades of taupe and green. (In spite of the sunny picture above, it was a rather blustery day when we visited, so we opted for indoor seating.)

The sleek service at the hotel’s main entrance was contrasted by the slightly more bungling service inside the salon. The waiters did not seem to know what to do with our voucher and for a brief moment I did worry that they wouldn’t accept it and that we’d end up paying the £50. Now, on the one hand, I’ve been there and done that: I worked in all manner of service professions (waitress, hotel receptionist, cashier…) while a student, and can still recall the horror I would feel when presented with something unusual that I just didn’t know what to do with and that a more experienced member of staff had to deal with for me. This is normal part and parcel of any job. HOWEVER – we also redeemed another voucher recently via the exact same method (purchased using points via Maximiles, and then redeemed via http://www.buyagift.co.uk before booking with the retailer in question) in order to book a hotel room for November with The Marquis at Alkham, and their guy knew EXACTLY what to do with the voucher. So my point is this: if the establishment is going to offer such a voucher scheme, then why not train your staff properly in how to process it?

Anyway, once we’d got settled (and, to be fair to the waiters, they did do their best), we were talked through the entitlements of our voucher and the offerings of the afternoon tea. The £50 in question got us a pot of tea each (Lapsang Souchong for me, a more traditional English breakfast for him), and a three-tiered tray of sandwiches (on the bottom tray; including salmon and egg fillings), cakes (on the second tier) and scones and buns (the crowning glory). The tea was all very well, although I have seen more care and attention taken in tea rooms in Bath town centre, which provide individually-set timers for the steeping of each teapot (for example). The sandwiches, too, were crust-free and more than acceptable taste-wise, but fairly standard fare (comparing favourably to the similarly-priced afternoon tea served at the Randolph in Oxford). The only downside was the egg filling – my dislike of eggs meant my sandwich with this filling in it had to be passed to my husband.

This didn’t actually matter, though, as we had skipped lunch in favour of this occasion and were glad we had: the amount of food didn’t look like very much on the tray, but with at least 2 or 3 sandwiches each (it may have even been more like 4), 3-4 cakes each and then a scone and a Bath bun each, the afternoon tea at the Royal Crescent, even at its most basic level, is like a meal in itself. Upgrade, and you can get extra pastries, cheesecakes, tarts, champagne and strawberries thrown in too.

The Bath bun, with its intense load of sugar packed atop it, was delicious but a messy eat – utilise your napkins to the full, people. And while the scones were served with raspberry jam (what’s up with that? Only strawberry will do for the uber-traditional scone consumer), they too were delicious and satisfying. If the hotel had wanted to continue the traditional theme, Sally Lunn buns could have also been included. However, the selection of small cakes served was delicate, beautifully decorated and not at all sickly (in fact, the whole thing went down very nicely). By the end we were STUFFED – you certainly get a lot of tea and food for your money.

Our afternoon was complemented by the discretion of the waiting staff (we in no way felt harangued, harrassed or hurried) and the views over the gardens, which were unobstructed and clearly visible from our seats. We did not experience the poor service experienced by other reviewers, either, and for the full afternoon tea and sumptuous setting, we would certainly return. However, if you want a more low-key tea and cake, try any one of the excellent city tea rooms.

The Royal Crescent Hotel
16 Royal Crescent
Telephone: 01225 823333
Fax: 01225 339401
Email: info@royalcrescent.co.uk