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REVIEW: Richmond Tea Rooms, The Village

L'Oréal Blackett dives down the rabbit hole and finds great cake

Written by . Published on October 20th 2014.

REVIEW: Richmond Tea Rooms, The Village

I WOULDN’T say I was a fan of themed dinner parties. They tend to make me unruly, I’d sooner turn up at an ‘all-white party’ in a fire red frock and order anything but Prosecco all night.

I perched on one of the dainty seats and announced "When in Richmond”, excited to embrace all the Alice paraphernalia.  

Party themes serve up predicatable clichés - like Hawaiian Luaus with flower leis and fruit cocktails. But this winner of 'Best Tea Shop' at this year’s Manchester Food and Drink Festival, Richmond Tea Rooms, was to throw down my stubborn guard and win me over with its theme-rich attention to detail. 

Found on Richmond Street in The Village, the tea and cocktail house’s decor was inspired loudly by Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland - you'd probably have guessed.

Dsc_0732There's an Alice and Wonderland theme - if you hadn't already guessed.

The very old story of the curious little girl who fell down a rabbit hole and met a host of anthropomorphic animals (and is not in any way about LSD, of course), is a theme owners Nicholas Curtis and Andrew Underwood have ran with and gone wild. Most blame is afforded to famed eccentric director, Tim Burton, and the pair frankly admit they've gone 'OTT'.

The peculiar tale has coloured in every nook, cranny and beam in the tea room and your eyes do a dart-dance just trying to take it all in. 

The large room is decked out in red velvet, chess board walls elude to the Red Queen and her croquet gardens, there's ticking clocks of The White Rabbit and the main walls are brandish with 'Eat Me' and 'Drink Me'. There’s half an expectation that a fat caterpillar may blow smoke rings in your face as you sip from your tea cup.

In homage to my childhood favourite story (and favourite Disney character), I submitted to the madness without struggle.

Dsc_0750Richmond Tea Rooms

I perched on one of the dainty seats and announced “when in Richmond”, excited to embrace all the Alice paraphernalia.  

So, to Afternoon Tea. On a lunchtime visit I tried 'The Hatter’s Tea' for one (£10.50). I’ve always embraced the whole ceremony of Afternoon Tea, and while I’m no tea expert, I’ve met one and with her guidance I’m starting to develop a bit of a palette for black loose leaf teas. Here I’d try The Richmond Blend (£3.50 for one pot). It was strong, aromatic and soothing while staff kept my china pot filled. I buttered up my scone with cream and jam while a crackling solemn voice warbled out of an old gramophone. I felt like the Lady of the Manor.

Dsc_0736Lady of the Manor

On another visit I decided to have a look at the wider menu. There's a large brunch offering (served until midday), light lunches, Afternoon Tea and cakes and milkshakes. Open until 10pm they also serve cocktails. Still, unlike the decor, there was nothing offered to rock the boat. 

I ordered The Pie of The Day.

What arrived was a large chicken and mushroom puff pie with equally large chunky chips. Dipping into the pie I found voluptuous mushrooms and chicken in a meek and uninspiring sauce. There were no bold flavours to hone in on and it was all anti-climatic. Plus, I always feel cheated when I’m given a pie with pastry on top but none on the bottom (£9.25).

Dsc_0730Pie of the day

I followed with cake after hearing good things. I chose a carrot cake (£4.25) which the menu promised to have lashings of cream. Not only was it the size of my fist it was beautifully presented. The cream was spread artfully and the sponge was 600 feather thread count fluffy. I wish I had eaten less of the pie so I could demolish all of it. That cake could have kept me going all afternoon.

Dsc_0740Carrot Cake

Despite an underwhelming pie, Richmond Tea Rooms is packed at lunchtime with people of all ages. It's more than easy to see why. The eccentricity of the place enamoured me and it has set itself apart from anything else in the city.

I've always believed Afternoon Tea should involve a bit of theatre and Richmond Tea Rooms has that in abundance. 

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Richmond Tea Rooms 15 Richmond Street | Manchester| M1 3HZ


Rating: 13.5/20

Food and Drink: 6/10 (pie 5, cake 7.5, Afternoon Tea 7 )

Service: 3/5  - friendly and attentive although a little slow to serve.

Ambience: 4.5/5 - individual and theatrical.

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing, 14-15 worth a trip, 16-17 very good, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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AnonymousOctober 23rd 2014.

Took so long to serve me, I left without paying my bill.

Distinctly AverageOctober 31st 2014.

I don't know what everybody raves about with this place. The food is always distinctly average and the furnishings very poorly done the drapes are stapled up and all done on the cheap. Service is never brilliant either

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