Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Countess of York - Afternoon Tea at The National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum is one of the attractions in York that isn't completely extortionate in price, in fact it's free.... although donations are welcome (suggested at £5 per person). I've visited the railway museum before, albeit a few years ago now, but never did I know that inside there was a rather special place to enjoy afternoon tea.

The countess of York is a refurbished dining car that can be booked for afternoon tea or group events, I was lucky enough to be invited by the National Railway Museum to try out their afternoon tea. Not one to say no to afternoon tea or a leisurely trip to York I hopped on the chance to go.

The Countess of York is sandwiched (excuse the pun) between the Great Hall and the Station Hall approaching it from an underground like tunnel (of smaller proportions). Seating is available on the platform (covered) or inside where you're greeted by elegant furniture and old photographs of dining cars of the past.

We arrived at 12pm and were the only people there, a lovely waitress welcomed us and asked us where we'd like to sit, so nice to have a choice!

D's afternoon tea face - either that or he's doing the Joey thinking face 
Tea menus were brought out first and being the adventurous souls we are we both chose English Breakfast tea, well you know... a scone just doesn't quite taste the same without it.

The tea was served in elegant silverware with matching crockery, none of this shabby chic decor that is currently a theme in most tea rooms. D is fast becoming well trained in the art of afternoon tea and without any prompting this time poured himself a cup of tea without pouring all the tea leaves in to his cup at the same.

Rather speedily after we had been served our tea the cake stand was brought out to us, the promptness of it surprised me. I guess there is a reason to book ahead, no waiting around!

Each tier was explained thoroughly to us and we soaked it all in wondering where to start, the bottom of course but which first the sandwiches or the tart?

Afternoon tea of dreams 

The sandwiches were: free range egg mayo and watercress; honey roast ham and English mustard; chargrilled chicken and basil pesto; cucumber and cream cheese.

Two more surprises, the sandwiches were incredibly fresh and didn't have a stale side to them at all, something that is present with nearly every afternoon tea I've had. As soon as you cut bread it starts to go stale, they either had just cut these or they have some magical formula to keep them from going stale. The second surprise, no salmon sandwiches. A big sigh a relief for myself and D, neither of us are fans and they are ever present at so many afternoon teas.

A nice addition was the sun-blushed tomato and mozzarella tart, D started with this first whilst I chomped my way through the sandwiches. It was nice and not quiche like at all, but it was incredibly filling so I left a bit to save room for the sweet stuff.

The scones are home baked to a traditional Yorkshire recipe served slightly warm with a vanilla enhanced clotted cream and berry jam.

I couldn't fault the scones at all, they were just the right size too and D managed to not disintegrate his in to a million pieces as he normally does.

D still needs to work on how to hold a tea cup, he doesn't understand the pinky rule 

The top layer, the treat layer. I love this layer. You can't go wrong with mini desserts.

The top layer consisted of strawberry and creme patisserie tart; white chocolate and raspberry eclair; lemon and blueberry drizzle cake; passion fruit posset and a couple of macarons.

I dove in to the posset first, a shot glass is not enough. I was scraping the sides rather loudly with my spoon to the point D started to frown at me and I realised I was being less than elegant. The mini choux buns were spot on, fluffy pastry and jam packed with filling. The cake wasn't dry, something I often dislike with loaf cakes but sweet and moist. The patisserie tart was dainty and perfectly form, it seemed a shame to spoil it by biting in to it, I pondered this for a moment before deciding it deserved to be ate and ate I did with all but one mouthful.

There were two macarons and we halved them allowed each other two try both flavours. One of the macarons was chocolate brownie like whilst the other was more lemon curd.

Only one other table came into the carriage whilst we were there, a table of four from an older generation. The atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon was quaint and pleasant with the sun shining through our window... all we needed was a film roll in the background to make us feel as it we were really transported back in to time and having afternoon tea on an old steam train.. instead of staring at other people eating their home packed sandwiches in what can only be described as storage containers.

Unlike other afternoon teas I've enjoyed I didn't leave with a sugar and tea hangover hankering for something savoury (and water) to settle me and let me function normally again.

Traditional afternoon tea comes in at £22.50 per person and if you fancy a glass of champagne too add an extra £6.50 each.

It's a perfect treat for your mum, your gran, you and your girlfriends or a day date with your fella. Once you've eaten (or perhaps before) you can also take a wander around the museum and marvel at the history of the train. See how it's changed through the years, take a sneaky peak in to how royalty travelled and how the Chinese have really trumped us with their gigantic trains (pictured below). A lovely day out.

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