I love the tradition of proper afternoon tea. Impeccable service, starched tablecloths, someone tinkling the ivories, fine china and silverware and an eye-watering bill to finish. But this has always involved a trip up to London where they have a wealth of options for the experience. Brighton just doesn't have the same attitude to luxury, I don't know why, we just don't seem to do it in the traditional sense - if we do it's always with a twist or quirk and that suits us just fine.
Which leads us onto the newly launched Afternoon Tea at The Salt Room, who are still flying high from that glowing review by Jay Rayner. The interior here is refined with a healthy dose of on-trend industrial aesthetic. Everything is well considered and the staff are stylish and professional in equal measure. Instead of a crisp white jacket and a plummy accent, our waitress had soft pink hair and a flower tucked behind her ear and had such a brilliant demeanour, both charming and fun, that she genuinely added to the experience.
Every head in the room turned as the stand was brought in topped with two candy floss (could it scream Brighton any louder??), the visual is certainly impressive and a nod to The Salt Room's now infamous Taste Of The Pier dessert plate. Noone could help being impressed with this, it was absolutely beautiful.
Starting with the fish-based savoury layer, the Crab Scotch Egg was fragrant with tarragon and a nip of chilli and worked perfectly with the sweetness of the crab meat. I think Truffled Grilled Cheese is quite possibly the nicest things you could put in your mouth. Anything truffle and I'm in - this was glorious and such a welcome break from the finger sandwiches you'd expect. The Salmon and Squid Ink Bun was striking but somehow needed something, more seasoning maybe or more of a hit of flavour in the bun as it diluted the salmon and horseradish filling. A pig to eat was the Aged Beef Tartare & Egg Yolk Jam Sandwich, served between two crisp pastry layers that shattered on bite impact, but utterly, utterly delicious. Egg yolk and raw beef is a classic pairing but reworked into this little gem was inspired.
The little scones, served with home-made clotted cream and strawberry elderflower jam were the perfect size, not too filling and the only real nod to tradition. Still, I was happy they were there.
The sweet layer is a picture right? The crowning glory of the event. Present were the Chocolate Pebbles everyone seems to go crazy for - sugar coated chocolate truffles that are too sweet for me but I'm not a huge fan of chocolates (give me another slice of that truffled grilled cheese any day). Sadly our Rhubarb and Custard Macaroon had disintegrated into the plate - maybe we had been talking too long. Shame as they were nicely flavoured and the dehydrated rhubarb shards that topped them deliciously tart in themselves. Disappointing was the slice of heavy and claggy Pistachio & Raspberry Battenberg, I'm not really sure what the issue was here but Paul Hollywood would have pulled one of his faces for sure. Whilst I think they probably need to bring the sweet elements to the same exceptional standard as the savoury, we ended on a high with the most beautiful Orange & Yuzu Posset, really refreshing and light, served in a delicate meringue case.
I have to say we didn't sample any of the tea - why would you when the bar here is one of the best in town and there's a Champagne option. Plus, I was with the effortlessly stylish Alexis from Style Memos - a dear friend and one serious social influencer, and meeting her always calls for a celebratory drink to supplement our hundred mile an hour chatter.
The teas are from JING and there is a reasonable selection or you can opt for a gin and tonic, Champagne or sweet wine (nice to see an ice wine on the list) or a tea-tail which is a cocktail with tea infused gin and vodka.
As the afternoon tea here is fish based I chose a Gin Mare which is becoming a bit of a favourite. It's slightly savoury with Mediterranean herbs and olive notes and served with samphire. Perfect choice for the savoury layer of food.
Price-wise it's a fraction of the cost of what you'd pay in the capital and excellent value for money too, starting at £24.95 with coffee or tea, £29.95 with gin and £34.95 with a glass of Taittinger Champagne.
I always get asked for afternoon tea recommendations in Brighton and historically struggled, but now there are a few decent options (none in the main hotels you would expect). This one here at The Salt Room would certainly be up there, particularly for its celebration of the city and position by the sea.
The Salt Room
106 King's Road