Ooh I love a bit of afternoon tea, it’s the height of sophistication when done well. I’ve had a few experiences of this indulgence with differing reviews in the past, and have been wondering for ages if there was anywhere decent in Leeds to partake in this pastime. The best was Fortnum and Mason; simply a perfect, classic experience. Everything was picture perfect, that day we had High tea, so I remember very distinctly having the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had, then a selection of PERFECTLY made sandwiches and pastries. After which, we selected some delectable cakes from a tray of absolute gems, brought around by a perfectly dressed gentlemen. The tea was also a revelation, I love a good cuppa, but I’m a PG tips or Yorkshire Tea girl. I’m certainly not a tea connoisseur, but that afternoon I selected Russian Caravan, a white tea from their World Tea selection which was light, slightly fragrant and still comforting like a good cup of tea should be. My subsequent trips to Fortnum and Mason have always included buying a box of Russian Caravan to bring home with me. I loved that whole afternoon because it felt like an event and always remember it fondly.
On the flip side for a trip to Glasgow, I’d researched the best places for afternoon tea and of course there’s the famous The Willow Tearooms, but I didn’t want to go for the obvious this time. Instead I chose The Butterfly and the Pig because I’d read great reviews, and I liked the idea of it having a quirky charming side, as well as doing great cakes etc. Everything was spot on about the decor and the quirky charm, but we came away disappointed after having sandwiches with very dry bread, just a few cakes to choose from what was a much bigger list. Then I was also very surprised to be watching TV programmes on an LCD screen attached to the wall, it really wasn’t what I was expecting. We had an ok experience, but my expectations had been so much higher.
So saying this I’ve been wanting to do afternoon tea in Leeds for so long, my friend Lucy Reynolds had just written about The Queens Hotel, saying it was just ok. I’d thought about other locations, such as Harvey Nichols, The Food Academy at Flannels and Browns. What about something independent, anything Leeds based!!! Who does great afternoon tea near me?? So this is me in search of the perfect afternoon tea in Leeds.
Well I visited Just Grand!, a vintage style tea room, at the bottom of Handpicked Hall in the The Grand Arcade. It’s been open since August and every time I’ve driven by or walked passed it’s been busy. For those of you who don’t know Handpicked Hall, it’s a multi-levelled space containing many different independent traders.
They want you to step back in time as you walk in, they have created a space that reminds you of a time decades ago, the 40’s and 50’s. There are homemade delights like cakes, scones and sandwiches on offer, but also specialist loose leaf teas and vintage soft drinks like Sarsaparilla and Cream Soda. All of this while music harking back to the good old days plays in the background.
Their version of afternoon tea consisted of 4 sliced sandwiches – hand carved ham, cheddar cheese, free range egg mayonnaise and cress, cream cheese and cucumber. On balance it may have been good to have another sandwich with meat, e.g. beef and horseradish or smoked salmon and cream cheese to even the choice a little more. There was a large scone, they had 3 varieties to choose from; I chose the standard fruit, which came with the essentials – butter, clotted cream and jam. Some fruit cake and a wedge of Wensleydale cheese was also part of the mix. They had a nice selection of loose leaf teas to choose from, but I stuck to good old Yorkshire Tea that arrived in a pretty china pot, and was also unlimited. A nice touch!!
Everything I ate was good, the sandwiches were freshly made, with soft bread and good fillings. I think if I was to go again, I would just select specific items though, rather than going for afternoon tea as I am fussy and didn’t eat each item. I don’t care much for fruit cake and I’m not really a cheese fan, so the cheese sandwich, fruit cake and Wensleydale I left. Not sure what the salad garnish was there for either, that’s just fussy me though!!! I’d definitely go back for the scones which were lovely, and try the other cakes too. It certainly had a quirky vintage charm, the staff looked great in their vintage garb, and the ambience was livened up by the music in the background.
For £9.50 it’s pretty good value, the place is relaxed with lovely people. I’d recommend Just Grand!
Food: Sandwiches were good and they serve great scones!!! Maybe could do with more meat options in sandwiches. Even start doing more savoury items like Eggs Benedict, Welsh Rarebit etc for High tea.
Service: Friendly and attentive staff.
Atmosphere: Relaxed environment, quirky charm about the place.Just Grand! Handpicked Hall Grand Arcade Leeds 01937 541783 http://www.fun-keyfunctions.co.uk/190-2/ http://www.handpickedhall.co.uk