When I first moved to Dublin, one of the traditional experiences I found most enticing was afternoon tea. In the States it can be difficult to find good scones or good tea, so to me, the tradition of sitting down for a couple hours in the afternoon to nibble on teensy sandwiches and scones sounded pretty damn attractive. It took me over two years, but finally, I sat down recently at the 5-star Merrion Hotel in the center of Dublin for an afternoon indulgence: Art Tea.
Art Tea is the Merrion’s interpretation of afternoon tea. This luxurious hotel is known not only for its prime location, excellent spa, and Michelin-rated restaurant, but also for its art collection. You won’t see a fake or a print anywhere in the Merrion – all of the pieces are real, unique, and add to the cozy feel of the hotel. The pastry chefs took this concept one step further by allowing the paintings to serve as inspiration for the 2nd course of their afternoon tea.
First of all, I made the reservation weeks in advance. When the day finally arrived, I was pleased to open my eyes to a sunny Saturday in Dublin (sometimes a rare occasion) and I immediately thought of the Merrion’s spectacular garden. When we arrived at 3pm, there was one table left on the sunny terrace. Beginning with a glass of champagne, I thought this was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon with girlfriends.
Each lovely detail added up to a stellar experience. From the genuinely friendly and helpful staff to the silver tea set, it was easy to see why it was difficult to get a reservation. Art Tea is divided into two courses: the first course is a three-tiered presentation of small sandwiches, scones, and raspberry preserves or lemon curd as sweet toppings. Everything stayed true to Irish roots, from the local salmon on Irish brown bread to the traditional scones.
After our tea was ‘refreshed’ (I liked this term) we moved inside for our 2nd course: the art pastries. Our server presented us with three cards, depicting pieces of art on display in the hotel. On the back of the card, the pastry inspired by the art work was described in detail. Then the pastries themselves arrived. They were just as delicious as they looked, but I must admit, I had most of them wrapped to bring home as the first course was enough food for the rest of the day.
Some splurges leave you feeling shortchanged, but this isn’t one of them. I was immediately seduced by the charms of the Merrion Hotel, and from now on, whenever anyone asks me for a recommendation of a special afternoon treat, I will point them in the direction of the Merrion for their Art Tea. I was reporting on Afternoon Tea for PlanetEye Traveler, click here for more details on the experience.