The Tower Hotel, Lincoln

6 May 2015

Despite proclaiming it as the greatest food invention ever at Christmas, my opportunities for afternoon tea have been disappointingly sparse this year. So when Katy, my favourite northener came to stay with me in Lincoln this week, it seemed a perfect time to rectify this and spend an afternoon catching up over tea and cake.

It's easy to get complacent about the city you live in and forget just how lucky you are but a trip up to see the cathedral and reminisce about our graduation there, and a walk around Lincoln's bailgate area left me feeling very lucky to live in such a beautiful place (although we did feel pretty sad that our lunch wasn't being sponsored by the student loans co anymore).

We finished our exploring with a stop at Lincoln's Tower Hotel for their afternoon tea. It's a relatively unimpressive building given its surroundings on Westgate, just a short walk from castle square, but still made a very pleasant and relaxed spot for spending a Saturday afternoon. The interior itself is a little dated, with some quite garish wallpapers (fake bookshelves, just what every tea party needs...) but it was comfortable enough and everyone was very welcoming during our visit.

The afternoon tea is £12.50 per person and has to be booked at least 4 hours in advance, so you need to plan ahead if you want to visit. When we booked the day before we were advised that they had a large party occupying most of the restaurant that day, but when we arrived I was pleased to find our table was tucked away in a cosy corner booth (I'm a big fan of anywhere that has both cake and cushions) so it actually felt very private and I hardly noticed the birthday party happening elsewhere in the room.

We started off with a pot of tea each - earl grey for me and english breakfast for Katy. I would have liked to see an afternoon blend, given it was for their afternoon tea menu but they did have a reasonable amount of choice on the tea menu. They actually get the teas from St Martin's in Leicester which I reviewed a few months ago. It seemed a bit of an odd choice to get tea from the opposite end of the region, given that a lot of the food menu was very Lincoln themed (and Lincoln has a fair few tea and coffee suppliers) but the St Martins teas are great quality and to get loose leaf from an independent supplier is definitely better than most hotels or similar venues that I've been too in the past.

We started with sandwiches, a mixture of ham and piccalilli, salmon and cream cheese, and egg mayonnaise. As I've mentioned before, I'm really fussy with sandwiches so I only ate the ham but I was really impressed with the homemade piccalilli, it had great texture and wasn't too soggy, which I think can be a big problem with sandwiches. 

Next we had Lincolnshire plum bread with melted Lincolnshire poacher cheese (this was an extra £3.25 for two slices). Despite living in the county for nearly five years now, I'd actually never tried either of these before and they were probably my favourite part of the tea. I wouldn't have thought to mix a sweet fruit loaf with cheese on toast but the strong flavours of the melted cheese was a really nice contrast and this had me spending hours looking for plum bread recipes this week. It also ignited a lengthy debate with some other friends about the reason it's called plum bread since there aren't any damn plums in there. Does anyone know the real reason? Please let me know if you do.

After these we finally allowed ourselves to move on to the sweet courses. First the scones, which were a great consistency but had been cut into rectangles instead of circles, giving them some very crispy sides and just generally proving everything I knew about life to be a lie. They were tasty, but I felt very suspicious of them. Between the shape, and the compulsory how to pronounce scone/cream or jam on first debates that all afternoon teas have to include, these were some pretty controversial little snacks. Our scones came with clotted cream and strawberry jam from Jenny's Jams of Lincoln - a fantastic local business success story and a lovely soft jam that was the perfect consistency for spreading on scones before or after cream.

Finally we were treated to some miniature desserts in the form of a slice of chocolate brownie with crème chantilly and a blueberry and poppy seed sponge. Both desserts were very nice but I think my favourite was the brownie which was quite rich and gooey with a lovely crispy brownie top. 

I really enjoyed our visit to the Tower Hotel, the staff were lovely throughout and even with the restaurant being very busy we still had a really peaceful and relaxed afternoon tea. For more on their afternoon teas check out their website here.

Disclaimer: Tower Hotel did not know I would be writing about our visit and all opinions are my own.

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