In this series of blogs, we will give our opinion about the Afternoon Tea destinations we infrequently visit.
Besides the food part, we will always take a closer look at the range of teas offered.
Marlfield House is set in the woodlands of Gorey in County Wexford.
On arrival, you are greeted by a warming fire and Roman, the sleepy cat in the armchair. Allow some additional time to roam the woods, the duck pond and the kitchen garden to take in the enchanting scenery and to build up a proper appetite. Don’t forget to look out for George, the majestic peacock whose very vocal outbursts will guide you to his location like a beacon at sea (see picture at the bottom).
Afternoon Tea is served in the conservatory or the drawing room.
It is a very classical approach with silverware and white linen, overlooking the well-kept garden. Service is highly attentive and accommodating and will ask for special dietary requirements.
The menu offers a selection of sandwiches, scone and pastries.
We got four different, freshly made finger sandwiches:
- Free range egg salad with rocket on white bread,
- Honey glazed ham with pear chutney on wholegrain brown bread,
- Smoked salmon with cucumber and horseradish cream on homemade brown soda bread.
- Free range chicken with herbs and aioli on focaccia bread.
We liked the range and the various tastes of each sandwich – each accommodating a different flavour and bread type.
Going with the conventional flow, your next target is the rather big-sized scone. The reassuring faint smell of the baking agent proves that the scone is home baked.
It comes with vanilla flavoured cream, berry jam and butter.
The ‘petite four’ on top included a small glass of vanilla mascarpone, frangipane (like a bakewell cake), chocolate cake and lemon curd tartlet.
Everything is beautifully presented on a 3-tier stand.
Before we go on the tea selection, I would like to mention something that has almost died out in modern hospitality. We noticed a well-dressed elderly Lady at the other end of the room. It turned out to be the (semi-retired) owner of the hotel who came to every table to greet the guests and to make sure nobody got left behind. One does not see this personal welcoming very often anymore and it was, therefore, all the more appreciated.
The Tea Menu
It is always a good sign that there is an actual tea menu. It offered a good choice of teas: Breakfast Tea, Darjeeling, Assam, Earl Grey, Pu Erh, Ceylon, Rooibos, Green Tea and Herbals.
A second look revealed simple but irritating mistakes:
Ceylon tea (colonial name of Sri Lanka, still used in the tea trade) is not from China.
Pu Erh is not a fermented black tea.
“Decaff” Rooibos is naturally caffeine free so not a decaf tea. This might sound like a technicality but actual decaffeinated teas still contain small amounts of caffeine (<0.4%) which the Rooibos does not.
Green teas should not be listed under “Herbal” because they are not.
These errors might not be noticed by everyone but they show a step-motherly treatment of the tea menu and, with the right guidance of the supplier, could be easily avoided.
I ordered the Darjeeling tea – always an indicator of what to expect from the rest of the tea menu.
I was shown a tea bag which content ended up in the teapot -without the bag. The colour of the liquid looked a promising golden brown only to be smashed by the slightly astringent but otherwise bland and tasteless flavour of a once proud Darjeeling.
I also tried the Pu Erh tea which I was happy to see listed on the menu at all. Again the colour seems to imitate the right idea but the taste revealed a lack of the earthy flavour and depth Pu Erh teas are known for.
There is some good news, however. My partner had a Green Lemon tea which was again just a tea bag but refreshing and easy to drink.
Going to other places I do not expect the quality of the teas on par with the ones we supply (I am not sure why not though). Seeing a dedicated tea menu alone makes me happy. Unfortunately, more often than not I am disappointed with the results. The tea menu in Marlfield House is definitely a step in the right direction. It is the flawed execution and the actual low quality of the teas that lets it down.
There is a lot of thought and care going into the sandwiches, cakes and scones. Why not into the teas?
The use of metal teapots is a bit of an issue for me and probably for every tea lover. Metal is simply unsuitable for teas due to the fact that some polyphenols can react with the metal material and give the tea a faint ‘iron’ taste. This applies mainly to black teas but might also affect others. Porcelain, China, ceramic or glass is always the better choice.
. George, the peacock visiting the guests.
Alone the beautiful settings of Marlfield House would justify a visit. If you are looking for a classical Afternoon Tea in proper luxurious surroundings and white linen service you cannot go wrong with Marlfield House. Taking into account the fair price of €22 for a satisfying meal, it is an excellent offering (there is an option for a glass of Prosecco or Champagne for an additional €7 or €16). Bring your parents, partner, friends or anybody you genuinely like and experience a proper traditional Afternoon Tea.
The only let down for us was the tea which did not match the quality of the food, service or surroundings.
Thank you for reading this far.
Martin - House of Tea
P.S. Since this blog was written in the late summer 2017 Marlfield House has changed their tea supplier and the quality of the teas have increased significantly. This has improved the overall experience and strengthens our recommendation even further.
Visit Marlfield House: www.marlfieldhouse.com
Booking a table as I right.....thanks for the tips! Love Afternoon Tea delights....