Liam Rudden: Afternoon tea at The Signet Library

Afternoon tea at Colonnades
Afternoon tea at Colonnades
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AFTERNOON tea. Whoever invented it was a genius. Actually she wasn’t.

Scandal may have attached itself to Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford and lifelong friend of Queen Victoria (as a quick squint at Wikipedia reveals), still, nearly 180 years later her legacy, a ‘filler’ between ‘luncheon’ and ‘dinner’, remains a mainstay of hotels everywhere.

Having always been partial to an Afternoon Tea myself - it brings back great memories of afternoons spent with my old lady - a highlight of the Fringe has long been a trip to The Signet Library, behind St Giles.

Until this year, I had to wait until August to enjoy the delights of Colonnades, formerly the Pommery Champagne Café Bar, set among the ancient law tomes of The Signet Library. Not any more.

Colonnades now offers what is arguably the best Afternoon Tea experience in the Capital all year round.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile, such a serene setting could have been purpose built.

Settling down at an impossibly clear mirror-topped table, our formally attired server added an extra sense of occasion.

There is an element of stepping back in time, like taking tea at Downton Abbey, yet without any of the stuffiness that implies.

That sense of occasion is heightened further by friendly staff eager to demonstrate their knowledge of the refreshments on offer, whether that be the teas, coffee, nibbles or Champagne... Pommery naturally.

There’s even an Signet Blend of tea available, produced exclusively for the venue. A perfect mix of Assam and Ceylon black teas it is smooth and easy to drink. No milk required.

The bite-sized savouries and cakes, served with the obligatory scone, cream and jam, are served on what is described as an “elaborate silver tiered stand.”

Now at the risk of making you hungry, after an amuse bouche to start the experience, you will discover the following on the silver stand: Parmesan fritta with own tomato salsa, gin infused smoked salmon in a cucumber cup with dill crème fraiche, haggis bonbons with whisky mustard and crème fraîche sauce, Applewood smoked cheese celery tartlets, mini-Aberdeen Angus beef burgers, egg mayonnaise sandwich with quail eggs and caviar, and a ham, tomato and Arran mustard sandwich.

For those with a sweet tooth, a glass of fizz goes very nicely with the Peach melba, passion fruit and mango jelly, raspberry and white chocolate éclair, Belgian chocolate and salted caramel tartlet and the bramble mille feuille.

Lovely little packages of complimentary flavours that prove more filling than you might imagine.

Of course, no Afternoon Tea is complete without a scone, clotted cream, and in this case strawberry and champagne jam. Butter too if you request it.

And just when you think there can be no more... a refreshing sorbet appears to cleanse the pallet and bring the curtain down on what is easily one of the Capital’s most unique experiences.

Afternoon teas start from £50 for two and are served Sundays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm.

For more details visit