Tam's Tales

- Tam Takes Tea at Gleneagles Hotel

Gleneagles Hotel

Coming to the Boil
'Afternoon tea' can range from a rushed cup of the coppery liquid out of a mug up to an almost Zen like ceremony with a range of teas and a variety of foodie goodies. Afternoon tea at Gleneagles Hotel is distinctly in the latter category. Well, at £29 (that's nearly $50 if you're an American tourist) you do expect something above the ordinary.

On making the booking the day before our short expedition the hotel told us that "there was a slot at 4:30 p.m.", delivered in a manner suggesting that negotiation was not on the cards.

In the event we rolled up a little earlier and that gave us the welcome opportunity to stroll in the immaculate grounds. This also had the desired effect of revving up our appetite and the level of anticipation. Our particular kettle was coming to the boil. Our suspicions that the 4:30 slot was some sort of a bluff were soon dispelled as being wide of the mark - the large and elegant lounge was doing a roaring trade. The tall blonde lady in charge whisked us off to our table where soon the small dark waitress took charge.

But Where Are The Scones?
First off we were offered a small but chunky piece of smoked salmon which was served on a saucer with a small amount of an accompanying sauce which complemented the fish perfectly. Things were looking up. The room was well appointed and the decor was fresh. The other guests were obviously in fine spirits,

At this juncture I would like to explain the various usual options for a traditional Scottish afternoon tea. It tends to have two main bits. There are the worthy starters, perhaps some thinly sliced sandwiches. Then there are the slightly more exotic scones and pancakes, often served with butter and jam. The event is then rounded off with a selection of cakes, some of which might be draped with gaudily coloured icing that will give you a distinct kick as your metabolism struggles to handle the newly found sugary spike.

In fact whole the combo of flour and sugar should be approached with some caution and possibly restraint. Both my wife and I are aficionados of a well-crafted scone and for me home made raspberry jam adds to the enjoyment even further.

The Gleneagles blurb promised scones. But the three layered cake stand which accompanied our tea seemed to have everything but these comestibles.

Short dark waitress assured us that the eggs in the sandwiches were free range, the smoked salmon and chicken sandwiches were organic, hand reared and generally lovingly crafted. Yes, I exaggerate, largely because I could not make out all of the description, but the key point is valid. These were not just any old bits of flour. There was a prawn vol-au-vent alongside a small croissant with smoked salmon. The tiny sausage roll which looked dodgy but tasted wonderful; atop this gourmandish pyramid were two oatcakes.

An oatcake is a traditional Scottish sort of dried biscuit. Usually these are about the diameter of the base of a standard wine glass. However the Gleneagles ones were more the size of a large coin. It seems a bizarre homage to nouvelle cuisine or some sort of ironical piece of performance art or something. We boycotted them.

The room was great. Tastefully decorated in a style which made some reference to the hotel's Jazz Age antecedents and with a pleasant outlook, everyone seemed to be having a good time as the waiting staff bustled.

Sandwiches and tea consumed, we were pondering the key question of the moment: "Where were the scones?" We thought that the menu had listed scones, but the waitress had whisked that away as she had taken the order.

By the times we had drunk two cups of tea and a selection of sandwiches and savoury accessories we thought that was that and were preparing to leave, when the waitress scuttled back bearing was appeared to be two small dishes with a dessert on them.

"Mango crème brule," she explained.

I screwed my courage to the sticking place.

"Oh, I have a question," I enquired, preparing the ground carefully.

Her eyes widened. Goodness knows what she thought was coming.

I then popped the question.

"Do we get a scone?"

She thawed, in fact she even smiled.

"Oh yes. I'll just get the scones and cakes now."

Gleneagles Pars the Course
Soon our eyes were on stalks as another three plated cake stand appeared with several scones, pancakes and a variety of cakes.

It was all too much. We tried to attack the new goodies but we could not inflict more than a glancing blow at Part II so Gleneagles had defeated us roundly. We were full.

The treat had been a present from Tam Jnr, who now lives abroad. He called us the following day to find out how things had gone. His first question was: "How were the scones?"

I told him straight - the scones were wonderful. He laughed as I described the preceding build-up.

More on Gleneagles
There is a Windows Media Video Slide Show with pictures (by Tam and Gleneagles Hotel) of some of the wonders of Gleneagles, including its golf course, falconry school - and the odd scrumptious cake. The accompanying music is the Bocccherini Guitar Quintet #7, played by Luigi Attademo and friends.

If you are thinking of afternoon tea at Gleneagles - or a longer stay, see The Gleneagles Hotel Web Site.

Tam O'Ranter
November 2009

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