It’s often said that Dublin can be heaven with coffee at eleven and a stroll in Stephen’s Green but I put it to you that Dublin is also heaven in the Clyde Court Hotel*, formerly the Berkeley Court Hotel; especially when one is there in the capacity of a paying customer.
It’s been three months precisely since I first indulged in the very English custom that is afternoon tea in the Clyde Court. It was a Christmas present from my beloved. Naturally, I ordered coffee, she ordered tea and so a latte and a pot of tea were served in no time at all by the very professional staff. This glorious spectacle was in turn followed by a three tiered stand of freshly-cut sandwiches on the bottom layer, cakes of all shapes, sizes and calories on the second layer and finally upon the top layer; two scones that came with jam and clotted cream or “Butter Only”, if you’re originally from the surrounding hinterland that is Dublin 15.
Historically, afternoon tea was served as a light meal between 4pm and 6pm and observance of the tradition originated amongst the wealthier of classes in 1840s England. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, afternoon tea developed into its current form and was observed by the upper and new middle-classes. To this day, in hotels across Ireland and the UK, the table is set with the best of everything and even the most famous of bulls in china shops are encouraged to act like a lady or gentleman, a master or miss and thus we’re transported to a more genteel time.
I first savoured the delight of afternoon tea in The Shelbourne Hotel when I was eleven years of age no less. Was I a pampered child? You might think that, I couldn’t possibly comment! My mother no doubt thought it a necessary diversion away from my building blocks (Lego) and she was probably right. As a little Lord Fauntleroy, I thoroughly enjoyed that experience and I have lived way beyond my means ever since. I can remember the entire experience as if it were yesterday. Afternoon tea for one was ordered at the shocking price of ten pounds. My mother still talks of the extortionate price to this very day. I sat in a wingback armchair soaking up the ambience while an elderly lady played Mozart or something of that sort on the grand piano. There was none of this newfangled pipe music. Those were the good old days!
What’s great about afternoon tea in the Clyde Court is that it’s a good introduction to the practice. It’s also affordable in formal but conventional surroundings. It’s afternoon tea the Irish way. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. One is fully aware that it’s 2015 and that we live in a Republic of Ireland when one takes tea at The Clyde Court Hotel and that’s the way it should be. One no longer has to show deference towards the crown. This is not the Victorian Era as some hotels in Dublin would have you believe with their dress codes and what not. Live and let live I say. So for an afternoon delight, I suggest a trip to the Clyde Court before night!
*As of January, 2016, this hotel has sadly closed.