We stepped back in time at the Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom, but just how good is their afternoon tea? We sent a reviewer to find out…
It might have been the hottest day of the year so far, but on Wednesday afternoon, the people weren’t deserting the independent hub of Grand Arcade just because it’s indoors. Roots and Fruits was bursting, and so was Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom, our destination for a spot of afternoon tea.
It was such a lovely day, that it felt a bit stuffy inside the cafe, so we chose to take a seat on one of their outdoor tables underneath the sunlight beaming through the glass ceiling. We grabbed ourselves one of their super cool menus, which come inside a vintage gatefold LP and it wasn’t two shakes of a cat’s tail before one of the waiting staff popped outside to take our order – which is impressive, considering how busy they were.
Thankfully, we’d prepared, and knew exactly what we were having. It was an afternoon tea for one for my partner, and I was pretty damned excited about trying out their Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea, one that steps away from the indulgence, and heads more towards a Ploughman’s Lunch.
You get a local ale with the latter, I chose Ilkley Brewery’s Mary Jane out of a choice of three, while my dining partner decided to liven it up by adding a glass of rose Prosecco to go with her Yorkshire cuppa. The drinks were over in a couple of minutes, and they were quickly followed out by our food – which came out on these glorious old tiered stands, decorated in patterns that will send you back to the good old days.
Now I’ll begin by admitting my mistake. Both of our afternoon teas come with a selection of four sandwiches which are written clearly on the menu, and the staff here do make a point of asking whether you’re happy with the selection written down, so if you’re not you can make a change. But, too eager with my hunger, I declared I was happy and missed the fact that one was cream cheese and cucumber.
Now, I really don’t like cucumber, and I did give the sandwich a go, but it just wasn’t to my tastes. My dining partner on the other hand did enjoy it, and while the egg mayonnaise and cheese sandwiches did the job they’re supposed to, the stand out here for both of us was the hand-carved ham. It was thicker slices of ham than usual – certainly none of that wafer thing cack – and when brushed with a slather of the chutney that came with it, it really did go down well.
Once the sandwiches were finished with, I set about the rest of my Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea. Next up was the thing I was most excited about – the pork pie. Luckily for me, I wasn’t disappointed. The sturdy, but inviting pastry case enveloped a delicious pork filling, that tasted like it had been cooked this morning – it’s something I’d certainly go back for. With a handful of salted crisps, and four pickled onions on the side, my hunger was well and truly sated.
There is certainly something to be said, however, for having a nice, cold beer with your afternoon tea. The Mary Jane I had plumped for is an old favourite of mine, and as ever, I wasn’t disappointed and it went down surprisingly well, especially with the majestic pork pie.
The thing with afternoon tea though, the element that always adds a little indulgence to proceedings, is always the cakes. My afternoon tea, which admittedly came in a couple of quid cheaper, did feel a little underwhelming alongside my dining partner’s. Thankfully, she very kindly cut me a sliver of the scone and fruitcake, but I can’t help but think, that adding a scone to the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea would make it even better, even if it knocked up the price a bit.
Regardless of my own downfall, it’s safe to say the scone was a roaring success. It came topped with clotted cream and a heap of jam – and I have to say we both thought it was absolutely delicious. It was just a plain scone, which is great for those not fond of sultanas in theirs, and it was incredibly soft, not at all dry – an absolute winner.
Just Grand! are ones for the old school, and the other element was the fruit cake, which came with a chunk of Wensleydale on top. For some, fruit cake and cheese might seem a little strange, but if you don’t know, it is actually a common occurrence with afternoon tea on both sides of The Pennines, and once you’ve given it a try you’ll see why. The fruit cake was packed full of fruit, no surprises there, and it was really quite tasty. It was complemented rather nicely by the chunk of Wensleydale, although it might not be to all tastes, admittedly.
All in all, the two afternoon teas came to a grand total of £26.75, which is certainly not shabby, especially when you consider that there was a glass of fizz and a beer involved – if you want to go Prosecco-free, it would only have been £22.80, which is great value. And that’s what Just Grand! does really well. It doesn’t offer the glitz of some of the more luxurious places that do afternoon tea, but it does a traditional, and generally very tasty take on it at a decent price, and in a setting that’s incredibly relaxed.
Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom, 8-9 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.