As we continue on our mission to find the best afternoon tea in Leeds, we sent our reviewers to check out The Tetley. Here’s what they thought…
On a lunch time, The Tetley can be quite busy, as the workers from the surrounding offices treat themselves to a nice lunch out. But on the day we visited, the sun was out, in a very British ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ kind of way, so we pulled up a pew at one of the picnic benches. We were the only people brave enough to do it, with everyone else choosing the warmth of the bar over the ominous clouds.
Afternoon tea is fairly simple at The Tetley. You can have the humble Cream Tea for £5.50, which offers a tea and a scone with jam, clotted cream and butter, or the ever-so grand High Afternoon Tea for £10.25, which has a whole lot more going on. Needless to say, we went for the latter.
Ordering was simple and done in a flash, so we were back at the table in minutes, with two miniature pots of tea following shortly after. The pots are rather petite, much smaller than some of the other places we’ve been to in Leeds, and as we waited for the rest of the meal to come out we found ourselves working our way through the entire pot.
Twenty minutes later, we were sans tea, and wondering where our food had gotten to, when the waitress came out and apologised profusely – lots of people had ordered at once, ours had got lost in the bunch and they wanted to offer us some free drinks to make up for it. Personally, I find this kind of response to a mistake to be quite refreshing, so we ordered a couple more teas, while silently doing the maths of how fast we’d have to eat to get back in our lunch break.
A pot of tea and another ten minutes went by until we finally got our food, so we were downright ravenous by the time we started tucking in. The Tetley’s afternoon tea is a good looking spread, but it has to be said, it’s smaller than some of its competitors. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s also cheaper, and the amount of food on our plates was akin to one of their platters, so it was a decent lunchtime feed.
You get four open sandwiches, served on toasted but otherwise bog standard sliced bread. They’re fairly flexible, so we opted not to have egg mayo sarnies, choosing instead to get a double dose of one of the others. So I found myself with two smoked salmon and cream cheese, alongside a ham hock and chutney and a cheese and tomato.
I don’t know about you, but up until this point, I didn’t think you could go wrong with a cheese and tomato sarnie, but they managed to surprise me. The fresh tomato was covered in a weird, gloopy mass that, until they confirmed it, I really wouldn’t have believed was cheese. The texture was… disturbing. I decided not to finish that one straight off the bat, and while my partner in crime did, the expression on his face while he chewed was a picture.
The other two sandwiches were much more successful. The smoked salmon was so loaded with cream cheese that it was messy to eat, but tasty as hell, while the ham hock was perfectly matched with the sweet chutney. I’ll be honest with you though, they’d both be better on a slice of French bread.
From here, we moved onto the cakes. We got a slice of sticky toffee, a flapjack and two teeny tiny squares of brownie, but they give you something different every time, so you might well get something different if you decide to go. The sticky toffee was, well, not to my taste, but my little friend enjoyed it, noting that it was more akin to a Jamaican ginger cake than sticky toffee.
The flapjack was much more my thing – it was just the right level of squishy, deliciously sweet and gone all too soon. I definitely would have had another one of those over the sticky toffee, or indeed, the brownies, which were rich, chocolatey and nice enough, but completely bereft of the gooeyness that makes a brownie magical.
And so, we arrived at the final ingredient in our afternoon tea – the scone. The presentation, it has to be said, is impressive. The board comes with a whacking great dollop of jam, two half strawberries and a perfectly round scoop of clotted cream. All of these things come in very generous measures, so there’s absolutely no chance you’ll run out.
But as soon as we sliced into the scones, we saw the problem – they started to crumble, leaving the table looking like we’d just had a food fight (thank God we were outside). They were quite dry, but they were also very tasty – and with so much clotted cream and jam to go around, we didn’t have any trouble polishing them off – or indeed, enjoying them.
The whole time we were here, the staff were nice, friendly and fun to talk to – and when things went wrong, they went out of their way to make it right. That’s a mark of a good team if you ask me – everyone makes mistakes every now and then, it’s how you deal with them that matters.
And yet, The Tetley’s afternoon tea is still a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, it’s relatively cheap, it doesn’t overload you with food and it has the feel of a picnic or a platter that covers both main and pudding. But on the other, it doesn’t really have the ‘luxury’ that I’d expect from the traditional afternoon tea experience.
The result is that I wouldn’t discount it if I was having lunch here, I might even order it when everyone else was just getting a main, but I probably wouldn’t come here if I was after the full, all singing, all dancing decadent afternoon tea experience.
The Tetley, Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ.