The recent relaunch party of the Conrad Hotel caused quite a stir with breath-taking performances from “Cirque du Soleil” style acrobats, Fidget Feet, who entertained both guests and passersby with an aerial circus (yes they abseiled down the front of the hotel!). The relaunch of this well-known hotel was both innovative and exciting and the perfect way to show off their wares having spent €13 million on refurbishing the property. But can all the theatrics and aesthetics be backed up by the Conrad’s food offering I hear you ask? Well, in a word, yes. I popped along recently to partake of Lemuel’s afternoon tea and I wasn’t disappointed.
Name after the protagonist of Jonathan’s Swifts classic, Gulliver’s Travels, Lemuel’s Bar invites the weary traveler to rest and revive in delightful surroundings. The staff attend to your every need while remaining unobtrusive throughout your visit.
Settling in at a snug window table on a blustery mid-week afternoon, Lemuel’s was a hive of activity. Suits, briefcases and lots of coffee at nearby tables evoked imaginings of the most high-powered deals being negotiated. High business was balanced nicely with couples enjoying time together and friends talking and laughing over afternoon tea. Lemuel’s invites you in and embraces you in a cloak of contentment, an ideal spot to while away the hours.
There are three afternoon teas to choose from – the Classic, the Storyteller (includes a cocktail of your choice) and the Champagne (if you fancy a glass of Henriot Brut).
Before any decisions had to be made we were treated to a glass of blackcurrant and hibiscus. This was cool and refreshing and led my guest to remark that it brought a burst of spring to the proceedings, and indeed it did. As we were both driving, we opted for the Classic Afternoon Tea and our first job was to choose the tea we wanted. This turned out to be great fun as our waiter presented us with a tray of jars containing black, green, white and infusion leaves for us to choose from.
Opening lids, we were in our element as we checked out everything from traditional breakfast tea leaves to dried chamomile flower heads. Of course, it you are not a tea lover, you can always opt for coffee. With our tea chosen all that remained was to sit back, relax and wait for the main event. In no time, our pot of tea arrived accompanied by three tiers of delightfulness. Sticking with tradition, the afternoon tea has a savoury tier, followed by scones and cake and topped with an inviting plate of chocolaty, sweet treats.
We tucked in to the savoury tier which offered a variety of four sandwiches. The Burren smoked salmon was served with an avocado puree and caper berry and was packed with flavour, while the baked ham was topped with the sweetest tomatoes.
We were so impressed with Lemuel’s take on the traditional cucumber sandwich – serving it with a sun-dried tomato cream cheese is inspired. My favourite of all four was the free-range egg with chive truffle aioli served on delicious soda bread. Superb!
The next tier had both plain and fruit scones that were fresh, perfectly sized and tasted like a good scone should taste. Served with clotted cream and strawberry jam, the scones were delicious. A delightful surprise to accompany the scones on this tier was the hazelnut and praline tea cake. Rich, moist and packed with flavour, this is one cake I want to try again and again.
With a fresh pot of tea and having our teacups and plates replaced, we made our way to the top tier. This is where the chefs can let their creativity shine through and oftentimes, pastries on the top tier are akin to miniature works of art. Lemuel’s was no exception. However, there was no compromising on quality and taste in the name of art here as all of the goodies were top class.
The chocolate éclair was essentially the classic choux pastry but that’s where the similarity ends with a Tonka bean white chocolate, Chantilly filling, chocolate glaze and white chocolate scroll.
The dark chocolate Amerena financier – an almond cake filled with amerena cream was outstanding, and equally matched by the mouth-watering dark chocolate and strawberry tart (with a strawberry confit and balsamic chocolate sauce).
The only non-chocolate offering on the plate was also the most beautifully concocted piece on the plate and certainly added that ‘wow factor’ to the afternoon tea. For how could one not be impressed with a tower of raspberry flavoured meringues with white chocolate ganache and served with a pipette of Champagne? Nor was it a case of all design and no substance as each mouthful was delicious.
The hours past as we chatted away, interrupting our conversations at regular intervals to savour the afternoon tea delights.
While we didn’t opt for the cocktail afternoon tea, we found the cocktail menu most appealing and will definitely return to try them out. Our waiter did show us their signature cocktail “The Sorcerer’s Secret” but I’ll say no more about it because this is one you have to see for yourself! Trust me, you will be impressed. But it’s not just those cocktails that will impress you, no; the ambience, the friendliness, the afternoon tea, and the location all blend together to give you a wonderful experience to share with your nearest and dearest.
Classic Afternoon Tea: €38
Storyteller Cocktail Afternoon Tea: €46
Champagne Afternoon Tea: €52
Lemuel’s Lounge and Bar
T: 01 602 8900
Author of “Food from an Irish Garden”, Fiona Dillon lives with her husband and four children at Hunters Lodge in Co Carlow. Her recently published “Freddy Buttons” series of food adventure books for children (Orpen Press 2015) were written so that Fiona could share the food provenance message amongst young children. Her Freddy Buttons food-themed garden at Bloom 2015 won Fiona a silver medal.
One of Ireland’s best known food bloggers, Fiona documents her back to basics lifestyle through her blog www.fionadillon.com. She is also a feature writer for the Irish Farmers Journal’s Irish Country magazine. As Food Correspondent for KCLR96FM’s The Saturday Show, Fiona shares the latest food news from around the country with her Carlow/Kilkenny listeners. When she’s not busy giving talks on topics such as sustainable living or blogging, Fiona can be found tending to her honeybees or writing the next epic adventure for Freddy Buttons.