An Afternoon to remember in Ireland’s Ancient East – Johnstown Estate Afternoon Tea Review
The recently refurbished Johnstown Estate Hotel and Spa in Enfield, Co Meath is a suitably quiet spot to while away a few hours and indulge in the quaint offerings of traditional afternoon tea.
Located between the villages of Johnstown Bridge and Enfield, and enveloped by 120 acres of lush green parkland, the Johnstown Estate Hotel and Spa is not more than 35 mins from Dublin city centre but is a very convenient drive on the M4. Enriched by its location on Ireland’s Ancient East, the Estate overlooks the River Blackwater that flows along the border of Meath and Kildare.
This is an impressive 18th century Georgian ‘gentlemen’s country house’, with architecture that boasts fine examples of rococo ceiling and ornate plasterwork over doors and architraves. The overwhelming feeling as you step inside is everything you would expect from a fine country house built for entertaining in high society. From the greeting of Dubarry country boots in the front hall, to the duck-egg grey décor and dazzling ‘ice cube’ reflecting chandelier that fills the Atrium, the feeling of generations gone by is effortlessly mixed with the modern in this tasteful redevelopment.
However, we are not here to marvel at the masonry, but rather to taste the delightful fancies of the Johnstown Estate Traditional Afternoon Tea and infuse as tea might, while dreaming of a time when the pinnacle of entertaining one’s guests was offered up in triple-tiered treats served in grand drawing rooms. The atmosphere is relaxed and the wait staff are friendly and well rehearsed. The Atrium beckons and we are seated beside a grand piano to a table setting of crisp white linens and tea condiments already anticipating our arrival.
The rules of Afternoon Tea are followed as we are shown an extensive choice of teas, but as it happens we order coffees and wait for the main event. There is a tendency to giddiness when the waiter arrives with a three-tiered cake stand, but afternoon tea is full to the brim with whimsy and wonder and long may this curiosity continue! The three plates represent each course with tea or finger sandwiches as the first course, then scones and finally a selection of delectable tea pastries.
The first course consists of oak-smoked Irish salmon on a rustic brown bread, a delicious Limerick ham (smoked over juniper berries and branches) with wholegrain mustard, egg mayonnaise and chives and the famous cucumber with cream cheese, gloriously served on a soft white mini bap.
We are bowled over by the Limerick ham and I adore the delightful cucumber offering. As tradition holds both the portion and quantity are light and serve as a savoury-filled introduction to the sweetness to follow.
The second course of ‘warm traditional plain and fruit scones’ served with clotted cream and a raspberry jam is plentiful and we find it challenging to restrain ourselves from over indulgence. At this point we also order tea, choosing the Irish Afternoon variety and the Lemon and Elderflower. I must say I don’t usually drink anything other than Barry’s Tea but the Lemon tea was a perfect accompaniment for the experience.
The Oscar Wilde quote ‘I can resist everything but temptation’ springs to mind, when we finally tuck into the tea pastries. The chefs selection includes a rich but also light chocolate mouse, lush cheesecake, warm chocolate brownies, mini raspberry tarts, caramel slices and macarons. The desserts each hold their own and my favourites include the mouse and macaron. There is flair and attention to detail in these creations with dashes of colour that bring a freshness and modern twist. It is a feat in itself to resist and leave the pastries to last when you are essentially eyeing them the entire time, but alas we have reached the end of our afternoon and request a take away container for what we can’t possibly consume – and I remind myself that I can quietly enjoy them with that cup of Barry’s when I get home.
The Traditional Afternoon Tea is served daily from 12pm until 6pm and costs €26 per person – to also indulge in some bubbles, a glass of Prosecco costs €8.50.
For bookings, call +353(0) 46 954 0000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Review By: Órfhlaith Ford