Some hotels claim to be family friendly venues, but you’d sometimes be hard pressed to find a little one strolling through reception.
Castleknock Hotel, located in Dublin’s suburbs and very close to Phoenix Park, is a family hotel through and through, something that especially shines through when the hotel is hosting a number of events.
On the day myself and my good friend Niamh were enjoying Afternoon Tea, the hotel’s staff were handling not one, but two elaborate celebrations.
From the quiet and chilled out christening crowd, obviously aware of the sleeping star of their do, to the more raucous wedding celebrations in the adjoining area of Earth & Vine, as well as us regular customers enjoying a spot of afternoon tea, there was a lot going on.
Something I noticed throughout the entire two and a half hours I was there was that a smile never left the faces of staff members and they effortlessly managed the entire room like the pros that they are – from the tiniest guest in its pram to the more senior attendees.
I always judge a place on service first and from the moment of arrival, I knew I was in for a pleasant experience at Castleknock Hotel.
Earth & Vine is a bright and airy space, decorated with cosy leather couchs and subtle hues of green and orange. As we propped ourselves up on the cushions inside one of the restaurant’s booths, we opened the beautifully designed Afternoon Tea menu.
Kicking off proceedings with a bubbling glass of Prosecco, we almost forgot to order our steaming brew. Feeling a little bit like the winter chill is starting to affect me, I chose the classic peppermint tea – I’m a long time fan of its miracle features so it was a good shout.
Niamh, in a more autumnal mood, the winter chill having not quite reached her yet, opted for a burst of red berry. Fruity scents wafted from her cup and floated across the table.
As we were sipping our Prosecco and catching up on the week’s events, a fantastically presentated dual slate tray appeared before us.
This vibrant selection of sweet and savoury gleamed up at us, and my eyes already picked out their favourites – you do eat with your eyes first after all.
Interestingly, there was no chicken on the menu as per usual, with Castleknock opting instead for roast beef, ham and salmon selections.
We decided to start with the Traditional Egg & Cress in Brioche. This is a classic afternoon tea staple and while it’s never the thing that intrigues me, I feel I would be disappointed if I didn’t see it.
Next up was the Poached Salmon & Chive on Brown Soda Bread. Tasty and flavourful, it was a solid addition to the savoury tray.
The Roast Beef with Horseradish Mayonnaise on Beetroot Bread was more pleasant than I expected it to be. While some may find it “too bready”, the beetroot infusion really added to its flavour.
While I could handle myself like a lady, my companion is less graceful and having a childish moment, managed to get the mayonnaise on her hands. She probably would have preferred a top to the bun for this reason alone!
The Carmelised Baked Ham with Spiced Relish on Tomato Bread was the favourite savoury dish for us both. The ham, wrapped and filled with salad, paired with the relish on tomato bread was an indulgent bite that we wished went on for longer.
Taking a moment to compose ourselves before moving onto the scones, we ended up getting into a bit of a jam debate regarding the merits of strawberry versus raspberry jam.
You know you’re completely relaxed and at ease when the main thought floating through your head is whether raspberry jam is in fact sweeter and more satisfying than strawberry. Such is the beauty of Afternoon Tea.
Deciding to use both in the interest of fairness, the debate remained unsolved for another day. Castleknock hotel offers both plain and fruit scones as part of their Afternoon Tea selection – no doubt due to the picky nature of kids (former fruit scone avoider here).
The dessert section was, in a word, colourful. Visually appealing from start to finish, it was difficult to decide where to begin.
Deciding to let logic dictate, we started from the edge with the Roast Pineapple & Chilli Panna Cotta. Deliciously creamy, this Italian treat tasted as good as it looked.
With its mousse-like texture, the White Chocolate Delice was a fruity taste of summer, perfect for the rare good weather we’ve been experiencing this autumn.
After devouring the strawberry macaron before realising it was even on my plate, I turned my attention to the Chocolate Marquis and Pistachio Brittle.
Chocolate and pistachio are two of my great loves and when you add orange into the mix, you’ve got a winner on your hand. This velvety French dessert is a perfect choice for chocolate lovers.
And while they might not appreciate the intricate design of this dessert, the kids will adore the Jaffa Cake-esque flavours and textures present.
As a pastry lover, I felt that it was the only thing missing from the dessert section. I’m not the biggest lover of gelatin-based textures in my desserts and I would have loved something with a bit more crunch, however they are and were enjoyed by many and easily fit into the hotel’s family friendly ethos.
The jammy dodgers in particular, would have youngsters leaping for joy. As a matter of fact, neither myself nor Niamh had seen one of these biscuits in many years and did suffer a slight onslaught of nostalgia while devouring the little creations.
It was a busy Saturday, with a christening and wedding party both within viewing distance. The staff were incredible and oddly, from our corner in Earth and Vine, we barely heard the wedding party. It was only when you passed their area that a huge shot of noise reached you.
We had great intentions to go for a post Afternoon Tea stroll in nearby Phoenix Park, but after hours of indulgence, we were only fit to be rolled home. We’ll have to explore the hotel’s surrounding area next time.
Afternoon Tea in Castleknock Hotel is priced at €23 per person Monday to Friday or €26 per person on Saturdays and Sundays. A glass of Prosecco is an additional €10 per person.
REVIEW BY SARAH GLASCOTT