It’s not often you get to embrace your inner Victoria, but whether you’re Posh or Queen, there is a new Afternoon Tea experience you simply must indulge yourself with. Both Mrs. Beckham and HRH have graced the hallowed halls of Luttrellstown Castle, a previously private luxury hideaway set on 560 acres just outside Castleknock.
With a rich history dating back to the 1430’s, Luttrellstown is the former home of Aileen Plunket, great grand daughter of Arthur Guinness. Gifted the estate as a wedding present by her father, Aileen’s eye for opulence is evident throughout the grandiose 12 bedroom property, which has been sympathetically restored under the ownership of J.P McManus and John Magnier.
In its illustrious history, Luttrellstown has also played host to Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Fred Astaire, Queen Magrethe II of Denmark, Paul Newman and Ronald Reagan, and was until recently an exclusive venue for private hire. However, the red carpet has now been rolled out to the public, and you are cordially invited to indulge in the ritual of High Tea in one of Ireland’s most regal estates.
Greeted with coat tails and a fuss, you can embrace your inner royal as soon as you make your way up the tree-lined driveway, grace the high-ceilinged marble clad entrance and make your way to the magnificent Van Stry Ballroom. Doing just that, I settled in to a cosy corner of the grand hall, where a talented Pianist tickling the ivories competes with the delightful pop of Veuve Clicquot corks for my favourite background music.
Sprawling views across the lush green estate captivate me as I try to narrow down my tea selection, with a curated collection of 24 varieties on offer it is no mean feat. The first of the parade of indulgences arrives, a selection of classic finger sandwiches served before the sweet treats have time to distract you.
Bespoke teal China with gold rim, created for Luttrellstown, is reminiscent of Disney’s Cinderella, and it really is difficult not to feel like a Princess nibbling on dainty cucumber, honey glazed ham and cheddar and roast chicken finger sandwiches, alongside a cup of nicely drawn Pear Caramel tea. With notes of ceylon and buttery caramel, this kept my sweet tooth at bay as I took my time to enjoy the sensible part of the ritual.
Delicious Goats Cheese Crostini on tomato bread was light and flavourful (only enhanced by the Veuve) and Oak Smoked Salmon topped Guinness bread with horseradish was elevated with a clever twist of candied lemon zest – classic combinations, elegantly executed.
While you can’t help embracing your inner Victoria taking High Tea at Luttrellstown, there won’t be a dry Vickie sponge in sight when the tower of sweet treats arrives, stacked with temptation. That said, beautifully risen scones weren’t overwhelming in size – not too big, not too small, the Goldilocks zone of scones – with both classic and sweet White Chocolate and Raspberry crying out to be topped with irresistible clotted cream and local strawberry jam.
Even the butter had been given great thought, salted and served pleasingly softened in a ramekin for ease of slathering…when you are party to as many Afternoon Teas as I am you notice these little things – top marks. As a purveyor of banana bread, my standards are high, and Luttrellstown’s offering managed to be rich in buttery banana caramel notes yet delightfully feather-light – I may have asked for the recipe.
Sitting back and admiring the Beauty and the Beast-like frescoes and oil paintings, the grand dining room felt quite like a fairy-tale come to life and my next conquest, a selection of decadent desserts, certainly were like an oil painting, until my greed destroyed them.
‘Aileen’s Treat’ was described as strawberry shortcake but not as we traditionally know it, rather elegantly layered with Gran Marnier and peach to create a smooth and almost tropical mousse-like treat topped with a dainty Gran Marnier meringue and a petite Irish strawberry.
Potted Blackcurrant and Cassis Bavarois was espuma-light, both sharp and sweet, dotted with jewel like pistachios for texture. This one leaves you wanting more, which is the ideal afternoon tea sized treat – scraping the jar was non-negotiable.
Any day in which macarons are involved is a good one in my book, and Luttrellstown’s Hisbiscus and Orange Macarons even matched the china – oddly satisfying! These were deliciously chewy and vibrantly orange-spiked, with well balanced hibiscus which can be overpoweringly floral in some instances – not here, I thought as I nibbled happily.
Saving the best for last, a glistening mirror ganache-coated Chocolate Cake with William’s pear and hazelnuts was a triumph, crowned with a crisp marbled white chocolate tiara. Chocolate and pear is a most underrated combination, and this beauty, like an Opéra cake meets Pear Belle Heléne, was a fitting end to a splendid afternoon steeped in elegance.
Led by General Manager Ivan King, formerly of The Shelbourne, the team at Luttrellstown haven’t entered into the art of Afternoon Tea without doing their homework. Traveling to London, the team took in high tea at The Dorchester, The Ritz and The Savoy on an inspiration trip, in order to create a premier luxury Afternoon Tea here, in a setting and of a standard well capable of rivaling that trifecta of opulence.
For me, Luttrellstown Castle obliterated the classic yet creaky stereotype of properties this age, with a renovation which has maintained its heritage while embracing 21st century luxury. The breath-taking surroundings alone would be enough to tempt me back but add a decadent, delicious and well executed five star Afternoon Tea experience into the mix and Luttrellstown has royally excelled itself.
Afternoon Tea at Luttrellstown costs €45 per person, or €57 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne and is served on Saturdays and Sundays.
Luttrellstown Castle Resort
T: +353 1 860 9600
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.