Glasgow, we know how to afternoon tea.
Sure, Edinburgh and London have their fancy pants spreads, all cucumber sandwiches and bitesize cupcakes. But you only have to take one look at the historic Willow Tearooms (more on that to follow) to realise that we know our way around a scone and a hot brew – and we’ve been perfecting the combination for more than a century.
The trend of afternoon tea is still going strong, and whether you have yours authentic loose leaf in vintage china or with a side of fizz, there are plenty of options for Glasgow girls (or boys) who lunch.
So here’s our pick of the daintiest bites and mammoth cake slices alike, all served up how we like ’em; in three tiers, with plenty of jam and cream to go around.
The Hidden Lane Tearoom
— Gillian Loney (@LaLaLoney) March 9, 2015
How to make tea and cake even better, lesson one: throw in a hearty dose of vintage charm; mismatched tea cups and pastels everywhere – enough to make the retro lover in your life lower her cats eye glasses and swoon at the sight. Lesson two: add booze – bring your own, make use of The Hidden Lane’s fridge space and pop bottles like it’s er, 1959 (that was a good year too, right?) The Hidden Lane Tearoom lives up to its name, and is something of a secret among afternoon tea fans – find it, and you might never want to leave. But even if you do, goody boxes are available for any leftovers left over (although: shame on you). (1103 Argyle St, G3 8ND, thehiddenlanetearoom.com)
Pastrami with walnut or tarragon chicken sandwiches, pink lemonade cupcakes, chocolate chilli explosion tea or herbal blend peachy cheer…do we have your attention? Thought so. There are two Cups in Glasgow; a tiny shopfront on busy Byres Road, or the B-listed city centre lounge; worth a visit for the surrounds alone (although the cakes are pretty good. Head to the lounge and you can upgrade your afternoon tea with prosecco, cocktails, gin and tonic…and we’re sold. (71 Renfield St, G2 1LP and 311 Byres Rd, G12 8UQ, cupglasgow.co.uk)
The Corinthian Club
Afternoon Tea at The Corinthian was lovely! pic.twitter.com/7cVb79hFDR
— Mahreen Iqbal (@IAm_Melo) March 3, 2013
The jewel in the Merchant City‘s bling-tastic crown, this former bank is a sight to behold. Add booze and scones and we’re never leaving – you have been warned. Fresh vanilla cream and jam are served alongside those bad boys, as well as dainty finger sandwiches and a selection of prim and proper cakes. Taking mum for a posh day out? With a definite ‘ladies who lunch’ vibe, this is your venue. And it’s a bar so, as mentioned, booze is in plentiful supply. Nothing says girls day out like cake, fizz and the gleam of a chandelier or 10. (191 Ingram Street, G1 1DA, thecorinthianclub.co.uk)
Grand Central Hotel
Now we know that when it comes to afternoon tea, it’s possible you’re after the moist sponge, the cucumber sandwich, the delicate aroma of a fresh brew. But the world of hospitality has deemed it necessary to quaff bubbles with your cake – and who are we to argue? If you must indulge, and then indulge some more, then a champagne bar seems the ideal setting. Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel has gone full circle from old world glamour to a tad tatty and back to modern chic – and it’s another one for the girly day out. Champagne Central overlooks the station allowing for prime people watching, all while tucking into scones with clotted cream (keep your whipped stuff – this, it has to be pointed out, is essential for top marks on the afternoon tea scale) and sarnies, all made even better with a little bit of bubbly. (Glasgow Central Station, 99 Gordon St, G1 3SF, thegrandcentralhotel.co.uk)
The Cup & Saucer Vintage Tearoom
The Cup and Saucer vintage tea rooms off Byres Rd in Glasgow. Great food (and tea!)+decor, music to sustain the vibe pic.twitter.com/ysTsVRDc2b
— Eimear Monaghan (@Teagmhail) November 29, 2014
Prefer your brew just like gran would have made it, tea cosy and all? If the city centre is a flashy bit of bling then the west end is your nan’s string of pearls – and that’s no criticism. Nestled up in De Courcys Arcade, Cresswell Lane, The Cup & Saucer is a real slice of retro charm, all mismatched china and furniture befitting the chicest granny you could meet. As for the eats, it’s quality brews and freshly baked cakes all the way, from peanut butter bundts (be still our sweet-loving hearts) to fluffy meringues. Did we mention the rocking and rolling soundtrack to accompany your afternoon tea jaunt? Toes tappy, belly happy. (De Courcys Arcade, 5-21 Cresswell Ln, G12 8AA, facebook.com/thecupandsaucertearoom)
The afternoon tea is good – that goes without saying. But allow us to take a break from slavering over hot tea and cool cream to give you a bit of a history lesson. Glasgow’s Willow Tea Rooms are a tourist attraction as beautiful and significant as any castle or monument – but with cake. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Sauchiehall St tea room was commissioned in 1901 by Glasgow’s bearer of brews, Kate Cranston. There’s a replica of the original Buchanan St one too, but most will flock to the first for a glimpse of architectural and interior wonders. How many tourist hotspots can you have your tea in? Point made. (217 Sauchiehall St, G2 3EX, willowtearooms.co.uk)
The butterfly and the pig
— Angela C Redpath (@southlanarklass) June 28, 2015
Hello, quirky goodness. The butterfly and the pig (and, more recently, the southside version) delights food fans and boozehounds alike with its toile de jouy wallpaper, its eccentric menus and that feeling that you’re never far away from a decent quality doily. But have you ever noticed those glass cabinets chock-full of cake? Of course you have – you’ve drooled near them on many an occasion. True to granny chic form, the B&P also specialises in afternoon tea, tipples to go along with and even a high tea menu (fish and chips followed by a slice of that cakey goodness? Don’t mind if we do). There are private rooms available in the city centre tea room, making afternoon tea that bit more special – and did we mention those thick slabs of cake? You can thank us later. (153 Bath St, G2 4SQ and 1039 Pollokshaws Rd, G41 3YF, thebutterflyandthepig.com)
Wild Cabaret & Wicked Lounge
Wild Cabaret and Wicked Lounge have many faces taking you from daytime eats to nightfall treats – as the name might suggest. But we’re here for the tea and cake, thanks – although a side of cabaret is a pleasant surprise. The sweets menu changes according to the whims of the pastry chef, the sandwiches are as sumptuous as the place name suggests and there’s a heavy dose of entertainment to go with all that gold-plated Merchant City opulence. Champagne to boot? Why the hell not, we say – you deserve a dose of the good stuff with all those baked goods to scoff. (18 Candleriggs, G1 1LD, wildcabaret.com)
Main image: The butterfly and the pig