I visited with two friends for a girly catch up on a summery June afternoon. We parked in the beautiful nearby village of Cong, Co. Mayo and strolled through woodlands, past the river, where swans and cygnets could be seen, before the majestic castle came into sight.
|Our walk by the river|
We were brought through into the fabulous high-ceilinged Connaught Room with art work on the formally wall-papered walls. The tall windows give the most amazing view out onto the castle's manicured gardens and beyond onto Lough Corrib. What a magnificent view! We were seated at a window table for three but the table was just a little on the small side, especially as we all ordered a different tea, which was delivered each in its own pristine silver teapot.
|Our view from the table|
|Gorgeous comfy chairs and tables set for Afternoon Tea|
The menu is comprised of the more traditional afternoon tea fare, which suited me just fine and which also suits the setting perfectly. The standout sandwich for me was the most unique of all we were served - it was the chicken and mayo with flaked almonds and it was a joy to behold and to eat! Served in a circular shape on the freshest of white bread, the outer part was adorned with lovely flaked almonds so it almost had the appearance of a biscuit. It was pretty much perfect I must admit.
|Chicken sambo extraordinaire!|
|Ashford Castle's three scones selection|
|Dishes of clotted cream, strawberry jam and lemon curd|
The pastries were probably brought out a tad too early as we chose to eat these last and perhaps it would have been better if these had arrived mid-scone eating. One of the pastries, a lemon tart with summer berries was a little too melty when the time came to eat it but it was very tasty nonetheless. At the same time, the way Ashford Castle serves its afternoon tea on tall stands that are placed right by your chair on the floor, really adds to the excitement and anticipation of what's ahead. The vanilla cheesecake with coffee meringue lollipop and the pannacotta topped with macarons were probably the two sweet highlights for me, though the intense chocolately flavour of the dark chocolate torte was definitely a chocolate lover's dream.
|Standing afternoon tea tray|
|Dark chocolate torte with chocolate ganache|
|Beautiful china place settings with our complementary fruit punches|
Service is really at the top end of the five star realm at Ashford Castle. We did feel a little like we had to be on our best behaviour but soon relaxed into our girly chats and enjoyed ourselves. A little soft background music may have helped break the ice a little sooner...but then afternoon tea does have a special kind of formal ceremony to it and at Ashford Castle they embrace that ceremony and we were looked after extremely well. We were kindly supplied with two lovely extras, which were a summer fruits punch topped with Champagne and served in a tall thin shot glass as a welcome drink and were also given some homemade chocolate bark as a take home gift. These little surprises always win me over! We also all opted for extra freshly made tea when asked during our visit and I am certain, had we each asked for a third teapot, there's no doubt but that this would have been graciously supplied. We requested to bring home what we had left and were given the most adorable carry home boxes for our treats, which came with a letter on dietary concerns regarding all their edibles - just in case we cared to share the goods! I noted too, their attention to detail when we arrived as they asked us if anyone had any dietary requirements and I told them that I was pregnant and couldn't eat the smoked salmon sandwich. My friends just happened to devour theirs before assuring me I wasn't missing out...Somehow I have my doubts!
For a little glimpse into how the other half lives, I would highly recommend booking a table for afternoon tea here and spending a very relaxing and indulgent afternoon in beautiful surroundings while enjoying the best of food and teas or coffees. Priced at €34 for the traditional afternoon tea and with an extra 15% added on for service, this is not everyday dining, but it is worth it for a special treat or occasion and you will certainly leave very full and satisfied. We finished our wonderful afternoon with a leisurely stroll around their immaculate gardens, back by the river and the passing swans, through the pretty woods and home.