cakes at the Bristol Hotel afternoon tea
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Vintage Afternoon Tea at The Bristol Hotel

VIew from the River Grille, Bristol HotelWell, you know us. Any excuse for tea and cake. So when the Bristol Hotel contacted us to ask if we wanted to try out their vintage afternoon tea, we were only too happy to oblige.

The Bristol Hotel

Bristol Hotel River Grille exterior viewThe Doyle Collection’s Bristol Hotel is located right on the water front in the city’s harbourside area. Step beyond the 1960s concrete exterior (which has has actually been listed) and you’ll find a modern yet relaxing reception and bar area that leads down to our venue for the day – the hotel’s River Grille.

Doyle Bristol Hotel riverside grille

Doyle Bristol Hotel interiorThe River Grille is a light, bright airy area with fantastic views of the harbourside, including of Pero’s bridge which was recently enshrouded in fog to celebrate the City’s status as European Green Capital. It’s the perfect spot for people watching, even on the grey drizzly day that we visited. In the summer, when the sun is streaming in and the doors have been opened, I imagine it would be an even more special space.

Doyle Bristol Hotel view from riverside grillThe vintage afternoon tea

Once seated, we were given our choice from a range of Clipper Estate loose leaf teas. I chose the peppermint and Keri opted for the English breakfast. Tea was served in large teapots and cups sporting a beautiful floral design – perfect for the tea’s vintage theme. If you’re a coffee lover, Suspension Blend Clifton coffees are available and if you go for the upgraded version of the tea, you can also choose a glass of bubbly or a cocktail from the Grille’s extensive list (the champagne, by the way, is lovely).

Doyle Bristol Hotel afternoon tea-4Once we’d had time to sample our teas, it was time for the main event. We were presented a range of sandwiches, scones and cakes on a crisp, clean three-tier stand. At this point, we didn’t know what would be arriving as, unusually, this wasn’t stated on the menu and we weren’t given a run-through when the tea arrived at our table. This was generally no problem for me as I’ll eat most things, but it did mean that Keri, who can be a rather picky eater, had to be brave and sample things she wouldn’t otherwise!

Doyle Bristol Hotel afternoon tea-5

Overall, we were both very impressed with all of the courses offered. For the sandwiches, we were given one each of:

  • smoked salmon, dill & rocket on rye bread
  • Coronation chicken on a soft brioche-type roll
  • cheese and red onion chutney on poppy seed bread

These were fresh with a decent amount of filling and it was nice to have a range of different breads.

Doyle Bristol Hotel afternoon tea sconesFor me, the scones are the most important part of an afternoon tea and the ones served to us didn’t disappoint. Our two scones were light and fluffy and still warm when we started eating them – which is always a bonus. Served with Tiptree jam and a generous scoop of proper clotted cream, they were pretty much spot on.

Doyle Bristol Hotel afternoon tea jamOne slight negative, however, was again, the fact that we didn’t get a choice over the types of scone offered. It comes with one plain and one fruit scone each – and unfortunately, neither of us like fruit scones. If we’d known, we would have requested plain only. However, Keri did decide to sample one of the fruit scones and assured me that they were as well baked as the plain!

cakes at the Bristol Hotel afternoon teaAnd finally, it was on to the cakes. By this point in an afternoon tea, I sometimes find myself so full I can’t enjoy the cakes properly. But partly due to only having one scone and partly due to how delicious these cakes looked, there was no danger of that happening this time!

We were treated to lemon drizzle cake, a chocolate mousse tart, mini lemon meringue pies and delicious raspberry macaroons, all of which tasted as good as they looked. In particular, I can usually take or leave macaroons but these ones were delicious – especially the gorgeous raspberry filling in the centre.

Final thoughts

Overall, we both gave the vintage afternoon tea at the Bristol Hotel a big thumbs up. The great venue, right in the heart of Bristol, makes it the perfect tea to enjoy if you’re spending a day or two in the city. And although the lack of menu was unusual, the range of sandwiches and cakes was well thought out with plenty of variety – and, most importantly, they all tasted pretty good!

One other thing we both noted was how great the staff were. They were polite, friendly and efficient and always on hand to help with anything we needed. This really added to the experience and made the afternoon tea one that we would definitely recommend you check out next time you’re in Bristol.

Book your afternoon tea at The Doyle Collection’s Bristol Hotel

Afternoon tea at The Bristol is served daily from 1pm to 5pm and pre-booking is essential. Details on current prices and how to book are available on their website

This post contains affiliate links. Our afternoon tea at The Bristol was complimentary for purposes of review. All opinions are our own!

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Co-editor Emma is LWT's resident history lover and fact nerd. She loves travelling overland - especially by train. Her trips tend to be planned around good food and a little bit of adventure.

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