Settings don’t get much more regal than the 350-acre estate of Ashford Castle, which reflects its deep heritage through not only the opulent elegance of its interiors, but also through its lavish afternoon tea. And now with the arrival of a really quite special antique silver-gilt tea set, this luxurious afternoon treat is an exceptional and highly memorable part of your Ireland stay.
“For me Afternoon Tea in Ashford Castle is all about the experience,” says Ivan Sevik, the Cullen’s Room Manager. “If you combine incredible food and an amazing selection of teas, with perfect service, incredible ambience and beautiful views, you know it will be outstanding.”
The castle’s newly acquired Washington Augustus Roebling American silver-gilt dinner service – worth between £130,000 and £190,000 – consists of over 1,000 custom-made, engraved pieces. It was Washington Augustus Roebling (the man responsible for the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge) who received this extensive dinner service set in 1889, six years after the bridge was completed, with additional pieces added by the Roebling family in later years. And while this tea set is not for general use, it makes for a stunning centrepiece.
For the guests at Ashford Castle, afternoon tea is served on traditional silver stands, with a selection of sandwiches, three types of warm scones and plenty of pastries to enjoy. “The food is fit for a king and queen,” Ivan enthuses, “and even if you’re not a tea drinker, you will find one you like here. We have black teas such as Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon, a selection of green teas and a great choice of infusions, not to forget Oolong. My personal favourite is the Irish whiskey-cream tea, which is truly unique; Assam autumn tea is soaked in Irish whiskey and served with a touch of cream. I think it’s breath-taking.”
Ivan explains that it’s also the small details that make the experience stand out for guests. “The moment they walk through the door they’re given an espresso cup filled with seasonal homemade lemonade that’s topped with our house Champagne. And they don’t leave empty handed, either. Along with their memories from Ashford Castle, they take home a gift of magnificent homemade chocolate, created by our owner Mrs Tollman and head pastry chef Paula Staklum.”
Naturally, the setting plays an important role too, as Ivan explains: “From 1868, as a tradition, Lord and Lady Ardilaun would take afternoon tea in The Connaught Room to discuss the events of the morning and their plans for that evening.” So, in keeping with this tradition, that’s exactly where afternoon tea is served now. “This glorious room is the heart and soul of Ashford Castle.” Ivan says, “From there you have magnificent views out to the manicured gardens and over Lough Corrib.”
After spending the day out on the magnificent estate, embracing its traditional country pursuits, settle into the Connaught Room for afternoon tea at Ashford Castle – alongside the Roebling tea set that so fittingly reflects this tradition – to experience the same flawless service bestowed upon Lord and Lady Ardilaun. It’s certainly a gastronomic experience not to be forgotten.
Header image: Settings don’t get much for regal than the grounds of Ashford Castle © iStock / Ma Rabelo