Tuesday, 21 May 2024

M&S and Morrisons afternoon teas compared ahead of Mother’s Day

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With Mother’s Day fast approaching, many people will be looking for ways to celebrate the special maternal figures in their lives.

Afternoon tea is a popular choice, but with the traditional treat often proving expensive, some Brits may be looking for a way to get the tasty gift on a budget.

To help shoppers have an afternoon tea experience at an affordable price, Morrisons and Marks and Spencer have both launched deals in a number of their cafes, priced between £5 and £12.50 per person.

Both are much cheaper than a swanky hotel or restaurant but could they provide a luxury dining experience? Manchester Evening News reporter, Bethan Shufflebotham headed out to both stores to find out.

Morrisons

All this week at Morrisons cafes, mums can enjoy an afternoon tea for two for just £5 a head. Usually priced at £12.99, the supermarket has slashed the price of the treat to just £10 ahead of Mother’s Day in a deal that will end on Sunday, March 19.

The menu promises a selection of sandwiches, cakes, fruit scones – complete with jam and clotted cream, and a pot of Yorkshire Tea – although it doesn’t specify which cakes or sandwiches.

Arriving in store, the cafe was absolutely packed – it’s a surprisingly popular haunt, and there were no seats available until I’d waited in the queue for five minutes, and one freed up. I ordered the £10 Afternoon Tea for Two and took my table number to the empty booth, where I waited around 10 minutes for my order to arrive – not a bad lead time considering how busy it was.

The afternoon tea was presented on a three-tier stand just as it is in hotels and upmarket restaurants, offering a touch of luxury to the occasion. The top tier featured six triangular sandwiches – four ham, two cheese and tomato – so three triangles per person, or three quarters of a full sandwich each. The options were pretty basic, but universally loved, and ideal if it’s a treat for a picky eater or young child with mum.

The sandwiches themselves were as to be expected, cheap and cheerful – some of the corners were a little bit dry, but it didn’t dampen the experience, considering it was only a tenner all in.

Next was the fruit scones, served with a miniature Lurpak, strawberry jam and Rodda’s clotted cream. Now, I’m not normally a fruit scone kind of person, and it would have been nice to have the choice of plain, but these were absolutely delicious. They were really soft and crumbly, and had been baked with a dusting of sugar on top for a wonderful crunch. They really stole the show.

Onto the base layer, there were two mini cheesecake style pots, but the middle layer seemed to be icy, so I’m not sure if it was ice cream. There wasn’t any information about it on the menu, so I just enjoyed it for what it was.

The mini chocolate brownies were rich and decadent, the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, only, mine never arrived. I do appreciate the cafe was very busy and I was already half way through the afternoon tea when I realised, so I didn’t intent to bother them for a pot I wouldn’t finish, but it was a bit of a shame as Yorkshire Tea is my preferred cup.

Finally, the fruit cake I found to be a bit of a niche dessert, and while it was moist and pretty tasty, they’re not quite as loved as say, a Victoria sponge or lemon drizzle. I was able to get a takeaway box to take the remainder of the afternoon tea home in, too, which was great because we could enjoy some of the items the following day, too.

Pros

Very budget friendly at £5 per head, sandwiches were ideal for picky eaters, scone was absolutely marvellous and all of the little condiments were appreciated. Takeaway box was ideal, the brownie was delicious and the blue Dudson side plates made it look very pretty indeed.

Cons

Pot of tea didn’t arrive, you have to collect your own cutlery which means abandoning your table if dining alone, the cheesecake was a little bit odd and the fruitcake an unusual choice but inoffensive.

Marks and Spencer

On Monday, March 13, M&S launched a brand new afternoon tea offer that’s perfect for Mother’s Day and, as I entered the cafe, there was a display of the new luxury event – and it looked absolutely gorgeous.

Heading up to the counter shortly after 2pm when it launched, I was the first person to order the tea and what I thought was really lovely is that you get to personalise this one a little more at the till.

The tea kicks off with a luxury sandwich selection, where you can choose to have a selection, or just one particular sandwich. I decided to go for one of each, on this occasion.

You also get to pick whether you’d like a Devon all-butter scone or a fruit one, as well as picking between tea, decaf tea or coffee. Alternatively, you can choose a mini bottle of prosecco for a £5 surcharge.

The M&S afternoon tea costs £12.50 per person – so more than double Morrisons – but how would it compare on its arrival?

The afternoon tea was brought to my table on a two tier slate effect stand, along with some cutlery, so I wouldn’t need to get up out of my seat for the duration of the visit. The top layer featured a number of dainty cakes and scones, while the bottom tier offered up four triangle sandwiches – a full sandwich all together.

The selection included Farmhouse Cheddar cheese with vine ripened tomatoes, pickle and lettuce, British roast chicken breast, cucumber, and rocket, Egg mayonnaise with watercress and British outdoor-bred smoked ham with mustard mayonnaise all on oatmeal or malted bread, which I always think feels a bit posher than white.

My favourites were the cheese and pickle, and the ham and mustard mayonnaise, but of course, it was the sweet treats that really took my fancy here. The all butter scone served with Cornish clotted cream, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries. Its surface was glossy, its insides light and fluffy, the perfect bake worthy of a Paul Hollywood handshake.

I was very appreciative of the M&S Fairtrade luxury gold blend tea, at this point as I continued to make my way through the delightfully dinky mini chocolate cupcake topped with buttercream, French macaron and a cinnamon Palmier biscuit – a puff pastry heart glazed with a caramelised cinnamon sugar.

I really enjoyed the variety of treats on offer, and the fresh strawberries were a fantastic touch. It really did feel like five-star quality and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

Pros

Everything was absolutely delicious, I really enjoyed that you get a bit more of a choice to customise than at Morrisons, and the sweet treats, cream tea and strawberries were all absolutely wonderful. The service was swift and friendly, and it felt like a really relaxed, looked after experience. I was also able to take leftovers home in a box.

Cons

I could barely fault the M&S afternoon tea, but at £12.50 it definitely is on the more expensive side. That said, it’s still a lot cheaper than booking afternoon tea at a restaurant, but still offers quality and value for money.

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