When an invitation to Edinburgh’s most glamorous afternoon tea at Colonnades in The Signet Library  arrived we got rather excited.   As you will see from some of our previous blog posts we absolutely love afternoon tea so couldn’t wait to go along to this fabulous venue.
We previously visited the Signet Library, just off the Royal Mile during festival time when the doors are thrown open and the pop up Pommery Bar delights festival goers. The building is right in the heart of the Old Town and its history dates back over 200 years to when the Signet Library was built for the Writers of the Signet.  You can read about it’s history here
Now after a £250,000 restoration of the stunning library, the Lower Library will open under the name Colonnades, which is a reference to the classical pillars that grace the building.   After tasting their wonderful afternoon tea we are sure that Colonnades will be one of the finest lunch and afternoon tea venues in the capital.
The Signet Library – Lower Library
Operating to the usual Heritage Portfolio standards of excellence, Colonnades will have it’s own Tea Sommelier, Champagne experts, mixologists and on site pastry chef to create amazing tastes for you to enjoy.  The excellent range of teas will come from The Wee Tea Company in Fife.
Bespoke silver cake stands, tea pots and table furnishings have been specially commissioned for Colonnades and really add to the sense of occasion.
Specialy Blended Teas and Heritage Silverware
We always enjoy the ceremony surrounding afternoon tea and this starts with deciding which tea to choose.  We were delighted when the tea menu arrived with 11 different teas perfectly blended by The Wee Tea Company from Fife.  We sampled both the Signet Blend which was refreshing light and flavoursome and also the Lapsang Souchong  with its deep, earthy smoky and wood aromas – ideal for challenging your taste buds – exactly how it was described on the tea menu.   Coffee is also available if you prefer.
Afternoon Tea is split into a savoury and sweet selection which we preferred rather than the whole lot arriving at once.  When the savoury selection arrived we were impressed with the choice on offer.  It’s quite clear right from the start that Colonnades wants to be Edinburgh’s finest afternoon tea venue.
Aberdeen Angus Burgers, Prawn Cocktail and Applewood Tartlet
On the savoury tier we found Signet prawn cocktail, mini Aberdeen Angus burgers, warm smoked Applewood cheese and celery tartlet, mozzarella bocconcini and sunblush tomato, Scottish Shetland salmon infused with Edinburgh gin, goats cheese mousse, Egg and Cress sandwiches and Ramsay’s of Carluke honey roast ham sandwiches.
We found every item on the stand to be perfectly balanced with flavour, size and texture.  Great thought has been put in to the overall experience and you will be satisfied but still have room for the sweet treats to come.
It’s really difficult to single out any individual item as they were all excellent, but we will! The prawn cocktail was a highlight for me with its coriander and mango salsa on shredded baby gem lettuce – no thick gloopy Marie Rose sauce here.
Raymond isn’t a great lover of smoked salmon but the Shetland salmon worked so well infused with Edinburgh gin along with the roughness of the  rustic oatcake and the smooth dill and lemon cream cheese.  I think we are starting to get him converted!
The sandwiches were light and luxurious with the addition of quails egg and Avruga caviar on top of the egg ones.
Once the savouries were finished, it was time for a top up of tea and a wee rest before we were presented with the sweet selection.
As you know our other name could be Boys SWEET Scotland as we both have a very sweet tooth so the anticipation was building after spying other tables’ scones, miniature cakes and sweet treats arriving.
 Now the big question upon the arrival of this scrumptious stand was should we start at the top or the bottom and does anyone really care!  We started at the bottom with the scones and then mixed and matched from the other tiers.  The real answer is nobody cares! You may be in this amazing venue which was completed in 1822 just in time for King George IV visit (after whom George IV bridge was named) and receiving excellent service, but the atmosphere is relaxed and the emphasis is on you having the most wonderful afternoon tea experience.
The scones were the perfect size and served with clotted cream and Isabella’s strawberry and Champagne jam.  They were very light and left plenty room for all the other delights to come.  There’s also a blood orange jelly cube to help cleanse the palate – very tangy, but a welcome addition before tucking into the other fancies.
Next on the stand we had zesty lemon meringue tart, passion fruit and mango eclair, Belgian chocolate and sea salted tart, tangy rhubarb fool and a berry mille-feuille.
My highlight was the lemon meringue tart-it is honestly the best that I have tasted.  Light thin crisp pastry case with the most creamy zingy lemon curd filling and topped with perfect meringue peaks.  I’m slavering away here!
Lemon Meringue Tart
Raymond’s favourite was the mille-feuille.  It was the lightest of light rich pastry layers filled with Graham’s organic cream and Perthshire berries and then lightly dusted with icing sugar – he was in heaven! It’s absolutely brilliant to see the chefs use and showcase the best of Scotland’s larder.
I’m not sure if we should be embarrassed to admit it but we managed to finish the whole lot!  It really was such a well balanced mix between sweet and savoury with no shortage of fresh tea, or champagne to wash it down if you are that way inclined.
When you do visit – and you must…….make an afternoon of it.  Sample the wonderful cocktails, fizz and teas, sit back and enjoy.   If you are the driver, Colonnades also offers a wonderful selection of soft drinks from Aberdeenshire based Summerhouse drinks – their raspberry or lavender lemonade is fab!
Colonnades will also be serving breakfasts and lunches and getting involved in the festival spirit again this year, so keep and eye on their website.
The venue opens on Thursday 4th June – and are taking bookings now, so be one of the first to sample Edinburgh’s finest afternoon tea.
We can’t wait to go back!
Cost £30 per person
Parliament Square
Tel 0131 225 0651
Twitter @signetlibrary