Shall I be mum?
The Centurion Club in St Albans has extended its afternoon teas by popular demand - but is it worth the fuss? Pass the elasticated pants, I'm finding out!
March is the month that one can justifiably start fantasising about afternoon tea. Firstly because by the time February’s disappeared, it’s taken all dreams of healthy eating and weight loss with it. Secondly it’s only Mother’s Day coming up dummy! A day in the diary expressly created the triple pleasures of champers, carbs and cream.
Dining at Centurion (formerly Galvin at Centurion), just west of St Albans, has a great reputation for its food, but its afternoon teas are going like the clappers too – the hours have just been extended to accommodate demand (now available from midday to 5pm Mon -Sat). The dining room is part of the private golf complex Centurion Club but happily noshing here is open to non-members.
Sleek, contemporary golf club on the outside (it was built in 2013) and attractive in a clean, masculine, slightly retro-Scandi way inside. There’s a glamorous bar area with a stunning view, and for cold days there’s a log fire is ready to be lit. The dining/afternoon tea area looks out on the terrace and the lake – it’s really very peaceful. And though it’s a golf club there was no ‘old boys club’ air to it – if anything it felt very relaxed.
We were introduced to Newby teas with much ceremony. You’re invited to inhale and ponder before making your choice. Will it be white peony or ginseng oolong? If you’re a PG Tips aficionado you might think it’s a bit of nonsense, but I rather liked the ceremony of it – we went for the house special, Centurion Tea, and were even given a timer to help make the perfect brew.
The Scandi-style open sandwiches sparked much discussion. No dainty finger sandwiches, with soft, crustless bread here. The Centurion Club sarnie is robust and at times messy to eat. But these sandwiches were the tastiest afternoon tea savoury offerings I’ve ever had. Loch Duart smoked salmon, serious ham, Coronation chicken, on breads including onion sourdough, walnut and raisin.
And the cakes a whole episode in themselves. Beautiful to look at and each one a winner. Eclairs; chocolate and lemon cheesecakes. Are you getting the idea here?!
More tea was ordered, and by this stage the sunset was starting to glow, the music volume was raised a notch or two, and people started arriving for dinner. Not many places could sustain my interest in an afternoon tea for two hours, but Centurion Club, I salute you with my sticky macaroony fingers.
It feels good value to me for the volume and quality of the offering – afternoon tea £28 pp; Champagne afternoon tea £45. If you’re on a budget the cream tea is a reasonable £12.95, or if you’re in the mood for a party, there’s a free-flowing Prosecco afternoon tea for £40.
Afternoon tea at Centurion Club, Hemel Hempstead Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire HP3 8LA.