/ The Dublin Guide
Dublin — By Jessica Colley on June 25, 2010 at 12:12 pm
Filed under: hotel, Luxury, tea, top-feature

A Tradition With a Touch of Luxury: Afternoon Tea in Dublin

Embracing traditions is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in local culture. In Ireland, one of my favorite traditions is afternoon tea. This 3pm pick-me-up has been an important part of daily life in Dublin for generations. One of the best places in the city to indulge in this classic treat is the 5-star Merrion Hotel. This luxurious hotel takes the concept of afternoon tea and cookies to new heights, and provides a stunning atmosphere to boot.

The Tradition: Afternoon tea became a part of life in Ireland as a result of their British neighbors. In the mid-1800s one Duchess in England decided that a snack was in order in the mid-afternoon to sustain her until a fashionably late dinner. What began as a habit of her own, including tea, bread & butter, and cake, developed over time. Soon, the Duchess was inviting friends to join her for afternoon tea, and one of Britain’s best known traditions was born.

The Hotel: There is no finer location in Dublin to experience a modern-take on an old classic than the 5-star Merrion Hotel. Boasting Dublin’s best address, the Merrion is located in the center of Georgian Dublin, across the street from the home of the Irish parliament. The original drawing rooms are still used today, and have been magnificently restored. The Merrion is also known for its outstanding art collection. With a reservation for their unique Art Tea on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t wait to see the imagination that the Merrion Hotel could bring to afternoon tea.

Art Tea at the Merrion: One of the most stunning features about the Merrion Hotel is its gardens. Arriving on a sunny day in June, the gardens were at their peak, and tables in the courtyard were elegantly set for tea. Sitting down at a table in the sun, I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate setting for this classic indulgence. As a glass of champagne was placed in front of me by the lovely staff, I knew I was in for one of Dublin’s most lavish treats.

Art Tea at the Merrion is broken down into two courses. The first course is where tradition lives; a three-tiered shiny silver platter filled with sandwiches and cakes was brought to the table. From oak-smoked Irish salmon on brown soda bread to delicate fruit scones, each bite was more delicious than the next. Raspberry jam, Glenillen Crème Fraiche, and lemon curd accompanied the breads & cakes, and the selection of tea was impressive. I asked our helpful server to assist me in selecting a tea, and the Morning Dew, a green tea with fruity aromas was ideal to sip on after a glass of champagne.

After our first course, we found our table in the shade and the staff brought us into the cozy warmth of the drawing room. The townhouses that make up the Merrion Hotel were built in the 1760’s, and this historic charm is present in even the smallest details of the drawing rooms. A part of what makes the Merrion, and Art Tea, so unique is the contemporary artwork on display. Our next course was a series of pastries inspired by the artwork at the Merrion. Each piece came with an individual card, depicting the original artwork and describing how the pastry chef transformed it into an edible treat.

The 2nd course of Art Tea changes frequently, giving locals even more of a reason to come back again and again. On the day of my visit, a painting by William Scott had been transformed into a vanilla biscuit with orange curd and a piece by John Boyd was presented as a raspberry & passionfruit tart. If you over-indulged on the sandwiches, scones, and cakes of the first course – the kind staff will wrap up your pastries to take away.

By the time we were finished, 6pm was approaching. I couldn’t think of a more pleasant way to spend a few hours on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Beyond the cozy drawing rooms, stunning gardens, and delicious treats, what makes this experience special is the staff. Service is at its finest at the Merrion, and they helped to make my afternoon treat even more memorable.

The Details:

Address: The Merrion Hotel, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2. (map)

Reservations: Reservations are required and should be made as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment. There are only a limited number of spaces available, and although Art Tea is open to the public, it also popular with guests of the Merrion Hotel.

Price: The cost of Art Tea at the Merrion is €36.00 per person. A variety of upgrades are available, including Champagne Art Tea, beginning at €49.00 per person.

Photo Credits: Jessica Colley

NOTE:  The author was the guest of the Merrion Hotel for purposes of this review; the opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.

Related places:
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    The 5 Star Merrion Hotel
    Dublin City Centre, Ireland, 21 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, Dublin, Co. Dublin, Ireland
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Tags: hotel, Luxury, tea, top-feature

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