There’s no denying that the picture-perfect rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales provide the most idyllic of settings for a traditional afternoon tea. There are countless hotels and restaurants scattered around the Yorkshire Dales offering tiered platters of dainty finger sandwiches, freshly made scones and indulgent miniature desserts. After a scenic walk in Malham, a stroll around the beautiful Bolton Abbey or a day exploring one of the area’s most popular market towns, there is no better way to unwind than with an hour or two of refined dining.
I’ve been eating and reviewing afternoon teas in Yorkshire for several years and, being located in Skipton, have enjoyed many of the traditional offerings in and around The Dales. Last week, however, I had the pleasure of sampling one far different from any I have tried previously.
The Coniston Hotel is nestled in a 1,400-acre country estate. Boasting an award-winning restaurant, a luxury spa, elegant interiors and breathtaking views of the beautiful estate grounds and surrounding countryside, it’s the perfect place to stay for those seeking a luxurious and tranquil break in the glorious Yorkshire Dales.
As one would expect, this typically English country hotel offers a traditional afternoon tea served on delicate china and featuring all the expected components. Well executed and served in the hotel’s 1 AA Rosette restaurant, The View, it’s one of the best afternoon teas in the Yorkshire Dales. However, The Coniston Hotel also offers a rather exciting and more contemporary option in the form of its Bento Box Afternoon Tea. This Asian-inspired alternative to a traditional afternoon tea is served in The Coniston Hotel’s Blossom Kitchen; a small yet vibrant restaurant at its onsite luxury spa.
Over the past few years, Japanese cuisine has seen a surge in popularity. Sushi, katsu and miso are now easily obtainable in major supermarkets and are quickly becoming part of our everyday cuisine rather than flavours only occasionally enjoyed at Japanese restaurants on high streets. My appetite for the flavours of Japanese cuisine is also rapidly increasing so I jumped at the chance to sample an afternoon tea that promised a “twist on tradition” and “outstanding Yorkshire ingredients with Asian flair”.
My questionable sense of direction resulted in my mother and I experiencing an unplanned exploration of the hotel grounds during a typically British downpour so, we arrived at Blossom Kitchen in dire need of shelter and refreshments.
The glass of bubbly we were presented with upon arrival was precisely the welcome we needed and we didn’t have to wait long for steaming teapots of our chosen Birchall Tea – Lemongrass and Ginger.
Now, I haven’t been a tea drinker since I developed a taste (and need) for coffee during my university days and even before then, I only ever drank the occasional cup of peppermint tea. This aromatic and warming tea was delightful and I scoured the supermarket afterwards to find a similar version until I could source some online.
Our food also arrived rather promptly and was beautifully presented in a traditional bento box. These lacquered wooden boxes have been part of Japanese culture since the 16th Century. Originally, they were used to pack lunches but over the centuries, the Japanese began using the distinct food serving and storing boxes for travel, theatre visits and entertaining.
Typically, a bento box will contain a complete balanced meal, with different components such as rice, vegetables and fish, each having its own compartment. On this occasion, however, the traditional bento boxes showcased various elements of a creatively put-together afternoon tea.
Our selection of savouries included Chicken and Sesame Skewers which were tender and very delicately flavoured. Normally, these are accompanied by homemade kimchi but my tomato intolerance meant mine was substituted for a delious array of mushrooms in soy and spring onion.
There was also a miniature Spring Roll which my mother enjoyed so much I reluctantly gave her mine to eat once I’d had merely a nibble. For me, the standout savoury was the Szechuan & Gin Cured Salmon Bao Bun as the superb salmon delivered some seriously exquisite flavours and the bun itself was perfectly fluffy. Possibly my favourite element of the whole experience!
As regards sweet treats, we discovered four in our bento boxes. In keeping with British afternoon tea tradition, we each had a freshly baked scone with jam and a rather generous amount of cream.
The scone is the key component of an afternoon tea but they vary so much in size, flavour and quality. Served warm and clearly homemade, these were utterly delicious. We also had a macaron each – salted caramel for myself and a lemon version for my mother. Again, these were faultless and we both enjoyed them immensely.
In addition to these rather traditional components, we also had miniature cakes each and it was in these sweet treats, where the Japanese flavours could be found. Both the Matcha Blondie and the Lemongrass Lychee & Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake were light in texture and beautiful in flavour, albeit a tad dry by the time we got around to eating them.
Overall, we both enjoyed our Bentos Box Afternoon Tea at The Coniston Hotel. The presence of the scones, macarons and smoked salmon meant our favourite parts of a traditional afternoon tea could still be enjoyed alongside the more alternative components. Although, personally, I would have liked to have seen some sushi in my bento box but not if it meant sacrificing the delicious Bao Bun because that was divine!
This was certainly, a positive experience and one that was made all the more enjoyable by our ever-so polite and attentive waitress, Irene. I just wish we’d had better weather so we could have dined al fresco and enjoyed the spectacular scenery. Perhaps, I’ll head back when the sun reappears and sample their traditional version too!
This review was published after an invitation to dine at The Coniston Hotel. As we only share positive experiences, an invitation to dine does not guarantee an article published on our website. The businesses we visit have no editorial control over our content.