If there’s one thing guaranteed to get our children to put their shoes on at lightning speed, it’s the prospect of afternoon tea. They’re suckers for a scone and crazy for a cucumber sandwich, so there was no way they’d let me pass up the invitation for us to go along and try afternoon tea at The Ivy, a relatively new arrival to York on St Helen’s Square.
We’re old hands at family afternoon teas now – you can find the results of our rigorous research in our guide to the best afternoon teas in York for kids – but The Ivy was a slightly different experience. As with the others we’ve tested, the surroundings are beautiful. It’s glamorous but cosy, with shiny mirrors and copper offset by rich velvet furnishings and white linen. This might not sound like a place to take children, but the welcome was warm and the atmosphere is suitably buzzy and convivial that we didn’t worry about being too loud or disruptive to adults having a quiet drink.
What marks The Ivy’s afternoon tea out as different is that there’s no specific children’s offering. For the parents who believe that children should just be eating smaller portions of adult food rather than ‘children’s food’, this will be a bonus but for others, it may pose a problem. I took our two eldest with me (8 and 5), one of whom is a conservative eater and the other who’s ever so slightly more adventurous. While our eldest wouldn’t contemplate touching any of the savoury options except for the cucumber sandwich, our five-year-old did eat and enjoy the smoked salmon on rye bread after a bit of encouragement. Criminally – but predictably – they left their truffled chicken brioche untouched.
Neither of them needed any encouragement to tuck into the sweet treats: the warm scones disappeared almost immediately, and they both loved the little mousse with hidden popping candy (as did I). The little creme brulee doughnut was a thing of beauty, fresh from the fryer and absolutely delicious, and the little cheesecakes were light and delightful. Much to their hilarity, the children were each presented with a pot of tea to accompany their food. I won’t disclose how many cubes of sugar they added to their cups, but they certainly enjoyed throwing themselves into the full grown-up experience by sipping their English breakfast with their pinkies sticking out. The service was warm and attentive without being overbearing and we loved watching the world go by from our window seats. To make the most of it, we’d recommend it as something to do with slightly older children who aren’t afraid of new flavours and for families looking for a special experience in one of the most glamorous locations in the heart of York.