What better city than York to enjoy a chocolate factory-inspired afternoon tea? And when better to enjoy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-related entertainment than Roald Dahl Day itself? Yep, it’s fair to say that our almost six-year-old thought he really had found the golden ticket when I told him we’d been invited along to try out the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired afternoon tea at York’s smartest hotel, The Grand Hotel & Spa, last weekend.
This afternoon tea, themed around Roald Dahl’s classic tale, is a new event for The Grand and they’ve really pulled out the stops. When we arrived at the hotel, we were told to head up the stairs and ‘follow the bubbles’. A couple of minutes later we found ourselves walking down a bubble-filled hallway, being offered a delicious little bottle of something sweet and fizzy to drink and then being greeted by Mr Wonka himself. We had a brief chat with the top-hatted one – it took the boy a few minutes to warm to the idea of people in costume – and then he showed us through to the elegant dining room where there a few guests were already seated (we’re never, ever the first to arrive anywhere. I live in hope).
A waiter showed us to our table (called Veruca Salt; they were all named after something or someone from the book) and explained how the afternoon tea worked. Willy Wonka would welcome us all, then we would enjoy a ‘three course bubblegum dinner’ and after that we’d help ourselves from the buffet. That’s alongside the obligatory pot of proper tea (or coffee) of course, and the additional choice of themed cocktails for those not attempting an afternoon of responsible childcare.
It wasn’t long before Willy Wonka – well, someone pretending to be him who was far more charming than Willy Wonka in either of the films – made his introductions, with the help of his super-sized oompa loompa. I’ve no idea where The Grand found these two chaps, but they are absolute gems. The oompa loompa deserves a special mention for having us in stitches throughout the entire thing: his job description seemed to be ‘make people laugh’ and he did so, in spades. The fact he was painted orange and wore a green wig was a good start, but he also hid behind curtains, moved food around, threw marshmallows into mouths, turned plates upside down… The boy fell in love with him and his silliness instantly, and has been talking about him non-stop since.
I’d started to panic at the mention of a three course meal – having only recently eaten lunch and knowing that the boy struggles to sit through a single course sometimes – but luckily it turned out to be a taster of three dainty and delicious things inspired by the book: a shot glass of tomato soup (not Heinz, much to the boy’s dismay), salt beef croquets and a little blueberry meringue pie that tasted of bubblegum. It was all presented beautifully and tasted even better, but it was the huge table groaning with glorious sweet treats that the boy was eager to get to. There were fantastically sweet edible mushrooms, golden eggs filled with gorgeous chocolate praline mousse that I could have eaten fifteen of, oompa loompa cupcakes (orange sponge with green icing), little jars of white chocolate and raspberry pannacotta and gold Grand chocolate bars. Towering above it all was a chocolate waterfall with lots of lovely things to dip into it like fruit and little chocolate brownies (if we felt we hadn’t had quite enough chocolate by that point). The boy would have liked to take a dip in it himself, but I held him back. There were also some really tasty sundried tomato and cream cheese scones that I loved but the boy refused on the grounds of being far too low in sugar.
So we ate lovely things and chatted about school and sisters and silly stuff while listening to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack and being entertained by a hilarious oompa-loompa. It was great. The boy was just the right age for it, whereas his sisters would probably have been too young to get much from it (and it would have been far less relaxing for me!). The other guests – a mixture of family groups, couples and friends of all ages – were clearly enjoying themselves too. It was a real treat and something that we’ll remember for a long time. In fact we’ve still got a bag of candy floss that we brought home to remember it by, but something tells me that won’t last long.
The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea takes place at The Grand Hotel & Spa, Station Rise, York, every second Sunday of the month – adult £35, child (up to 12) £20, child under 5 £10 – to book call 01904 380038
Thank you very much to The Grand Hotel & Spa for inviting us to afternoon tea. All our reviews are independent and we will only ever recommend things that we have genuinely enjoyed.