We were seated in a large, bright and airy room overlooking the courtyard, in a comfy booth. The afternoon tea looked impressive on the menu, with a nice range of cake and patisserie, and a good tea selection also. We all plumped for a traditional afternoon tea (no bubbles, as we were driving), and my sister had the afternoon blend, whilst I had the white rose bud. My mum broke with tradition and had a lemonade (well, it was her birthday, she could do what she liked!). The teas arrived with a little timer, to let us know when to retrieve the leaves from the pot. I was really impressed with the white rose bud. I've had rose tea before, but this was exceptionally delicate and light - very refreshing.
The cakes and sandwiches arrived on a three-tiered stand, with the contents spilling out on to a further plate. The top tier contained pistachio macarons, mini lemon and raspberry pavlovas, dark chocolate brownies, mini Victoria sponges, and chocolate eclairs. The second tier had scones (with clotted cream and strawberry jam) and lavender Welsh cakes. The sandwich tier had generous sandwiches filled with Caerphilly cheddar and Branston pickle, free range chicken with sun blush tomato and tarragon mayonnaise, Pendoylan ham with apple and Picalilli, Severn and Wye smoked salmon with lemon and dill cream cheese. Reading this list back to myself, I'm incredibly impressed with how much of a Welsh influence is on the menu, and how many ingredients are fairly locally sourced. Free range chicken too, that should be standard everywhere!
We were hungry, and the generous sandwiches were very welcome. I have to say that I loved every single one, the flavours were fantastic. Moving on to the scone, it was incredibly light, I don't think I've ever had a scone as light. The lavender in the Welsh cakes was subtle, just a little hint in the background. My mum and sister aren't very adventurous in the world of cake, and I think the idea of the lavender put them off even trying the Welsh cakes, they had theirs wrapped to take home to my Dad.
The top tier was delightful. The pavlova had that wonderful chewy centre, and the eclairs again had a lightness that made them last only a moment. The brownies (nut free) were intensely chocolatey. All good so far. The pistachio macaron was the most eagerly anticipated item but unfortunately the most disappointing. I couldn't taste the pistachio, and the chocolate filling was a bit fake tasting. Macarons are very difficult to get right, I don't think I've ever had one at an afternoon tea in the UK that I've enjoyed. The trouble is that I've been to those posh Macaron shops in Belgium and eaten the very best ones. I have high expectations as a result!
Overall though, I think my expectations were exceeded at Llanerch. It's a lovely setting, staff were friendly (slightly less attentive than we would have liked, we were left waiting for a bit for our hot water to be topped up) and with the local and Welsh ingredients it's an afternoon tea that offers very good value for money - £16 per person. Would we come again? Yes, I think we would.
Now, some of you might be wondering about having a vineyard in South Wales, where the climate is very wet, rather than the sun-soaked vineyards of other countries. Apparently the vines were specially chosen to do well in the UK climate, and are a hybrid of French and German vines. The wines produced are white and rose - not reds, as those do indeed need a bit more warmth. I'd like to return to the vineyard on a more pleasant day and do the tour and wine-tasting. I'll have to make sure someone else drives!!