Eating Out: Sparkling afternoon tea befits any occasion

Owner Tracey Henstock in Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

Owner Tracey Henstock in Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

0
Have your say

It was a visual feast to make the mouth water.

Towering cakes stuffed with cream, fat scones and lines of slim finger sandwiches, served on pretty patterned cake stands.

Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

A single online picture of that bounty was enough to send us - rapidly - to Caffe Leopold on Leopold Street to book an vintage afternoon tea.

And we aren’t the only ones, more than 60 of the sets , with intense attention to detail, were served at the prosecco lounge on one Saturday last month, and the baking can amount to more than 108 cakes a week.

“I wanted to create a really nice memory for somebody and be part of that memory”, said venue owner Tracey Henstock.

“A lot of people come for special events like wedding anniversaries, birthdays or graduations, hen parties and I think that is a really special occasion that is a memory in your life and I feel quite humbled that we can be part of that.

‘I think it’s a bit of an affordable luxury’

Owner Tracey Henstock.

“We care an awful lot about making sure that everything is right down to the tableclothes and the napkins and the candles so that is all part of the experience.

“The most satisfying thing about it is when you bring the afternoon tea out and look at people’s faces, their eyes just light up and that is worth more than anything.”

Caffe Leopold opened some two-and-a-half years ago as the first dedicated prosecco bar in Sheffield - a title it still holds today - and is a fine place for watching the city centre go by from a sofa seat or table.

Although it has always served food as well as fizz the afternoon teas were first launched last year, and there are now two new options themed around cocktails, as well as the classic vintage one on offer.

Shannon Smith & Dyrell Walker, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

Shannon Smith & Dyrell Walker, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

But is the popularity of the teas down to the nation’s growing obsession with prosecco - with Britain’s thirst for it and cava expected to top a whopping 31.6 million gallons next year - or perhaps the appeal of the Great British Bake Off? Tracey, a former civil servant who enjoyed decorating wedding cakes as a hobby before opening the venue, has her own verdict and is experimenting with a prosecco cake to combine the two trends.

“I think it’s a bit of an afforable luxury - people want to have a nice treat and it isn’t breaking the bank”, she said.

“It’s been special but compared to champagne, the price would be doubled or tripled, so it is still very affordable.

“Most people like prosecco more than champagne - it’s a bit more palatable and not as dry.

Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

“But people just come because, I don’t know, they like cake!”

With a wedding looming the afternoon tea turned out to be my work hen do - so the occasion was suitably special.

We arrived to find our table already set with white cloths, bright shining silver - Tracey’s father had a thing about watermarks on cutlery, and she has passed that fastidiousness on to the staff - as well as one of the caffe’s Royal Albert china sets.

The sets are being slowly collected, with customers even offering to bring in their own collections.

It was busy for a Wednesday lunchtime, with a pleasant buzz of conversation and jazz-like music in the background.

The corks were popped and along came the very chilled superiore prosecco - a fine, crisp example and dangerously drinkable.

Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

Caffe Leopold and its stunning food, Sheffield, United Kingdom on 30 August 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

For the main event three heaving cake stands arrived to serve five people, including one vegetarian.

The delicate sandwiches came with brown and white breads in the staples you would expect - a creamy egg mayonnaise, high quality salmon with cream cheese and thin slices of tomato with ham.

With little cooking involved in these it is all about the presentation, which was spot on, with crusts cut off to a T and neat salad garnishes. It was a bit of a struggle to identify the vegetarian option - red pepper hummous with peppers - but she enjoyed. As a savoury fan the only feedback I would add is: more, please.

That wasn’t a problem with the cakes - with three large creations each to work through alongside pots of loose leaf tea from Pollard’s on Ecclesall Road. No teabags here, and the ritual of straining does add to the occasion.

Madeira cakes were firm yet light, with a subtle lemon flavouring - two pieces sandwiched a thick cream in which raspberry couli had been drizzled to give a fresh, fruity, hint of flavour.

The top tier of the stand was a chocolate-lovers’ fantasy. Moist, naughty chocolate sponge, cream and scattered rose petals made them as pretty as a picture. There were tiny truffles too - rich, decadent parcels of chocolate with a dash of prosecco.

Perhaps controversially, I finished with a scones, and ended on a high. They were feather light, well risen and lightly golden with, you guessed it, yet more clotted cream and jam. There were enough leftovers to feed half the office afterwards.

Vintage afternoon tea with prosecco is £18.50 a head. Gluten and dairy-free diets can be catered for if booked in advance and the venue has also launched prosecco tasting sessions with a sommelier.

Caffe Leopold, 1-3 Leopold Street, Sheffield, S1 2GY.

Tel: 0114 2706566