In a Word:
What is It:
The crème de la crème – literally – of afternoon tea, Cloud 23 has long been renowned as one of the finest spots in Manchester for a spot of tea and scones. Although this skyscraper restaurant also boasts contemporary cocktails, show-stopping sharing plates and whisky tasting, on this occasion we were here purely as cake-and-tea connoisseurs.
Finger-food fanatics who appreciate the art of mid-afternoon indulgence. If you get a kick out of replacing meat and two veg with sandwiches, cakes and scones, you can’t get much fancier than this selection of sweet and savoury treats.
Doesn’t appeal to: Acrophobia sufferers….
A jewel in the crown of Beetham Tower, Cloud 23 is perched (you guessed it) 23 floors up, offering panoramic views over Manchester and beyond. With an exclusive feel from the moment you walk into the Hilton Deansgate, visitors step into their very own escalator to ascend their way to the restaurant.
When the doors open, you’re greeted with full-length windows spanning the entirety of the building, and a hum of energy from excited drinkers and diners soaking up the views all around. After all, it’s a Friday afternoon, and how better to see what the weekend has in store than from a skyscraper? Taken to our table by Deansgate’s most amiable waiter – aptly named Dean – we were given a chance to survey our surroundings whilst he fetched some champagne.
Looking out over the urban metropolis of Manchester, you’ll have no shortage of things to talk about as you purvey the constantly moving hub below. A fusion of industrial heritage and modern cityscape, it’s an impressive city that many rightly call the Venice of the North. Cloud 23 gives you a glimpse of what ‘people watching’ must be for Greek gods, and even on a cloudy day you’ll get no shortage of Insta-worthy shots.
If the panoramic views reaching as far as the Peak District, the Pennines and Saddleworth Moor aren’t enough to make you feel like a demi-god, the lavish décor will be. Metallic-tinted mirror partitions, gold and bronze fittings, and regal carpets give this place a contemporary grandeur, making you feel like royalty as you tuck into the most British of indulgences.
Champagne Afternoon Tea:
Dean knew how to make us ladies happy, presenting us with a strawberry-topped glass of Pommery Brut as we reclined into our plush chairs. A few minutes later, he returned bearing a swanky three-tiered tray carrying the most perfectly presented afternoon tea I dare say I’ve ever seen. And I’ve sampled a fair few in my time… Not a single berry or crumb was out of place, with military precision in every tray that came out of the kitchen that day.
Following his rather sensible suggestion to start with savoury, we embarked on our culinary journey. The savoury selection paid homage to classic as well as more modern flavour combinations, including ham and wholegrain mustard, cheese and chutney, roasted red pepper and hummus, and tuna and sweetcorn. None of these sound particularly remarkable, but trust me when I say they were anything but your standard sarnie. The roasted pepper might as well have been for a spa day – it melted in the mouth.
A special mention goes to the mushroom quiche. Sat inconspicuously at the end of the line, this bite-sized square of buttery goodness would have done Paul Hollywood proud. Devilishly moreish, the lightly set egg complemented the well-seasoned crisp crunch of the pastry crust.
With our ‘first course’ done, it was on to the top tier for a selection of sweet treats. A whirlwind tour of Great British desserts, this layer included a chocolate marshmallow teacake sprinkled with dehydrated strawberry, a mini trifle with vanilla-infused white chocolate, and a tartlet topped with fresh fruit. Needless to say, all were delicious, but the sweet shortcrust pastry stole our hearts. Round of applause to whoever is responsible for pastry in the Cloud 23 kitchen!
Now, down to the serious business of scones. As we debated whether Cornwall or Devon do the order of jam and cream best, it’s no wonder we felt like ladies of leisure tucking into this final ‘course’. Complemented with a good old pot of Earl Grey, we took our time over these thick sultana-laden scones. Topped with a good dollop of jammy goodness and proper clotted cream, there are few better ways to start the weekend than with a substantial scone and a cuppa.
Whether you’ve got something to celebrate, you’re eager to impress a date, or you simply want start the weekend feeling like a minor celeb, Cloud 23 has definite bragging rights for putting on one of the most memorable afternoon teas you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating. With the breathtaking scenery, immaculate presentation, tasty treats and VIP service from Dean, this place gets a well-deserved serious recommendation in our book. A special spot for a special experience, we’ll have to come back to give you our verdict on the rest of their food and drinks menu!