A 12th century hotel’s nationally-recognised afternoon teas are being given a brand-new home in the undercroft of a medieval powerhouse in Coventry.
St Mary's Guildhall has just re-opened following a £6m restoration, made possible by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
No Ordinary Hospitality Management (NOHM), which operates four-star Coombe Abbey Hotel in Brinklow, has unveiled an elegant underground café – Tales of Tea – in St Mary’s Guildhall at Coventry’s Cathedral Quarter following a major makeover.
Afternoon teas at Coombe have won national acclaim – and for the first time are moving into the city where they will be the main attraction at Tales of Tea.
Tales of Tea has been created in the vaulted undercroft at St Mary’s Guildhall – believed to be the oldest part of the building constructed in around 1392 – and will be a key part of the new visitor attraction.
Ron Terry, NOHM’s Group Operations Director, said: “Tales of Tea is a sympathetically refurbished luxury heritage setting to open in the heart of Coventry city centre dedicated to afternoon teas, lunch and drinks, and it caters for up to 70 people.
“A new menu has been launched as part of the experience and we have worked with top UK and local suppliers in order to source the highest quality ingredients.
“By redesigning the beautiful, historic undercroft cafe space specifically for this purpose, we’re opening an exciting new chapter in St Mary’s Guildhall’s history.
“We’ve combined the best of Coombe Abbey Hotel’s afternoon teas with the history and grandeur of this fascinating building to create a truly special afternoon tea experience.
“We have people travelling from across the wider region to experience our afternoon teas at Coombe Abbey Hotel and at the moment we sell out every single day. We believe they are perfectly suited for Tales of Tea at St Mary’s Guildhall and will allow people to either experience them in a new setting or for the very first time.
“Our aim is for Tales of Tea to become renowned for afternoon teas not just in Coventry but nationally!”
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change, said: “St Mary’s Guildhall is a prized asset for Coventry, and its transformation and restoration over recent years has been stunning.
“Tales of Tea at the Undercroft is further evidence of the detailed work that has been undertaken and it is going to provide a great experience for visitors.
“The Guildhall is already proving to be a significant tourist and cultural attraction for the city and with the addition of the catering offer I’m sure it’s popularity will grow in the coming months
“The Guildhall was always hidden gem and now we are seeing the building in all its glory.”
Freshly baked breakfast options available from 10am until 11.30am include Danish pastries and croissants, toasted teacakes, toasted fruit loaf and crispy bacon roll.
Guests can treat themselves to two quintessentially British traditional afternoon teas inspired by Coventry’s rich textile history – particularly its medieval wool and silk ribbon trade – from £21.50 per person.
A Draper’s Classic Afternoon Tea comes with a lavish selection of sandwiches with fillings including oak smoked salmon, black pepper and cucumber; slow cooked ham, plum tomato and Pommery mustard and Mature Croxton Manor cheese with Country Garden chutney.
Other highlights include a savoury Somerset Brie and fig tartlet, mini strawberry and coconut dome, banana bread cake with Biscoff cream and crumb, edible chocolate flower pot and a baked lemon and raspberry tart, as well as a warm scone, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
The Weaver’s Savoury Afternoon Tea will feature a smoked haddock, spring onion and chive croquet with chunky tartare sauce; Warwickshire Whizzer sausage roll; savoury Somerset Brie and Fig Tartlet, Malt Kiln Farm pork pie and freshly baked cheese scone with Estate Dairy salted cultured butter.
It includes two sweet treats – an edible chocolate flower pot of Belgian chocolate mousse and candied orange, and banana bread cake with Biscoff cream and crumb.
A special afternoon tea menu for children has also been created including finger sandwiches, soft fruit jelly, a mini brownie bite, banana bread and a warm scone with jam and clotted cream, priced £8.95.
Diners can choose from an extensive range of eight bespoke loose-leaf teas including black lemon tea and ginger, English breakfast, chai spice, chocolate, Moroccan mint, red berry and rose petals or rum arabica.
A cafetière for one is also available featuring ethical and fairtrade Grand Cru Coffees by Café Du Monde ranging from El Salvador, Kenyan, Sumatra, Ethiopian to Swiss Water Decaffeinated.
Other options include Mercer’s Sparkling Afternoon Tea served with a glass of Prosecco for £27 per person, Champagne Afternoon Tea for £31 per person and a cream tea is another option with warm freshly baked scones, strawberry jam, whipped Cornish clotted cream and a choice of loose-leaf tea, which is £12.95 per person.
Light lunches, served between 12 noon and 2.30pm, range from heirloom tomato salad and chef’s soup of the day and steak and ale pie, roasted chicken ciabatta, to Catch of the Day and vegetarian Strozzapreti pasta. Prices start from £5.95 to £12.95.
Tales of Tea can also be hired for private parties and celebrations for up to 90 people, including birthdays, anniversaries and baby showers.
St Mary’s Guildhall, located in the heart of the city’s historic Cathedral Quarter in Bayley Lane, has reopened seven days a week as a major visitor attraction.
New cutting-edge digital tours will take visitors around the beautiful building enabling them to experience 700 years of partying, power and propaganda virtually.
This major package of restoration and refurbishment has been made possible with the support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players, and through the Cultural Capital Investment Fund resourced by Coventry City Council, Arts Council England, and the Government’s Getting Britain Building Fund through Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Widely recognised as one of the finest medieval guildhalls in the UK, St Mary’s surprisingly survived the blitz of 1940 in the second world war, which caused destruction across much of Coventry city centre.
It also boasts the stunning St Mary’s Guildhall tapestry - dating back to the turn of the 16th century - which has also undergone major restoration work.
To make a reservation or party booking at St Mary’s Guildhall’s new Tales of Tea tea room between 10am and 4.30pm call a member of the team on 02476 430 535. For further information visit St Mary's Guildhall's website.