Now you can try an Italian version of this classic English treat
“Tè del pomeriggio” – that’s how to say afternoon tea in Italian. The words might slip off the tongue like chocolate ganache off a warm spoon, but the concept is absolutely English. While the Italians are responsible for inspiring the world in matters including fashion, art, culture and astronomy, the invention of the afternoon tea is all ours, as it has been since 1840, thanks to the 4pm tummy rumblings of Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford.
How refreshing then, to see other nationalities - especially those with a much more globally influential food culture than ours, eagerly putting their own spin on our edible invention. None more so than the Italians, whose love of tooth tingly sweet treats is no secret.
In Manchester, it’s safe to say that the best Anglo Italian afternoon tea can be found in the marbled confines of San Carlo Cicchetti. This is where guests can indulge in three-tiers of delicate delights, all hand crafted in their own devoted pastry kitchens under San Carlo’s flagship restaurant across the road.
Between Monday and Thursday, between 2.30pm-5.30pm, the all-day dining venue serves a delicious afternoon tea with their trademark Italian touch.
There are no set rules on how to eat an afternoon tea – that’s the beauty of it. Feel free to indulge in sweet before savoury, slap the jam on before cream, or pour the milk into the cup before the tea. That’s up to you. However, we prefer to work our way through an afternoon tea from savoury to sweet, so that’s how we’re going to describe it:
Rather than sticking to the standard finger sandwiches in traditional flavours, Cicchetti serve soft miniature brioche buns filled with piped mascarpone with olive tapenade and thinly sliced Parma ham; glazed mini-subs filled with cream cheese and smoked salmon; buttered granary toast with plump prawns and citrus-spiked avocado mash; and creamy burrata with ripe torpedino tomatoes, drizzled with fresh basil pesto.
That’s just on the middle tier. On the bottom, you’ll find a freshly made scone, dotted with plump and juicy sultanas, a personal pot of Wilkin & Sons strawberry jam and a dish of thick clotted cream.
It’s the top tier of delicious dolci and perfect patisserie that is typically Cicchetti. The sweet treats might change a little every so often to reflect the best of the changing seasons, but on our visit there was a show stopping lemon tart with crisp, buttery pastry topped with perfectly piped Italian meringue; their signature velvety pistachio mousse cake; a strawberry-topped confection inside a white chocolate shell coloured bright red, and a delicious chocolate and hazelnut mousse.
If you prefer something a little more exotic than a pot of standard English breakfast tea to drink, choose from Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Ceylon, peppermint or Assam. As you’d expect, Cicchetti also offer the option to push the boat out by adding a glass of champagne for an even more indulgent afternoon tea.
When Cicchetti say they offer all day dining – they really do mean it. They open for breakfast at 8pm, serve mid-morning coffee and cakes, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, pre-theatre, early supper, aperitivo and dinner. One day, we’re simply going to find a cosy corner and move in.