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No stay in the UK is complete without an afternoon tea and the one at Mackintosh at the Willow is as much about exquisite cakes as it is about the soul of Glasgow through its most famous architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, born in Glasgow.
To say that I'm obsessed with afternoon tea is somewhat of an understatement. In fact when the last meal question is raised I've now decided that an afternoon tea is now my choice for my death row meal.
When I read up on the history of the Mackintosh at the Willow tea room I knew that I had to try it. This is one of the few remaining intact buildings Mackintosh designed for tea room queen Kate Cranston or Ms Cranston as she was known. Her tea rooms allowed women to be able to entertain outside the home and she was a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist who bequeathed two thirds of her multi million pound estate to the poorest children of Glasgow.
The tea room is a multi-layered space starting with a ground floor tea room in an Art Deco design. Pillars, mirrored trees, skylights and stained glass windows gave diners the impression of being in a garden or meadow. Willows are used as a decorative theme throughout the tea rooms - this is a play on its address on Sauciehall Street which means "Alley of the Willows".
Leaded Glass Gesso Panel
But the piece de résistance is the Salon de Luxe upstairs. Past the stunning kimono design doors is a room that was designed to be a women's only room. The Salon de Luxe has a bow window, an ornate decorative panel of leaded glass Gesso panel called "O ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood" by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (Charles Rennie Mackintosh's partner). The recreation is made using rabbit glue binder, chalk and white pigment on wood inset with glass beads.
Kimono Stained Glass Doors
The stunning chandeliers that look modern are recreations of the original chandeliers based off painstaking work using photographs-the pink and green colours were deduced from orders.
The men's billiards room
Guests wishing to use this space were charged 1 penny for the privilege of using the room. Nowadays there is a surcharge of £5 to dine here. The men also had their own billiards room with leather padded seats and an enormous billiard table.
But back to why we're here-afternoon tea! We are having the classic afternoon tea which is £21 per person and includes a tiered stand your choice of tea or coffee.
My initial choice of stollen tea isn't available so I go for a hot chocolate, delicious and almost as deep as the Mariana Trench. Mr NQN has a Scottish chai mixture that is fragrant and spicy.
It is all served on Burleigh pottery that is specially made for the tea rooms and is a replica of Ms Cranston's original pottery. We start with the sandwiches, four types including a cucumber and cheese, egg salad, ham and cheese and smoked salmon. The bread is very soft and fresh.
Then it's onto the warm scones both plain and fruited served with thick clotted cream and strawberry jam. It's hard to choose a favourite-perhaps it is the fruited.
Then a surprising favourite layer is the cakes. I usually prefer the sandwiches and scones at high tea but these cakes are divine. Not only fresh, they're each quite distinct-the carrot cake is beautifully spicy, the Victoria sponge heavenly, the raspberry opera cake with white chocolate perfectly balanced along with a delicious passionfruit curd meringue and blackberry macaron.
After finishing our afternoon tea we visit the museum on site which is spaced out over 2 floors and details the history of the building and between the patron and designer relationship between Mackintosh and Cranston. You can also play dress ups as Ms Cranston or the staff or try your hand at virtual blending tea.
So tell me Dear Reader, what would be your final meal? Do you enjoy afternoon tea?
Mackintosh At The Willow:
215 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3EX, United Kingdom
Open 7 days 9am–5pm
Phone: +44 141 204 1903