A nice welcome at the Europa~
While in Belfast we stayed at two excellent hotels, the first being Europa, which previously had a title of being the world’s most bombed hotel thanks to many journalists and foreign dignitaries staying there, making it a target during the troubles.
I wasn’t expecting much to be honest – I thought it would be just your usual run-of-the-mill nice-enough inner-city hotel but I was proven wrong in quite a big way.
Upon arrival, after we checked in and sorted our stuff out, we had a whole load of fun in their Piano Bar which on a Friday night was buzzing away. When we eventually crashed, it was onto beds that were so comfortable I didn’t even recall falling asleep. The shower was one of those ones with awesome pressure, there was great big tv in the room and big fluffy bathrobes with slippers. It would have been easy enough to forego seeing the city and just chill in bed all day… but we had things to do!
My Irish breakfast – black and white pudding!
For those things to do we needed to load up on a good breakfast, where we were presented with a booklet on where the Hastings Group sources their food, all local whenever feasible. I’m generally not one for a big stodgy breakfast but I found myself eating loads of potato bread, bacon, insanely good pork sausages and here’s the surprise, seconds of black then white pudding… thankfully there was very nice apple juice and a big pot of tea to make one not feel so guilty.
Me cold and drenched. Image credit: Mandy Southgate
We needed to burn things off so headed off on our walk, got drenched (being the silly Kiwi that I am, I refused to take an umbrella with me in that wind then regretted it later when we returned to the hotel with wonky hair), went back to the Europa and after drying off, sat down for a glorious afternoon tea. Below is an amended version of the post I wrote for the High Tea Society.
Afternoon tea setting
“We had the privilege of enjoying afternoon tea at the Europa hotel set in the heart of Belfast, Northern Ireland and the flagship hotel for the Hastings Group’s luxury hotels. We were to receive amazing service, beautiful food and an afternoon that we were reluctant to finish as we were so happy and comfortable.
Until two years ago, the Europa had the dubious honour of being the world’s most bombed hotel, however, over the past 40 years it has continued to rise like a Phoenix from the flames many times. The hotel has received more than its fair share of attention in the history books, hosting many journalists and foreign dignitaries including the Clintons in the 1990s (after whom a suite is named). We were there to try their afternoon tea though and were pleasantly surprised at the sheer level of detail and planning that has gone into the creation of their afternoon tea service.
Quite a fantastic spread
As with other Hastings Group hotels, afternoon tea began with Mumm champagne which we drank while discussing how impressed we were by Belfast and what an easy city it is to navigate, filled with so much culture. We perused the tea menu which contained a selection of Thompson’s Family teas and eventually settled on a selection which we would have throughout the afternoon, starting with a beautiful jasmine dragon phoenix pearls and a fragrant high quality Earl Grey, both served in Jing glass tea pots.
The cake stand was presented to us and it contained a generous selection of sandwiches, fruit and plain scones, along with a lovely range of pastries. The highlights for us were the turkey and stuffing sandwiches and the chocolate slice which melted in our mouths and made us so happy. An honourable mention however must go to the scones which were perfectly formed, slightly warm and went well with the home-made raspberry preserve that they were presented with.
I may actually go as far to say that this was one of the best scones I’ve had in my entire life…
We had stayed overnight at the Europa Hotel and at breakfast located a booklet that outlined the Hastings Group’s suppliers, who they try to source locally as much as possible. During our tea we were delighted to know that the teas were sourced from third generation Belfast tea blenders Ross and David Thompson, cream from the McDowell family who have been dairy farmers for over 100 years, and jam made in small batches by the Clarke family who grow their own fruit and source everything else that they are able to from their neighbours.
That chocolate tart… oh god.
We adored our stay at the Europa, in part because Belfast is a wonderfully compact and fascinating city, but largely because everything, from the comfortable furniture to the high quality afternoon tea, was so well thought through and the friendly staff exceptional. We’d like to thank Helen McCune who looked after us so well and made us feel like part of the Europa family. Belfast, your friendliness has definitely made us plan to return for more.”
In summary, Mandy and I were quite surprised by the Europa Hotel and enjoyed everything about it from its wall of history, to the food at both ends of the day, the comfortable beds, luxurious bathrooms, friendly concierge etc, but most of all, we were blown away by the staff who treated us like family, they were knowledgeable and took pride in their service.
Location: Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT2 7AP, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom map: http://www.hastingshotels.com/europa-belfast/location.html
Afternoon tea £20 per person
Afternoon tea with mulled wine £24 per person
Champagne afternoon tea £28 per person
Disclaimer: We were guests of the Hastings Group and Tourism Ireland. All opinions are my own and I was definitely not bribed to exclaim how much I loved Belfast.
This is the second of four post on Belfast. The other three are:
Culloden Estate and Spa
Culloden Estate afternoon tea
Did I mention that?