How can that quintessentially British tradition – afternoon tea – be executed so well in a hotel on the Portuguese island of Madeira?
The answer, of course, is that Reid’s Palace hotel has a long tradition with the British, starting with its founder, William Reid, a Scot. Even today, over 40 per cent of the guests visiting this Funchal hotel are from the UK.
Celebrating its 120th birthday this year, I have challenged myself to find anywhere that serves tea better. Of course, the location helps. On the black and white tiled terrace, high above the harbour, with sea views to all sides and the luxurious gardens below, you feel you are on to a winner straight away. Add a gentle warm breeze, even if it’s late December and well before the trolley ambles across to your table with your choices, chances are you’ll be smitten.
The tables are covered with white linen cloths, the cutlery is gleaming and the bone china is at the ready. Reid’s offers a wide variety of teas including their house blend; heretics may choose coffee. An assortment of crustless finger sandwiches on both white and brown bread are served on a three-tiered serving stand, along with small pastries, including the delicious speciality ginger cake. The piéce de resistance is probably the tiny scones, freshly made on the day and served with strawberry jam. Your tea is served in its own pot with strainer and cold milk (or fresh lemon if you prefer) and hot water.
If you have time after your tea, do spend a while exploring this fascinating hotel. You’ll find a photograph of Winston Churchill, standing on the same terrace. Where the swimming pools are now, they used to have tea dances. Although the hotel has moved with the times, taking tea is one of the traditions that has been carefully retained.
Booking is necessary and dress is smart casual.
Tea is served from 3pm to 5.30pm every day. €28 per person.
Estrada Monumental , Funchal, Portugal
Contact tel: +351 29171 7171
Reid’s Palace, Funchal, tea terrace