Afternoon tea at Llanerch Vineyard – excellent food, but lacking in service

Afternoon tea is something I really enjoy as a treat. Over the last few years, my family and I have started going for afternoon tea a few times a year as a way to get together and catch up in a relaxing setting.

So I recently booked afternoon tea as a gift for my grandmother for her 91st birthday. I decided to try Llanerch Vineyard for the first time. I’ve had an excellent evening meal with friends there before and know it’s a lovely location.

We were booked in for noon and were shown to a table in a light and airy room. The windows looked out into the vineyard and I loved the huge Welsh dresser and the vineyard wallpaper.

One of our party was running late so we explained that after sitting at the table. We were told that the table was needed at 2pm so we’d have to be finished by then. 

I was disappointed to hear this. What I love most about afternoon tea is whiling away the time while catching up with friends and loved ones. And, to me, two hours is cutting it fine. 

We asked for the portions for the three of us to be brought out and to save the last portion for our other guest. After we chose from a huge variety of teas, the team accommodated this and brought out a gorgeous selection of food.

This included a selection of delicate square sandwiches with fillings including chicken, salmon, ham and the traditional cucumber. 

On the second tier, we had a delicious scone, clotted cream and jam, a Welsh cake and a slice of banana bread.

The top tier then had a fabulous selection of cakes. A melt in your mouth macaroon; a delicious lemon meringue; a peanut butter and chocolate cookie and a perfect slice of raspberry cheesecake.

The food was everything I’d hoped it would be and the tea was delicious. But I was disappointed that the afternoon tea – which was £16.50 each – only included one pot of tea per person. Any additional tea was £2.50 a pot. I’ve had a fair few afternoon teas in my time and it’s the first time I’ve been anywhere that charges for tea top ups!

By 2pm, we were reminded that we needed to leave our table. We were told we could take our drinks elsewhere in the vineyard, but we didn’t. It certainly soured the experience and made me feel unwelcome.

Overall, the food and setting were lovely but the customer service wasn’t what I expected. It detracted from the lovely food and meant the experience didn’t feel as special as I’d have liked it to. 

I’ll be sticking to my regular places for afternoon tea in future.

Blogger note – We paid for our visit to Llanerch Vineyard and the venue was unaware I was writing a review.


Pride and Prejudice at the Wales Millennium Centre

As an English Literature graduate, and a huge theatre fan, I was more than a little excited when I found out Pride and Prejudice was coming to the Wales Millennium Centre.

I was also a little nervous. I love the Austen novel and have enjoyed many TV and film adaptations of it over the years (Colin Firth in a wet shirt anyone?) so I wondered how the story would translate on stage.

Those fears disappeared as this lively production swept us away to the world of the Bennet family and Mrs Bennet’s scarcely hidden ambitions to marry off her five daughters.

Seasoned actors Felicity Montagu and Olivier award winner Matthew Kelly were marvellous as the Bennet parents and set the comic tone of the production, which brought the wit of Austen’s writing and characterisation to life. Montagu is a brilliant choice for schemer and walking hyperbole Mrs Bennet, whose wild emotions and reactions led to many a laugh.

Tafline Steen made a lovely Lizzie fizzing with life, forthright opinions and a quick wit. Her knowing looks to the audience made us feel included. It was great to see Lizzie played with such enthusiastic charm.

Benjamin Dilloway was a good Mr Darcey playing the perfect snob at the outset but growing in compassion and self awareness as the play and its plot unfurled.

Another stand out was Steven Meo as Mr Collins, the simpering and snobbish clergyman so desperate to be accepted in higher social circles. His slapstick and comical take on Mr Collins added to the show’s light-hearted feel.

The clever revolving set was simple yet visually effective transporting us between the Bennet household, balls and Pemberley.

I enjoyed little touches such as the letters being delivered by the sender and the dance scenes in which so much of the flirting and verbal sparring happened.

Overall, this was a delightful production that proved Austen is as brilliant today as ever.

I’m looking forward to the same company bringing Jane Eyre to the Centre in the summer.

Did you see Pride and Prejudice during its time at the Wales Millennium Centre? If so, what did you think? 

Blogger note: I bought my ticket for the show and the centre was not aware I was reviewing the show.

La Boheme – A review 

Last night was a Saturday night with a difference as I went to see the opening night of Welsh National Opera’s La Boheme at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

Although I enjoy an eclectic mix of music and theatre, I rarely go to see an opera. But as La Boheme is so loved across the world, I took the plunge and bought tickets. 

And it was wonderful. The production transported us to Bohemian Paris and the lives of Mimi and Rodolfo, neighbours who fall in love after meeting one cold winter’s night.

The cast and chorus did a sterling job of bringing Puccini’s masterpiece to life. Littered with humour and heartbreak, the English and Welsh subtitles meant novices like me could follow the plot and dialogue, which was performed in Italian.

One of my highlights was the technology used to bring Bohemian Paris to life. Thin screens were layered to animate flurries of snow alongside the snowflakes falling on the stage. The changing seasons were shown by dancing snowflakes turning into the flowers of spring.

All in all, La Boheme was a gorgeous production. Beautifully sung and acted, it was an accessible way to try out an evening at the opera. 

Have you seen #WNOBoheme? I’d love to hear yours thoughts. 

A jolly holiday with Mary Poppins in Cardiff

Mary Poppins was my favourite film as a child without a doubt. From Julie Andrews’s pitch perfect voice to the mixture of animation and real life actors to the wonderful score and storyline, it was a film never far from our video player (I grew up in an era of VHS). 

So when I heard that Mary Poppins was coming to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, I snapped up tickets as quickly as I could. 

We saw it last night and from the moment the curtain lifted, the show was a delight. Colourful sets, distinctive choreography and Zizi Strallen’s perfect Poppins – as well as that brilliant score – created a fun family show.

Strallen’s vocals were spot on and she was supported by a talented cast. Highlights for me included the chimney sweepers’ fancy footwork in Step in Time and the Jolly Holiday imagination scene, which transformed the stage into bright bursts of colour.

Although it featured the most well-loved narrative of the film, it also had its own identity with new characters and songs. I particularly liked the increased focus on Mrs Banks. The Votes for Women sash was gone and replaced with a more in depth look at the pressures she felt, including a strong addition to the score, Being Mr Banks

It was a joyous show made all the more joyful for having many children in the audience. The young girl sitting behind me was singing along word for word at times clearly transfixed by the performance.

There are some further bits that add to the magic and wonder but I’d rather not spoil it for those of you who aren’t in the know. But let’s just say it’s as magical onstage as it is on screen. Bravo!

Have you seen Mary Poppins on stage? I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

Mary Poppins is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 14 January 2017.