“ Address: Manchester M3 4LQ, UK „
Cloud 23 is a bar and restaurant located on the top floor of the Hilton Hotel in Manchester. It has a prime location, with excellent views across the city, making it a popular destination for evening drinks and special occasions. It has floor to ceiling windows, which gives a breathtaking view of the city, and very opulent chairs and booths for intimate socialising.
I visited with a couple of old school friends a few months ago, as I wasn't having an official hen do before my wedding and they didn't want to let the occasion pass without celebrating it. We decided to have a morning of shopping, followed by afternoon tea somewhere swanky. One of my friends used to live in Manchester so she recommended here.
==What's on offer?==
Cloud 23 offers drinks, and afternoon tea, or "high tea" as they call it on their website.
The drinks menu is extensive, and ranges from champagne to cocktails, stopping at everything in between including bellinis, fine wines, and beers. The smallest glass of wine (125ml) will set you back £4.50, and a large glass (250ml) costs around £8.95. So, it's not cheap, but they only stock the best, they provide a table service, and it's all about the ambiance.
In the evenings (between 7pm and 12am) they have a "guest list" system, which basically means that if you're not on the guest list, you have to queue. I have never visited in the evening, but looking on their website it would appear that you can join the guest list online.
Afternoon Tea is served between 12 noon and 4pm, and you basically get a two hour slot where you drink as much tea as you like, and nibble on a very decadent selection which is served on cake stands. Afternoon tea prices start at £16.95 Monday to Friday, or £19.95 on Saturday and Sunday. You can upgrade to champagne afternoon tea, which costs £26.95, and you get one glass of champagne with your food.
There are also events held at Cloud 23, and it is available for private hire. Please see the website for further details http://www.cloud23bar.com/
==The Booking Process==
You must book ahead for Cloud 23, as it's very popular and gets booked up very quickly. I've already mentioned the guest list for the evening, but you must also book for afternoon tea. You can do this online, which is very easy as you just pick your time slot, enter your contact details and submit the request online. You will then get email confirmation within a few days of your booking.
The website gives you a very good idea of what the setting is like, but this doesn't tell you much about what you'll actually be eating. Online, it states you will receive a selection of finger sandwiches, a scone with jam and cream, a selection of cakes, and unlimited tea or coffee.
When we arrived at Cloud 23, we were shown to our seats, and asked if we preferred tea or coffee. Our tea arrived in very fancy pots (we had a pot each), and my friend asked about the sandwich fillings as she was pregnant at the time and wanted to check they didn't contain anything she couldn't eat. Although the food was standard for everyone, I get the impression if it had been a problem, they would have offered something else. But anyway, all was well, and our cake stand arrived.
The cake stand included beef and horseradish sandwiches, salmon vol au vents, Mediterranean vegetable wraps, and little Cornish pasties on the bottom layer. Then there were cakes on the middle layer (chocolate brownie, Victoria sponge, lemon tart, and something else I can't remember right now!), and the top layer had scones with jam and cream.
When I first saw it, I didn't think it would fill me as everything was quite small in size. But in reality, it was lovely to spend two hours just nibbling and chatting, rather than ramming food down my neck like I was in a hurry. By the end of the meal I felt full but not bloated, and the quality of the food was absolutely superb. I'm not really a fan of beef and horseradish, but this was the best sandwich I'd ever tasted! There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy, and the cakes were like little bits of heaven.
==Is it worth the money?==
Ok, so it's not the cheapest place in the world. But remember, you're paying for the experience as well as the food/drink you consume. The top floor really is an experience to remember, I'll never forget walking into the room with all our shopping bags (mainly Primark!) and feeling like I'd entered the set of "Sex in the City". I only went in the daytime so I imagine at night when the city is all lit up, it would be really spectacular.
We got a table right by the window, which was really lovely and made the afternoon very relaxing. The chairs are shaped like lips and bright red, they're actually very comfy and just add to the fun of this experience. On the opposite side of the room there are booths, which are lovely and intimate, but are a little away from the window so you don't get as good a view. I don't think this would detract from the experience, as I was busy talking to my friends most of the time rather than staring out of the window.
The service received here was second to none. The staff were very obliging and couldn't do enough to make sure we were comfortable and happy during our two hour window. We actually overran by a good hour, but they weren't bothered because at the time they didn't need our table.
Although it is a bit on the pricey side, I would definitely recommend this afternoon tea experience for anyone looking for something a bit different, or for a special occasion. It makes a great day out with the girls.
(This review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)