An Afternoon Tea like no other at Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar
We are very lucky in Cheltenham to have such a huge range in different places to eat and drink. However, the most exciting recent addition to this has to be Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar.
Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar is situated on the Promenade in the centre of Cheltenham and is inspired by the British Raj period. A Memsahib is a European woman in India during this period. They would host lavish feasts for family and friends in their homes. This is definitely the feel that you get as you walk into the bar. There are plenty of inviting, comfy seats and the decor is both sophisticated and cosy.
During the British Raj period, many Anglo-Indian women settled in Cheltenham. On one of the walls in the bar are five charcoal drawings of influential women who lived and had a connection with Cheltenham and India. I love the idea of visiting here for afternoon tea with female friends, enjoying their company as these five influential women watch over you.
I decided to bring my lovely friend, Sue with me. Sue and I used to teach together many years ago. We still manage to catch-up with each other several times a year and Afternoon Chai together seemed like a good excuse for a pre-Christmas get-together. We found a comfy sofa next to the bar on which to spend the next couple of hours.
Within a few minutes of us being seated, we were bought a welcome drink and Amuse Bouche. Our first tea was presented to us in a beautiful glass. The Amuse Bouche consisted of a small popadum with chutney on top. The popadum was crisp and the chutney full of spicy flavours. It left me feeling very excited about the rest of the food to arrive, but also slightly sad that my popdums from my next Indian takeaway were never going to match up to these.
When we had polished off our popadums, we were bought over the Pre-Nasta. I was really impressed by the waiting staff as they explained what each course consisted of. This was a Bombay mix with puffed rice, bhuna masala and onion chat. It was a wonderful mix of crunchy and soft textures and spicy, sweet and fresh flavours.
This was followed by our first pot of tea. The whole teaset was so beautiful to look at. The glass teapot had enough tea for two, and the teacup and saucer, milk jar and honeypot was visually stunning. The tea itself was a Masala chai with ginger and garam masala. Again the knowledge of the staff really shone through as they suggested how to try the tea (which came with a bay leaf in the teacup). I don’t normally drink sweet tea, but this spiced brew was so good with a little honey added.
Then, it was time for the piece de resistance. I do love the drama of a cake stand, crammed full of sweet and savoury goodies arriving during an afternoon tea, and this was no exception. The stand was very different to any other cake stand I have had with afternoon tea. The black, metal cage design was both spectacular, yet understated. It suited its surroundings, but allowed the food to really by the star of the show.
Again, the waiting staff talked us through each layer of food. The bottom layer (and first to be eaten) consisted of Bengali prawn koftas, Malai dall and a chicken tikka roll. The dall was probably the nicest dall I have ever eaten – full of spice but not too hot, and the prawn koftas had a crispy coating as you bit into them, but the inside was moist and flavourful.
After this, there was a Lahoris lamb kebab and deconstructed samosa chaat. I did really enjoy the samosa chaat. It reminded me of having a warm somasa in an Indian restaurant, but so much more sofisticated. The staff explained to us that the Afternoon Chai could be adapted for any diet. For example, the pastry of the deconstructed samosa chat was made with coconut oil so idea for vegans.
Finally, there was the sweet course. This consisted of a bowl of jilabi, pears chaat and kulfi (a mixture of dried fruits and nuts with a hint of yoghurt) and Gulab Jamun sandwich. The best way I can describe the Gulab Jamun sandwich is that it was a cross between the sticky Indian sweets of the same name and marmalade on toast. They were a delicious surprise, and the perfect way to end the meal.
Following the food, we were bought our second pot of tea. This one was a French Earl Grey tea. Both Sue and I love Earl Grey tea, but this was very different. There was still the distinctive citrus flavour of bergamot, but it was softer and more floral.
As we ate and drank, our conversation went from a general catch-up to raving about the food and who we knew who would love a Memsahib-style afternoon chai. There are plenty of places in Cheltenham to enjoy an afternoon tea, but the Memsahib Afternoon Chai, provides something really different. At £19.99 per person, I feel it is a real bargain.
Nowadays, a lot of restaurants have the option to add a bit of fizz to your afternoon tea with prosecco. Memsahib have gone even better and have a Gin and Tea Tasting menu. Sitting close to the bar gave me the perfect opportunity to have a chat to the bar staff about the gins they have on offer. For a Gin and Tea bar, you would expect a good selection of gin, and with 55 gins from around the world, no gin enthusiast would be disappointed. I was particularly excited to see a few gins that I like but have never seen in any bar before. However, in addition to all of these gins, are 16 unique gin infusions. It seemed rude to come to a Gin and Tea bar and not try a gin, so Sue and I shared an Indian Masala gin. Like everything else at Memsahib, it was both beautiful and full of flavour.
The Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar’s Afternoon Tea was a really wonderful surprise. The Gin and Tea Bar itself really is a gem in the heart of Cheltenham. Sue and I are already planning to return together and with friends. I honestly cannot recommend it highly enough. It was a really different take on afternoon tea, and definitely one I will never forget. I would choose a Memsahib Afternoon Chai over an afternoon tea any day.
Disclaimer: We were invited to try the Memshabib Gin and Tea Bar Afternoon Chai in order to review it, but as always all thoughts and opinions are our own. We absolutely loved it and will be visiting again (and again and again!).