Having been a student in Bristol – the city with the largest number, in the whole of the UK, of independent traders on one street – I had become very accustomed to having a vast array of cosy, quirky coffee corners at my disposal. With a lot of Manchester still to explore (for which WeekendNotes was immensely helpful), it was a priority of mine to find somewhere snug to scurry off to with a book or some writing, and lose hours of a rainy afternoon lost in prose.
Just how one might imagine the cafeteria to look on one of Tim Burton's film sets. Truly enchanting.
There is no shortage of tearooms and coffee shops in Manchester, that much is evident. With almost every street corner boasting a Starbucks or Neros, we Mancunians are never more than spitting distance from an overpriced espresso. However, the atmosphere in these chains is fairly unexceptional, the coffee sometimes tastes as mass-produced as it is, and the whole experience is on the whole rather bland. Therefore, when someone mentioned to me "an Alice in Wonderland tearoom", I instantly paid attention. After a quick search on Google, I had discovered The Richmond Tearooms, and made my way there that very afternoon.
The view from inside the greenhouse, which sits in the corner full of cushions and cosiness.
In a way, I feel only half-qualified to write this review. This place is more than just tearooms; it also has a cocktail bar in a separate room that I am yet to try but which looks charming at just a peep around the door. If someone had told me about a combined cocktail bar and tearoom in the heart of Manchester I would have been skeptical, thinking that some entrepreneurial mixologist with a penchant for Earl Grey had bitten off more than he could chew. However, it appears that that couldn't be further from the truth, and I look forward to trying out the cocktail bar very soon.
The tea room itself is no ordinary café. The array of cakes, pastries and nibbles on offer is indeed delectable. In addition, however, while it retains all of the quaint charm that a typically English tearoom should offer by definition, the higgledy-piggledy, brightly coloured decor sends you, as intended, straight down the rabbit hole. With dolls houses, vibrant drapes, kitschy cushions, floral candles, vintage lighting, mismatched sugar bowls and partitioned off areas in which to have your cake and eat it (quite literally), the interior design is marvellously reminiscent of a magical Tim Burton film set.
The beautiful counter, upon which you will find not-your-average kettle..
An enormous gold contraption sits on the counter dispensing hot water into the beautiful teapots, and large signs reading "Eat me" and "Drink me" entice you to do just that. The dime cake comes highly recommended and the China Yunnan tea makes an excellent afternoon brew.
The menu also boasts various combinations; for example, 'Hatter's Tea' will get you four finger sandwiches, a large scone with cream and jam, and any of the various pots of tea. If you're feeling slightly more lavish, for £23.50, you can indulge in the 'Richmond Tea' - a glass of bubbly, a selection of sandwiches and pastries, and everything that comes with the 'Hatter's Tea' on top of that. There is also an impressive selection of light meals and sandwiches on offer, should you fancy a spot of lunch.
Just a glimpse of the beautiful furnishings, fit for a King.
I have visited the tearooms three or four times now, and enjoyed each and every occasion. Friends who have been in Manchester longer than me have told me that they have sometimes visited when the younger staff are manning the fort and not received the usual excellent service. "When that nice older lady isn't there the service isn't generally as good, and my egg was pretty dry," one them said, but I am yet to see that side for myself.
Two friends bury themselves away for a natter among the cushions.
The website states that The Richmond Tearooms hope to expand to others areas in the north west, but there is nothing better than experiencing something in its original form. They provide a welcome change from the relentless mass of nightlife taking over Manchester's gay village, and are in all honesty some of the loveliest tearooms I have ever been to. Well, we certainly have enough rainy afternoons in Manchester for them.