The atmosphere in Reid’s balcony is colonial England throughout, even though we were in the Portuguese island of Madeira, thousands of miles from England and hundreds of years from colonialism. Reid’s is a 5 star hotel in Funchal, the main city of Madeira. Probably one of the poshest in the island and I was expecting to be properly transported to some upper echelon during their (fairly pricey, but definitely worth it) afternoon tea experience by the sea.
The sandwiches were the best thing about this afternoon tea. I know this is lame because afternoon teas are all about the sweet petit fours and the scones. But I have had many nice petit fours and scones but a soft, moist, outstanding savoury sandwich is harder to find. The crab sandwich was just that – soft like clouds, moist like the sea, cool like the water where crabs live and ever so slightly sweet. And even the vulgar cheese sandwich was extra soft and creamy. Last time I had sandwiches this good was in the Fat Duck (ok, those were ‘a bit’ better). There were also a smoked salmon and an avocado sandwich, both lovely and worthy of Reid’s.
The petit fours also delivered as they should, and so did the scones, which came with two locally-produced preserves, one of which made with banana (yes, banana jam and it really works!).
You expect the food to be good. But above anything else, Reid’s is all about the whole experience. It pampers you with precision. The traditional delicate tea set, the fact that the tea leaves come loose instead of inside a bag, the checkered black and white tiled floor, the arches, the views, the waiters’ off-white suit jackets and the black bow ties, it really is about how it makes you feel. Special and tranquil. And full! By the time we left, each of our tummies was digesting 2 glasses of champagne, 3 rounds of sandwiches, petit-fours, scones and 4 cups of tea. Not for the faint-hearted.
I would recommend Reid’s afternoon tea to anyone going to Madeira island. Make sure you book and check the dress code on their website.