I've been a journalist for almost five years now and one of the things I most enjoy doing is visiting new shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and other businesses - especially when the owner or manager has an impressive or inspiring story to tell - and sharing an insight into the new business, or long-running business offering something new or a little bit different, with readers. Whenever I can, I love championing independent businesses and I enjoy trying new things too.

So you can imagine my excitement when, after emailing The Grand Hotel in Swansea simply asking for permission to use their photos for a potential article about their new "alternative Afternoon Tea" featuring mini burgers and fish 'n chips, I was invited down to try it for myself. After a few emails, we arranged for my visit a week later, on a Friday lunchtime, and I asked my lovely colleague Katie to be my plus one. We'd been looking forward to it all week - but were left massively disappointed.

The Grand Hotel is a three-star hotel with a 4 out of 5 rating on TripAdvisor, from more than 1,200 reviews, on Ivey Place in the city centre just by the railway station. It boasts 53 rooms, with more to be built in an expansion, a good-sized bar-lounge area and various function and conference rooms - some of which regularly host special events including the Hotel's well-known annual Beaujolais Day party. With several stylish function rooms available, I'm at a loss why the hotel would host its afternoon tea in the bar-lounge area when it was busy with rowdy sports fans looking forward to this weekend's Six Nations games. Whilst service was very good and the food was fantastic, the atmosphere was so terrible that I ultimately left the hotel with a bad taste in my mouth.

Scroll down for my honest, and fair, review of afternoon tea at The Grand Hotel Swansea on Friday, February 2, 2024:

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The food and drink

Undoubtedly the most important aspect of an Afternoon Tea is the food. If you think you know what Afternoon Tea is, think again. At the Grand Hotel, there's not a cucumber sandwich in sight! Instead, customers are served delicious and filling winter warmers like mini burgers, sausage roll slices and mini fish 'n chips. As for dessert, there's so much choice from a traditional scone with jam and cream to carrot cake with vanilla cream cheese icing, or a luxurious double chocolate mousse with berry compote, to name a few menu items.

The full menu: Savoury - pork & tomato chutney sausage roll, mixed cheese & spring onion filled mini loaf, mini fish & chips, mini cheeseburger in a brioche bun. Sweet - swirled chocolate scone with cream & jam, caramel Viennese whirl, double chocolate mousse with cherry compote, lemon and lime tart, carrot cake with vanilla cream cheese icing.

The verdict: The food was stunning! The sausage roll was full of flavour and the mini cheeseburger was particularly tasty. You can't go wrong with chips and the portion was a really good size considering fish and chips is just one of each customer's nine items. I'm not a huge fan of battered fish or fish in breadcrumbs, so was delighted that the chef was able to offer chicken goujons instead of the usual fish goujons. Our waitress, Ellie, told us that the chef is able to adapt the menu for any customers with allergies, providing enough notice is given.

As for the desserts, I was so full after the savoury bites, I simply couldn't eat them all - but between my colleague Katie and I, we tried one of each dessert. I personally loved the scone served with cream and jam (I grew up in the West Country, clotted cream is in my blood!) and thought the caramel Viennese whirl was absolutely delicious. I enjoyed the berry compote too, though I found the chocolate mousse it comes with far too rich and intense for me. Katie loved the carrot cake. "It's probably the best carrot cake I've ever had," she said, but wasn't fussed by the lemon and lime tart as she felt it lacked lemon flavour and "just wasn't anything special".

Each of the items was of good-size and all together, there was so much food we had to ask for a box to take a few bits home! I loved the way it was presented as well, on a wooden cake stand that looked like a picnic table - so cute!

For drinks, tea and filter coffee is included in the price, or you can choose to pay extra for other hot drinks, cold drinks or alcoholic drinks - or upgrade for £5 to have a special cocktail or mocktail with your afternoon tea. On our visit, I had a hot chocolate (creamy and delicious) and Katie opted for a pot of tea - with such cold wintry weather, we were so glad we opted for hot drinks but I can imagine, if the weather was warmer, a soft drink would be more refreshing!

The service

Service was very good. On entering the hotel, we told the staff member at reception we had a reservation for afternoon tea and she showed us to the bar-lounge area just a few metres away. Here we were shown to our table and met our waitress, Ellie, who was warm and friendly and immediately apologised for the loud noise in the bar-lounge.

With the Six Nations this weekend, many sports fans are staying in the hotel and whilst staff were expecting them to be quite social (read: rowdy) in the afternoon, we were warned the group of Scotland fans in the bar area had been drinking for a few hours already. Unfortunately, this massively affected our experience - more on this later.

After bringing our Afternoon Tea to our table, Ellie regularly came back to us to check on us and offer any extra plates or condiments we might need - and we noticed she continued to check on the other customers enjoying drinks or afternoon tea too. She apologised a few more times for the noise - which was not at all her fault - but I do really wonder why afternoon tea is being served in a bar-lounge that could (like during our visit) be full of rowdy, or drunk, guests not having afternoon tea, rather than in a separate area just for people having afternoon tea.

The atmosphere

As mentioned, the atmosphere massively let the overall Afternoon Tea experience down. Over the space of a little over an hour on a Friday lunchtime, noise grew from friendly chatter and general excitement to obnoxious and loud swearing and shouting across the bar-lounge. I appreciate it's not staff's fault for bar customers or hotel guests' poor language but it was absolutely horrendous.

Several times during our visit, Katie and I struggled to hear each other speak - and one older gent from a nearby table came over to us, uninvited, no less than three times. The rowdy shouting and swearing resembled something of a pub or a sports bar late on a Friday or Saturday night - not a nice hotel at midday.

Whilst hotel guests should absolutely be allowed to have drinks and socialise during their stay - and bar customers should absolutely be allowed to drink and chitchat too - having Afternoon Tea in the same location is a massive error on hotel management's part. The horrendous swearing, shouting and general off-putting atmosphere of 21 mostly-drunken gents taking over most of the bar-lounge area is not something I can downplay.

Final thoughts

The Grand Hotel is located on Ivey Place, just by the railway station in Swansea city centre
The Grand Hotel is located on Ivey Place, just by the railway station in Swansea city centre

The food at the afternoon tea was fantastic and the service was very good. But I simply cannot in good conscience recommend this afternoon tea - at £25+ per person no less - in the room it's currently held in. If moved to a function room or away from the bar, I think it would be a much more special and enjoyable experience, but not being able to hear your friend, partner or family member when they're sat less than a metre away from you - and having to put up with swearing, shouting and all-round poor behaviour from people in the bar is simply not good enough when customers are paying so much.

I was so, so disappointed and would only ever return or recommend it to others if Afternoon Tea customers had exclusive use of the bar/lounge/whatever room it's being served in or, perhaps more realistically, if Afternoon Tea was moved to a function room or area away from the bar - especially in the lead-up to a sports game when fans are going to be drinking and a bit more social than those looking to enjoy a special occasion or classy afternoon tea.

We have approached The Grand Hotel Swansea and offered them the opportunity to respond to our huge disappointment during our visit for alternative afternoon tea. If they get back to us, we will add their statement here.

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