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Afternoon Tea at St Michael's Mount

Afternoon tea
Afternoon tea at St Michael's Mount places the focus firmly on Cornish produce

I'm rather partial to afternoon tea so I was delighted when St Michael's Mount invited me to sample their quintessentially Cornish take on it at The Harbour Loft restaurant last week. Created by Head Chef Greg Milne, the menu places the focus firmly on local produce with both sweet and savoury offerings including, of course, scones with jam and clotted cream.

Afternoon tea is a relatively new addition to The Mount's culinary offering. As one of Cornwall's leading tourist attractions, it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, many of whom want to enjoy a drink or bite to eat while they're on the island. The Island Cafe, which is based in what was once the castle's laundry, offers a relaxed self-service experience but Lady St Levan and the team wanted to create a different kind of venue.

She said: 'What could we do that was different? What could we do to get people to linger and absorb the atmosphere of The Mount?

'For afternoon tea with a difference it's got to be about The Mount. It's got to have a twist. The twist with it is clearly to celebrate our local producers.'

Working with Truro-based interior designer, Steve Coombe, the team overhauled the former Sail Loft restaurant to create what Lady St Levan describes as a beautiful but relaxing space.

The menu includes Cornish mackerel crostini, pea and sea vegetable tartlets, an assortment of finger sandwiches as well as scones and a selection of delicate sweets. The dishes are a showcase for local produce. Of the 24 ingredients that go into the tea, 22 come from the Cornwall. The team are expert foragers so many of the ingredients come from the island itself including sorrel and wild garlic. Other Cornish produce includes coffee from Origin in Porthleven, soft drinks and sparkling wine from Penzance-based Polgoon, fish from Matthew Stevens in St Ives and eggs from Cornhill Eggs in Camborne.

While lots of people choose to visit the castle, Lady St Levan is quick to point out that there are plenty of other things to explore on the island. She said: 'The Mount has so many different avenues you can go down. One hundred and fifty thousand people just went round the gardens last year. You can come on The Mount to just have a lovley afternoon tea experience. You don't have to climb the hill and do the full castle experience. You're welcome to just come here.'

A new addition since I last visited is The Steward's House which is now a fascinating little art gallery. The collection comprises works by Newlyn School artists, including Stanhope Forbes and Walter Langley, and provides an insight into life in West Cornwall before the middle of the 20th century.

If you're not feeling energetic enough for the climb to the castle, a browse around the harbour and gallery followed by tea would make a lovely afternoon out. However you do it, I feel I must point out that when it comes to scones, here in Cornwall it's always jam first!

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