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When a friend of mine decided to pay Chester a visit for the first time, with an appetite for afternoon tea, I immediately suggested Mad Hatters. I’ve been in there a few times, once for lunch, and occasionally for a mid-day cake, but was curious to see what they could create, on the afternoon tea spectrum.

Due to the rain, we spent most of the morning jumping between shops, exploring antique treasures on the top floor of Nichols & Co, purchasing botanical coasters from Wild and peering into the window of The Colour Composer (new hair salon in Grosvenor Shopping Centre?). We also managed to squeeze in a cocktail at Corks Out – I highly recommend their chocolate orange expresso martini if you’re after a rich, sweet hit.

We were welcomed warmly at Mad Hatters, and as soon as we chose between the two afternoon tea options, the drinks were delivered. We both went for red berry tea (from Tea from the Manor – popping up all over Chester), and of course a glass of fizz, and cheers’d over our table of scattered confetti.

For anyone who’s been here before, you’ll know the decor is heavily inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and won’t be surprised that the two options for such an event are so named:

The presentation and characterful touches (loved the tea cups) have evidently been thought about, alongside the price – you get a generous volume of lovely food. The spread at Mad Hatters, was flawless and presented in three pretty tiers. We tucked into cucumber, cheese, ham and egg sandwiches, and thickly spread cream and jam on our fluffy scones. The macaroons (though I’m not usually a fan) were delicious, and a nice bit of flair in their colour and clashing insides. I liked that the main cake was left up to you – anything on offer from their selection that day. And what I went for, a chocolate and salted caramel tart, was a clear winner from the group.

The tea was bottomless, but we didn’t manage to drink our way through the first pot – no doubt too focused on the fizz. Staff were attentive but left us alone to enjoy the selection, and we didn’t feel pressured to rush, despite the busyness of the place on a Saturday afternoon. We couldn’t eat everything, but they were happy to pass us a few boxes to wrap it up for another sweet day. The only thing that disappoints me here a little is the lack of range. The only difference in the two afternoon tea menus is the Queen’s allowed a drink (a glass of Prosecco). I think they’re missing a trick by not diversifying further and getting a bit more imaginative. I indulged in a few similarly themed teas in London, and whilst you’ll rarely find me babbling on positively about my time there, the creativity on offer of the Alice inspired variety, was incredible.

Yes, a big part of it is the price. The one I’m thinking of is £38.50 for the pleasure (and not an alcoholic drink in sight) but it’s bottomless on the food front with a takeaway bag of sweets, Wonker bars, golden eggs and all sorts (I know, not exactly an every day event). So I think what I’m suggesting here, is a luxury option where they go all out – one for the special occasions – a fancy pants Alice.

I think Mad Hatters could do a stellar job of it, alongside their other (traditional, but perfectly nice) offerings – they’re getting everything else bang on and evidently have a talented team of bakers at the helm. I think Chester would pay a bit more for something truly Insta-worthy, which would give the Mad Hatter himself a reason to stop by.