Few experiences embody elegance and style more than afternoon tea.
I have always loved the quaint look of multi-tiered trays, bite-size sandwiches and macaroons, so when I saw that the iconic Shelbourne hotel in Dublin was offering not just an afternoon tea experience, but one that was welcoming to kids, I knew how we would spend our Sunday.
The weather wasn’t on our side that day and the temptation to stay in the house cooped up was strong, but the afternoon tea experience made being the rain worth it.
It was beautiful, relaxing and more kid-friendly that I would have ever expected.
Our Shelbourne hotel afternoon tea review
Why afternoon tea at the Shelbourne, you may ask?
The Shelbourne is an institution in Dublin: located on St Stephen’s green, overlooking the beautiful park by the same name, it is a 5-star historical hotel with a beautiful facade and elaborate, elegant interiors.
It was established in 1824 by a Tipperary man, Mr Burke, who wanted to ‘woo genteel customers who wanted solid, comfortable and serviceable accommodation at a fashionable address’ (from the hotel website) but it quickly became a piece of Dubin history.
As well as being the centre of military activity during the first world war, in may 1922 it hosted the drafting of the Irish Constitution: under the leadership of Michael Collins, the document was drawn up in room 112, now known aptly named ‘the Constitution room’.
The Shelbourne is proud of its history and has a small museum (exhibition room) in the lobby, with documents and information about the hotels over the course of the years.
Children’s Wonderland afternoon tea at the Shelbourne Hotel
The Afternoon tea in the Shelbourne is served in the Lord Mayor’s Lounge. This room is on the hotel ground floor, to your right when entering from the elegant revolving doors opening onto the green.
This room is on the hotel ground floor, to your right when entering from the elegant revolving doors opening onto the green.
It is an elegant, refined room with natural light flooding in from the windows even on the darkest of days (like the one we got: in January, the Irish winter was in full swing!).
The room is decorated with beautiful curtains, white tablecloths, flowers and comfy sofas and the ambience is elegant and understated: bottles of champagne suggest an indulgent experience and a baby grand piano filled the room with soft and delicate music.
Reading this description of the room you might think I lost my mind when I book afternoon tea for my 4 and 6-year-old. Indeed, the room is a far cry from the usual understanding of ‘family friendly’ (if you are thinking plastic cutlery, bright colours and loud noises, think again!) but this doesn’t mean it is not welcoming for kids or their parents.
While the elegant surroundings do demand a certain standard of behaviour, kids are treated like royalty here and were put at the centre of the experience.
I loved how the afternoon tea at the Shelbourne interprets family friendly: experiences that allow both parents and kids to have a great time while bonding is exactly what learning escapes are all about.
We arrived cold and soaking wet from the pouring rain outside and soon we were relieved of our dripping jackets and showed our table. We had booked the Wonderlend Afternoon Tea and they gave us a low table with a comfy sofa and two armchairs.
The kids immediately cuddled up of the soft material while us parents started to read the rich menus. We were given three versions of them: one for the adults, one blue for Mr M and a pink one for Little Ms E.
They were both suitably impressed and picked up the theme of the day in not time: references to the mad hatter tea party and the queen of hearts starting flying around the table – it was lovely to be able to match what they had recently learnt about Alice in wonderland with a real life experience!
Afternoon tea comprises of drinks (tea or coffee for adults, hot chocolate or milkshake for kids) and a selection of savoury and sweet bites. The menus offer the full list of what is on offer but you don’t have to choose: the trays come filled with all the menu lists and you can ask for substitutions should you have allergies or food preferences of any kind.
The drinks arrived straight away and were soon complemented by the tea trays.
The kids got one each and what a treat they were! They had a selection of sandwiches, clock face macaroons, mushroom shaped meringue and ‘cat tail’ mousse.
They loved it and even agreed to pose and allow me to take photos of them – this is so unsual for them, it goes a long way to show how special the day was!
For the adults, the trays had some gorgous salmon tartines and a vast selection of sweets.
The quality of what was served was high and the ingredients very fresh and I had to make just one note, it would be that there were a little bit too many sweet bites for my liking, compared with the savoury ones.
This is entirely a personal preference, but if you are a savoury person like me, it is worth mentioning so you can probably ask for a substitution.
What makes afternoon tea at the Shelbourne special for kids
The Shelbourne afternoon tea is an experience we truly enjoyed and that I highly recommend if you are looking for something special to do with kids in Dublin. There are many things we loved about it.
First, it was lovely to see the kids so welcome in an otherwise grown up environment.
Our kids often go to play centres and take part in activities just for kids, but I cherished the opportunity to push their boundaries and see how they would behave in a different kind of setting.
They both rose to the challenge: up until the last 10 minutes, when iPhones were demanded, they stayed happy and well-behaved.
No coloring needed, no screens for well over an hour: they were happy to engage with the beautiful menus, the elaborately folded napkins and just to talk to us.
It was a pleasure to see it was possible to spend with them some quite, not hyper excited time and make everyone happy!
The attention given to children was special.
When we arrived, Little Ms E had a camera in her hands and immediately she was praised for it: the lovely woman who welcomed us told her that she would be the photographer for the day and have her the best list spot at the table.
Now, the camera wasn’t even working (it ran out of battery as soon as we arrived!) but Little Ms E was delighted with herself and you could see her giggling for the acknowledgement!
The food served may look like small bites but it is filling and abundant.
Both us and the kids didn’t manage to finish what we were served and it was a lovely touch to be given an elegant black carton box to bring home what we had left.
It was a perfect afternoon and a very special treat: easily, one of our favourite experiences in Dublin!
Children afternoon tea at the Shelbourne: What you need to know
The afternoon tea at the Shelbourne is a kid friendly activity but you must be aware of some rules.
The Lord Mayor Lounge demands an appropriate dress code.
While you don’t need to dress up as such, sports attire is not allowed (with the exception of children runners), so if you are coming back from an excursion out of town, make sure you plan some time to get ready for the tea (even better, stay at the hotel, it is wonderful!)
The experience is child-friendly but it is not exclusively for kids so we felt it was important to set some ground rules before we went: no running around the tables, no rolling on the floor, no walking around!
As I mentioned above, I took it as an opportunity to challenge the kids, but if you think your kids may get restless, my suggestion would be to book a slot early in the day, to minimise tiredness, and take frequent walks around the lobby.
A good idea can also be asking for a table close to the window since cars, buses and sometimes even horse-drawn carriages pass in front of the hotel!
The afternoon tea at the Shelbourne is a five-star experience and its cost reflects it (you can find all the info here).
However, if your budget allows it is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and personally one activity I highly recommend with kids in Dublin as it is pleasant and an unusual way to tap into the historical and elegant heart of the city often otherwise missed.
Visiting Dublin with kids? Don’t forget to check out our Dublin guide for families!
Please note: this review is unsolicited and unbiased. We paid for our own experience and received no compensation for this post. We did, however, ask for permission to take and publish photos and we want to thank the Shelbourne for their authorisation and kind welcome