Grand High Tea
High Tea at The Grand Hotel
We had read that ‘one of the things to do in Nuwara Eliya’ is to take high tea at The Grand Hotel. After enjoying Victoria Park we bimbled toward the grand old lady. High tea is the best we can do as a double room including taxes costs between £150 and £250 a night. No idea what suites would be, but one suspects it falls in the ‘painful’ range.
We entered through a side gate and caught sight of a sign on a tree with neat planting.
Welcomed at the entrance a porter pointed to where high tea would be served.
Everything we could see of the garden was very well tended.
We were half an hour early we found chairs to enjoy the lawn and look up the history of the hotel.
Potted Grand: The Grand Hotel began life as a bungalow, built for Sir Edward Barnes (fifth Governor of Ceylon 1824 – 1831, he died in 1838 aged 62) to use as his holiday residence at the princely cost of eight thousand pounds. It was then rented to his successor, Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, Governor from 1831 – 1837, he died in 1841 aged 56.
Sir Robert is best remembered for advocating that poor British and Irish families should be allowed to emigrate to the colonies and be granted land there, and was mainly responsible in securing two parliamentary grants in 1823 and 1825 to fund an experiment where poor Irish families settled in Canada.
He was a very busy boy in Ceylon, he abolished the feudal practice of compulsory labour; abandoned government's claims to free service (Rajakariya); recognised the right to private property; abolished government's monopoly of the cinnamon trade, dating to the Dutch period; started the first newspaper of Ceylon, the Colombo Journal, and the first mail coach in Asia; reformed the education system, established Ceylon's first public school, the Colombo Academy, which was renamed in 1835 as the Royal College, the only school in the world outside England to be granted Approval by Queen Victoria to use the word Royal in a college name. It was also the only school in Asia which was Accredited by Her Majesty.
Back to the Grand which by now had been purchased by a planter called Reginald Beauchamp Downall (1843 – 1888) who partly used it as a house and partly as a hotel. The next owner, William Milsom sold the house known as Barnes Hall on the 12th of April 1892 for thirty-five thousand Rupees (or £148.94) included in the sale was about 27 acres. A second storey was added to the building.
The northern wing (now known as the Governors Wing), originally only a single storey, linked by an archway with the main building, was added. A further extension was opened in 1904, with a second floor added to the northern wing linked by corridor with the additional floor of the main building. An additional southern wing (now known as the Golf Wing) was then added to the building. In the 1930s the third storey was constructed with its mock Tudor facade.
We were called and settled at a corner table for two. Bear immediately too a picture below the table.........when I saw what he was giggling about, they only went as far as needed with the paint, didn’t move the table and dolloped some on the edge. Yet again the thought came to mind that Sri Lanka will be beautiful when it’s finished. So many times we have seen projects part done, sites not cleared of excess rubble, in fact, very little is ‘tidied’. Anyhoo, back to the enjoyment at hand. Behind the servers on the right all the tiny drawers of teas can be seen. If you don’t fancy the high tea there are savouries in a cabinet to the left and cakes to the right.
The main event arrived. Bear chose Oolong and I chose berry and hibiscus tea, both taken without milk.
Top, middle and bottom plates – so dainty and a wonderful variety of tastes.
The room soon filled, more places out on the patio and a side patio where those ‘doing fizz’ were seated. Our high tea was six pounds thirty-eight, fizz doubles the price.
Our little tea plungers held two cups and we each went through three, loved their little blue jackets. My turn for a fit of the giggles. Three chefs gathered in deep conversation on the patio, never good as they all have egos the size of Norway......well, this was hysterical. Each did a head waggle that at chin-height may be an inch but take that to the top of their grande toque and the waggle was at least six inches. They looked like three insane windscreen wipers all going at a different speed and tilt. Two huffed toward the counter, I got a better picture of the tea drawers and then there were two. The final one looked disgruntled and had words with the head server before he too disappeared. After our final cup of tea, bill paid, we bimbled toward the garden for a better look.
Upper terrace (main lawn beyond the driveway).
Looking through the arch toward the fountain.
The fountain with several gardeners pottering about doing a great job.
Not exactly certain what the main feature was but the G and H really stood out.
Lovely manicured borders, another sign and snapdragons....
Happy blooms. My Nana’s favourite pansies get more pictures as she said “they always look as if they are smiling and nodding their heads in the breeze”. Then came a blast from the past, a climbing Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata).
Deepest, deep joy, although my favourite tree fern is the man fern or soft tree fern (Dicksonia Antartica) - easy to buy, not too expensive and slow growing at three and a half to five centimetres a year but doesn’t produce spores until the age of twenty. This beauty was a real rarity to see. The Cyathea crinita is endemic to Western Ghats in India and here in Sri Lanka, where it grows in wetland forests. Due to a rapid declining environment, the species is conserved through in-vitro propagation and is on the IUCN Red list status as 'Endangered’.
Time to leave the bygone elegance of the Grand Hotel and her noble sign with a pose from the gateman and admire the neat wall as we bimbled off.
ALL IN ALL RATHER LOVELY AND RATHER SPECIAL
A VERY SPLENDID EVENT