There are certain words in the English Language that work harder than all the others put together. Add them to any other word and they instantly bring pleasure - take "and chips", for example: such simple words, yet when affixed to any innocently passing pie, fish or similar they guarantee a most excellent experience lies ahead.
"Afternoon" is a similarly selfless, industrious sort of word. Try appending it to "nap", and instantly picture yourself reclining on the sofa with a pot of tea and a somnolent cat on your lap. Now pop it in front of "drinking", and immediately it is a sunny Bank Holiday which you are spending in a beer garden with your nearest and dearest, secure in the knowledge that you are SAVING money as every alcoholic drink consumed between the hours of midday and 4pm counts double. So imagine my initial suspicion when Harvey Nichols announced that their estimable Second Floor Brasserie would now be serving something called "Not Afternoon Tea" - NOT Afternoon Tea? NOT dainty sandwiches, and little cakes, and so many cups of tea you have to use the toilet at least twice before you leave? NOT all of this?
Of course, I should have trusted them. This is NOT a replacement for Afternoon Tea, which continues to be served in the restaurant, but an alternative, to be used when in the company of those with more modest appetites, or boys who refuse to go for Afternoon Tea because they think they look silly eating dollies' picnic-sized food items (which, to be fair, they do). The idea is as follows: turn up between 2pm and 5pm, clutching £12.50, and in return you will receive a stunning dessert matched with a complementing cocktail. Yep, that's right - not a chance of a stray bit of healthy salad etc, just classy booze and pud served up in the always-buzzing atmosphere of the Brasserie.
We tried it last Saturday, when Mr Liz had already been dragged around the shops for several hours by a wife who was about to cruelly abandon him for Italy and was rubbing salt into the wound by making him queue with her for travel money on a Saturday. Just as his eyes were about to glaze over, he was rescued in the nick (there's an excellent pun here if you would care to stop and enjoy it for a moment) of time by the killer combination of the chocolate & caramel dessert option (dark chocolate pave, white chocolate créme brulee, peanut butter marshmallow and salted caramel macaroon) paired with Milk Punch (Kraken Black Spiced Rum, Crème de Cacao, Mozart Dark Chocolate Liqueur,
vanilla sugar, chocolate bitters, milk and cream). Such was the power of this extraordinary combination that it completely wiped the pain of the hour that had just been spent showing polite interest in bags and shoes in Top Shop from his fevered man-brow.
Meanwhile, his good lady wife had the sticky toffee dessert (milk chocolate mousse, sticky toffee pudding, maple syrup jelly, fresh date and a belgium slice) partnered by the Dark 'n’ Stormy cocktail (Goslings Black Seal Rum, homemade gingerbeer, lime and soda). Such was the power of this extraordinary combination that it completely restored her energy levels ready for a new assualt on the bags and shoes department of Top Shop, although she was a little disappointed that the "fresh date" did not actually turn out to be a night on the town with a man with excessively wandering hands.
There are two other combinations to try - a jaunty-sounding citrus affair, and a flirty little tutti frutti number - so we'll obviously have to go back another time. NEVER has Mr Liz been so keen for another day spent shopping in Manchester...
- for more information and latest menus, see the Harvey Nichols website - then go for some VERY classy Afternoon Drinking.