My lovely friend Kelly and I had afternoon tea with pink champagne at The Merchant Hotel today, as a late birthday treat for me. It was my first time at this Belfast establishment, and its grandeur and opulence lived up to my excited expectations, as did the decadent teas, delicate finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones with jam and clotted cream.
It seems to me that most people translate Smart Casual as 'No Effort Required'. I'm not usually a stickler for etiquette but I think that if you are participating in the time-honoured tradition of tea drinking in the afternoon on a luxurious sofa, underneath a Tyrone Crystal chandelier, watched over by plump cherubs resting on spectacularly ornate plasterwork, then you should enter into the spirit of things and dress to show your appreciation of the surroundings. Its not only polite, but it adds to the grand atmosphere and enhances the whole experience. In fact, I think that The Merchant Hotel should enforce a strict dress code which requires gents to wear a shirt and tie, and ladies to wear a dress, hat and gloves. And if that means that I should be living in the 1950s, then I would gladly go back to a time when Crocs and Ugg boots didn't exist.