Recently, I was lucky enough to do three afternoon teas within seven months. However, it was unlucky enough that two of these were farewell occasions. (Note to self, stop hanging out with people who leave!! Another note to self, keep those boot camp sessions, tennis lessons, netball training going…) What better way to drown my sorrows of yet another friend moving away than to tell you about my London afternoon tea experiences.
Afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason is served at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Goodness, that sounds traditional (read: English), doesn’t it? And so it is, traditional and very much the old-school cucumber and cream cheese sandwich and 599 (alright, I exaggerate) different types of tea theme! By the way, everything on our plates was refillable (oh happy days).
I need to note the exemplary service we six ladies (or was it eight?) received, despite the chaos of December Christmas shoppers and the weekend tourist rush at Fortnum and Mason. The dining room really was an oasis of calm compared to the rest of the store and the rush that was on Piccadilly that day! It was very much stand in line to move a few feet inside Fortnum and Mason, whilst manic shoppers grabbed their fancy tinned teas and biscuits. It was the same on Piccadilly with tourists out in force to gawk at Christmas lights. Not me though, I was walking a hundred miles an hour after that lunch and in those wintry conditions!
Note, however, a few more toilets inside the dining room would be appreciated! I’m not a tea aficionado, nor fancy cucumber sandwich person, I like that bit of randomness here and there, but I really enjoyed afternoon tea here. A lot more than I thought I would.
Fortnum and Mason
44 (0) 20 7734 8040
There’s definitely a “wow” factor here. Whilst I had to navigate a few dozen “rules and regulations” (as I like to refer to them) over the phone. Things like:
- A £5 per person redeemable booking fee which they only “hold” but don’t take from my credit card.
- No flip flops, no sneakers, no jeans, no…, no …. a whole heap of “no’s.
- A £20 cancellation… I got bored by then, stopped listening … oh wait, £20, was that per person, yes I think it was! (better start listening again!)
I think the lady listing out the rules and regulations was truly as bored as I was. Really, I just want ONE TABLE FOR FIVE PEOPLE – yes, I understand you’ll just give me what you have, yes I understand I cannot book a table by the window (ummmm….but I didn’t ask for one!!!), yes for five, 12:30 PM, yes I understand the cancellation procedure. Wow! NOBODY better ask me to change that booking, I’m not going through that again!!
The “wow” factor, well, let’s list them – how about the fact that we were whizzed straight up to the 32nd Floor of the Shard, no stops thank you very muchly (if anyone knows me, my patience is very limited, I start muttering sarcastic comments when people take the lift to go up one floor, so no stops makes me jump with excitement already), then to be presented with this fab, fab views of the City of London, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf. Ask me, how do you control yourself from interrupting other diners, “oh excuse me, don’t mind me leaning over your lunch to take a few happy snaps” out your side of the window (even though all I’m going to get from my iPhone are reflections off the glass). I might be in my glad rags and fancy shoes, but it’s the Emperor’s new clothes only! So no, you don’t control yourself, but you might wait for those diners to disappear to the bathroom, so the five of us could perch by their table for some happy snaps!
I’m not going to write about the food, I’m not a food writer, and really wouldn’t be able to do it justice. This was a more modern take on the classic afternoon tea, finger sandwiches, cakes, scones with jam and clotted cream. Nothing was “refillable”, however it was definitely not required. I think if you ate half of everything presented, you’d still waddle out of there. But I am in my glad rags and fancy heels, after all, no waddling ;).
Level 32, The Shard,
31 St. Thomas Street,
London SE1 9RY
Afternoon Tea: Monday to Friday – 12:00 to 15:30, Saturday and Sunday – 14:45 -16:30
This was a treat for mum (her belated birthday) and my girls (because I couldn’t leave them at home to fend for themselves, as tempting as it sounds!). I had already tried the traditional afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason, the modern take on afternoon tea at Oblix so this one at the Sanderson was a fun, creative afternoon tea with an Alice in Wonderland theme.
Everything about this was super contemporary and whimsical. From menus hidden inside vintage books to a potion bottle labelled “drink me”. I would’ve happily consumed two in a second without checking what would happen if I did indeed drink it… delicious! Thank goodness it didn’t shrink me, I think it’s because I couldn’t possibly shrink any further (well, I hope anyway).
I felt afternoon tea here seemed heavier on the sweet side than the savoury. I needed it slightly more balanced, and this is coming from someone with a very sweet tooth too. This wasn’t my favourite of the three, but we still enjoyed ourselves wholeheartedly and ate with much vigour! The little surprise here was finding out that I’d booked this treat with a discount (via opentable.co.uk) and there was a kid’s price as well, without any compromise on the menu. They even offered the girls’ a very delicious hot chocolate since neither of them drunk coffee or tea. Fabulous service from the very sweet ladies at the Sanderson Hotel!
50 Berners Street
London, W1T 3NG
44 (0) 20 7300 1400
Afternoon Tea: Monday to Saturday – 12:30 to 16:00 and Sunday – 13:00 to 17:00