Alexandra Fraser rounds up some of the most unique and tasty afternoon teas available in the capital this summer, from sky-high scones to fashion-forward finger sandwiches.
Little can bring more joy to a Brit than sitting in a tea parlour debating the age-old ‘Jam or Cream First?’ argument. This year, London has a wide range of teas on offer, often uniquely themed and always delicious.
The Mary Quant Tea at The Pelham, Kensington
A wonderfully modern take on a British classic (as befits its subject matter), the Mary Quant Afternoon Tea is served in the quiet lounges of the Pelham, London. Conceptualised by bespoke event planners La Fête, the tea provides a beautiful contrast to its quaint setting; a riot of colour, from the funky serving trays to the bright pink edible lipstick centrepiece, inspired by the famous 1960s beauty advert featuring Quant’s Brush Lipsticks.
The traditional elements remain much unchanged but the cakes are unique and all made for iconic moments in Quant”s rich career. ‘The Dame’ Victoria sponge cake is a tribute to the designer’s DBE, while the delicious ‘Daisy’ lemon curd tartlet references the flower which became Quant’s logo and prolific symbol. The banoffee cake may not be traditional to a British tea but is a very welcome addition; especially as it’s accompanied by a tube filled with decadent caramel sauce.
A stroll which seems ten minutes shorter in sunshine and longer in rain through the middle of South Kensington”s museum district brings tea-goers to the V&A where the Quant exhibition will run until mid-February next year. A virtual runway of her iconic garments, including some from her own personal archive, the exhibition is energetic and informative, leaving one with a brand new appreciation for the Swinging Sixties and a clear understand of why many of the styles which Quant pioneered continue to appear in stores today.
The Pelham & La Fête’s Mary Quant afternoon tea is priced at £40 per person, or £55 including a ticket to the exhibition at the V&A. Book at www.starhotelscollezione.com.
Rose Garden Afternoon Tea at the Kimpton Fitzroy, Bloomsbury
As utterly charming as it is delicious, the Rose Garden afternoon tea is a jewel in the London tea scene’s crown. Set in the Fitzroy’s delightful Palm Court, diners sip tea in a delicate, dreamy rose garden, straight out of a fairytale.
Collaborating with Champagne house Laurent-Perrier and their delicious Cuvée Rosé, every element of the tea is gorgeously floral. The sandwiches are delightfully traditional and accompanied by raspberry and rose scones, which in turn is accompanied by raspberry, rose and Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé jam. A more delightful combination of summer flavours could not possibly be imagined.
The top-tier sweet treats share the floral theme; a peach and verbena petit gateau which sings in the mouth, as well as a delicious raspberry, rose and lychee choux.
It’s unsurprising that this tea is so carefully thought out; it is inspired by executive pastry chef, Thibault Marchand’s love of all things rosy, both in Britain and in his home in France. Undoubtably one of the most elegant teas with one of the most beautiful settings, the Rose Garden tea is one to add to your bouquet this summer.
The Summer Rose Garden afternoon tea is priced at £30 per person, or £40 including a glass of Laurent-Perrier’s Cuvée Rosé. Book at www.kimptonfitzroylondon.com.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Afternoon Tea at The Gore, Kensington
One for you music fans out there, La Fete has struck again and designed a spectacularly cool tea for the quietly funky rooms of The Gore Hotel in South Kensington. Celebrating the hotel’s rich musical history, each aspect of the tea pays hommage to one or another of the rock gods who so heavily influenced music as it stands today.
Instead of finger sandwiches you’ll find chipolata hotdogs inspired by Woodstock and The ‘Popping’ Stones popcorn is an excellent beginning to the tea. A miniature pint glass houses a delicious mango and white chocolate mousse, while a mini chocolate guitarist sits on a ‘Sweet “Choux” O’ Mine’ raspberry cream dream.
Often attention to aesthetic detail can lead to taste being neglected; not so here. The savoury treats are delicious and remarkably well-suited to a meal meant to be served with delicate singer sandwiches. The ‘Afternoon Tea’ tea is a lovely bkend – perfect for someone who likes a sharp, herbal flavour. The vanilla scones are just as they should be.
Those rock ’n rolling up to The Gore at 2pm on a sunny day will not be disappointed.
The Gore’s Rock ‘N’ Roll afternoon tea is priced at £35 per person. Book at www.starhotelscollezione.com.
A Midsummers Nights Dream at The Swan, Southwark
A London icon, Shakespeare’s Globe on the Southbank has maintained Shakespeare’s all-embracing ethos as set forth by his biggest fan, Sam Wanamaker, promising inclusivity and accessibility to the plays which helped shape the language and culture of our country (and world).
Under 300 metres from the original site and opened to the public in 1997, The Globe is well-worth the tour which one can take before or after settling down to a magical tea inspired by one of the Bard’s best-loved plays in the on-site restaurant, The Swan.
Served on themed china designed for the occasion and accompanied by an elusive and delicious ‘love potion’ Champagne cocktail, the Midsummer Night’s Dream afternoon tea blends the traditional feel of the restaurant with the mystical happenings of the next door theatre. Full of elusions to the Athenian play, the flavours of the tea are not idly chosen – even the scones are peppered with mulberries in a reference to the lovers’ tree.
Though it be but little, the tea is incredibly filling – be sure to leave room to try it all.
The Midsummer Night’s Dream afternoon tea at £28.50 per person, or £48 with a tour of the Globe theatre. Book at www.swanlondon.co.uk.
The Royal High Tea at the Shard
One of London’s biggest attractions, the views of the Thames and the capital beyond from the Shard are unparalleled. A wonderful blend of traditional and modern, the TĪNG Lounge and Restaurant’s Afternoon tea is always delightful, but even more so from now until the 31st May.
In celebration of the Royal Baby and all the new (or soon-to-be) mothers in our number, the ‘Royal High Tea’ sports treats made according to recipes handed down from the mothers of the pastry chefs themselves. Head Pastry Chef Benoit’s mother’s blueberry cheesecake is a fitting tribute and definitely the taste highlight of the wonderful menu, while the pram-like passion fruit cream from Sous Chef David’s family is aesthetically charming.
The menus can be accompanied by a cocktail or mocktail, specifically crafted for the tea. The Little Miss Royal is a vodka-based sweet treat and very enjoyable, although it might be prudent to lay it aside in favour of the non-alcoholic tea-based Cloud Nine should you be taking your tea in the very early afternoon.
The Royal High Tea at the TĪNG Lounge and Restaurant is priced at £52 per person or £62, including either a cocktail or mocktail. To book, visit www.ting-shangri-la.com.
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