The very British tradition of Afternoon Tea is one I wholeheartedly support. In fact the consumption of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and various pastries on finest china is something I regularly practise. (Perhaps that is why I needed my butt kicking at Bootcamp!) In London there is a whole host of venues offering to ceremoniously serve you tea and cake; hotels like the Ritz, Savoy and Dorchester will undoubtedly spring to mind. I sampled a couple of venues which offer a lot more than the traditional tasty option.
Vintage Tea Time at Blind Tiger
Blind Tiger is not a hotel; it’s more like a speakeasy. And one does not consume a pompous tea for two here, they enjoy a tea party. There is bunting, miss-matched China and live jazzy music at Blind Tiger’s version of Afternoon Tea. I loved it.
The venue itself is hidden from the street. The address is only revealed upon making a booking and it will lead you to a big wooden door with a little bell. Upon pressing the bell, a pair of eyes will appear through the viewing slot and if they like what they see they will lead you to a candle lit room in the Blind Tiger attic. When we arrived there were groups of friends huddled at tables; people of all ages, sipping cocktails and gossiping over cupcakes.
My never-ending pot of speciality tea was served with a miss-matching cake stand. Over two layers was a selection of sandwiches like your Nan would make – beef and mustard, curried chicken, salmon, egg mayonnaise – some rectangular, some in triangles and some left open. Once we worked our way through the savoury nibbles the cake stand was taken away and when it returned it was filled with an assortment of deliciously home-made cakes and scones. The cupcakes, scones and banana bread were sumptuous but the brownie was simply divine.
The tasty food was just a small part of the Blind Tiger experience though; the toe-tapping musicians, dripping candles, moody chandeliers and vintage crockery were the real draw for me. Entering the Blind Tiger door is like falling through a time warp to a bygone period of glamour and tea parties. It’s a period I want to return to again and again.
A Blind Tiger Tea Party starts from £20 per person. Visit the website for details.
5 star pastries at The Royal Horseguards
The Royal Horseguards is a 5 star hotel serving 5 star cakes. Afternoon Tea at the Royal Horseguards is an elegant affair and although the tea is served in a traditional venue the cakes and pastries are cutting edge.
With impeccable service we were led to our high back velvet seats with a view of Whitehall. After sniffing various loose leaf teas I opted for the house speciality of strawberries and cream. It arrived in an exquisite silver tea pot which required a table all to itself. I had bought my mum with me as she deserved a treat, so we didn’t object when the waiter poured us a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne to pass the time as our scones baked in the oven.
An illicit sigh slipped from my mouth when the cake stand was bought out. The stand had 3 levels (of china which perfectly matched our cups and saucers) and was full to the brim with crust-less finger sandwiches, warm fruity scones and exquisite looking cakes and pastries. With obvious glee we tucked into the bottom layer and began working our way up.
After a fresh salmon and cream cheese bagel, cucumber, beef and chicken sandwiches, plus a delicious egg mayonnaise English breakfast muffin, the bottom layer was finally clear. It was whisked away and within moments filled again with round two of the more-ish sandwiches. We obliged and began eating them all over again.
We resisted the offer of a third round of sandwiches as the warm scones were waiting for us, and they were sitting next to dishes of home-made jam and clotted cream. They tasted better than I expected and even better than they sound. We had 2 each and I very nearly asked for more but even I was reaching my limits and there was a pink macaroon on the top layer which had my name on it.
The top layer was filled with the creations of Head Pastry Chef Joanne Todd. They looked too good to eat but were too tasty to refrain from. Mum and I divided up the strawberry macaroon, blueberry cupcake and caramel éclair and then fought over the white chocolate truffle lollipop dipped in elderflower. We oohed and aarhed over every bite and finished our tea with huge grins on our faces.
The waiter returned and offered us a fresh pot of tea. Why not, we replied. So we sat back and watched our fellow tea drinkers; couples and families enjoying an afternoon treat, as they devoured each layer of their own cake stand and emitted contented sighs too.