Unusual afternoon teas
by Simon Ward | 16 January 2013 | 14 commentsTweet
From fashion to the London Underground, art to Alice in Wonderland, here are our favourite weird and wonderful afternoon tea experiences...
Freshly-cut cucumber sandwiches, a selection of petite pastries and cakes, a china pot of tea leaves… afternoon tea is a quintessentially British tradition.
But if you’ve done the sandwiches ‘n’ scones thing a few times, here are some different takes on the traditional afternoon tea.
An Underground tea
To celebrate the 150th birthday of the London Underground, Palm Court (a beautifully ornate art deco lounge, attached to The Park Lane Hotel) is hosting a tube-themed tea. The menu is cleverly designed - a Coronation chicken roulade in saffron and spinach bread mimics the green and yellow of the Circle and District lines - and the highlight is the exquisite pastries, hand-decoated with teeny tiny white chocolate Underground signs. The best were a white chocolate Oreo 'Swiss (roll) Cottage' and a hazelnut 'pound' cake (Bank), but credit must also be given to light-as-air scones and extensive jam and curd collection, including an outstanding sharp rhubarb conserve. A Metropolitan 1863 cocktail (Beefeater 24 gin and blackcurrant tea) rounds the whole experience off very nicely.
Where: Palm Court, Green Park, London
Cost: £41 per person
Not Afternoon Tea
An afternoon tea without finger sandwiches? Good grief! The OXO Tower Brasserie pulls it off though, by replacing all things savoury with little sugary morsels, and swopping a cup of Earl Grey for a fruity cocktail. Each dessert plate (you can chose from four - 'wild thing', 'chocolate sensation', 'autumn fools' or 'Taywell preserved') is matched with its own cocktail, and you can expect treats such as whisky and honey cobnut cake, chocolate stout cake, pumpkin walnut cake, and raspberry and honey vodka jelly. And it has to be said, pastry chef Penny Wabbit is an expert at perfecting the humble English pudding. You'll be buzzing all the way home!
Where: OXO Tower Brasserie, Southwark, London
Cost: £22.50 per person
Prêt-à-Portea – the tea that changes with the seasons
Just like the fashion world itself, the Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea at London’s Berkeley Hotel (pictured at the top of this article) changes its designs with the seasons. So you could be served a Stella McCartney polka dot sponge cake dress or a Burberry Prorsum stylish black and white double breasted chocolate biscuit coat with snow white vanilla icing.
Where: The Caramel Room, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London
Cost: From £37.50 per person
An artistic tea
If you fancy indulging in some edible art, then head for the Merrion Hotel next time you’re in Dublin. Its Art Tea features cakes inspired by the works of artists such as Jack Yeats, John Boyd and Louis le Brocquy.
Where: The Merrion Hotel, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin
Cost: From €36 per person
Tumble down the rabbit hole
Heston Blumenthal would surely approve of the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel. Among the sensory delights are exploding hazelnut praline ice cream lollipops, chocolate rabbit’s clocks and a rainbow array of finger sandwiches on beetroot, saffron and spinach breads.
Where: Courtyard Garden, Sanderson London, 50 Berners Street, London
Cost: £35 per person
If you fancy a spot of cabaret with your tea, why not try the Voluptea or Afternoon Tease at the Volupté supper club? As well as sandwiches, scones, tea and a glass of bubbly, you’ll also enjoy some top-class burlesque and cabaret.
Where: Volupté, 9 Norwich Street, London
Cost: £42 per person (tea and show)
Indulge in some ceremony
“We’re putting the tea back into the ritual” says the blurb on TeaSmith’s website. To that end, its afternoon tea ceremony features cakes and chocolates paired with teas, rather than the other way round. You’ll also learn a lot more about the huge range of teas they serve.
Where: TeaSmith, 6 Lamb Street, London
Cost: £20 per person