When we were in NYC a few weeks back, we stopped off at The Plaza for a spot of Afternoon Tea - the very hotel where Kevin McCallister checks in with his Dad’s credit card and wreaks havoc in one of our favourite Christmas films, ‘Home Alone: Lost in New York.’
But it’s been a while since we’ve sat ourselves down to Afternoon Tea in London - and boy, did we miss it!
Now don’t get me wrong. The Plaza was nice and all; but, in no way did the quality of the sandwiches, pastries and the oh-so-important tea compare to our experiences here in London.
Since it’s a place where you don’t have to go dressed in your Sunday Best, (but you’ll still be waited on as if you are), I thought we’d check out Fortnum & Mason in posh Piccadilly.
One thing that sets this place apart from most of the tea rooms we’ve been to, is that this is not a hotel. I repeat - this is not a hotel. It is infact a luxury department store housing fine teas, food hampers, preserves, women’s perfumes and accessories, men’s accessories, candles, and a few other luxury bits and bobs, but not a whole lot more. With humble beginnings in 1707, the entire building (with it’s five floors) has got that quintessential English charm that makes tourists go weak at the knees. Bureau de Change mate.
Afternoon Tea is located on the fourth floor and is accessible via four very narrow (but beautifully designed) lifts. If you’re feeling really traditional, why not take the soft-brushed red carpeted stairs? Be sure to hold onto the teak (I wanna say Mahogany) bannister as you walk up, and stop to pose for a photo on the landing.
The tea spread itself was a real treat. There were five aspects of the tea experience that I very much enjoyed, thank you ‘Guvnor:
1) Lemon Curd Preserve - not too tart. Not too sweet. Not too lemony. I took my silver spoon and spread that golden goodness nice and thick on some warm plain scones. FYI - I just can’t be dealing with raisins or sultanas in my scones. Don’t even get me started on mince pies and Christmas pudding!
2) Cucumber Mint Cream Cheese Sandwiches - Ok, so when I saw this on the menu, I screwed my face up a little. I’m not a fan of mint, unless it’s in gum or toothpaste. Where it belongs. But my oh my - I’ll most certainly be trying this at home folks. The mint was actually very mild in taste, and was a lovely twist on what is regarded as a classic English afternoon tea sandwich. Nice one F&M!
3) Victoria Sponge Cake - When it comes to cakes, this is the best of British. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of the Old Vic cakes - some have been too dense and some didn’t have enough jam-to-cream ratio. This, (like Baby Bear’s porridge, chair and bed), was just right. The jam had the seeds in it, which I love, ‘cos for me that’s proper Strawberry Jam. But the best bit was that it was a three-layer sponge. How very generous of you Sir.
4) The Jade and Gold Teacups - quaint, cute and I really enjoyed drinking out of them! The jade and gold theme is the F&M official colour (or Pantone, to be more specific). These two make a perfect match like no other. They proudly whisper ‘Timeless Elegance’. (I used to want to work in advertising. Boo!)
5) Guilliano and Sebastian - you’d be forgiven for thinking these two are the latest designers to have showcased at London Fashion Week. Oh OK, we forgive you! They were actually our ever so kind and attentive waiting staff. Guilliano expertly gave us a brief history of F&M and topped up our teapots. Sebastian arranged to have some extra scones and a slice of cake packed for us to take home. Winning.
The whole experience was made all the more charming with a live piano player, who was tinkling them ivories from everything to Coldplay’s ‘Clocks’ to that theme tune from the Alton Towers TV ad. If you didn’t grow up in the 90s, then I’m afraid you missed out.
Overall verdict: F&M in posh Piccadilly hit the spot - (we love it when things hit the spot).