When I think about afternoon tea, the first thing that comes to mind is indulgence; pure indulgence.
And if you are going to have a traditional afternoon tea anywhere it has to be in London town, at Fortnum and Mason to be precise, where indulgence is overflowing from every duck egg blue and gold tea cup.
This British institution is every bit English just like the queen and there really isn’t anywhere more fitting to indulge in cake, sandwiches, pastries, tea … and the list goes on.
As you enter “Fortnum’s”, you will be forgiven for the sheer distraction from all the delicacies of the first floor but I decided to head straight to the elevator up to the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the 4th floor.
As the doors opened it was like I had reached heaven with harps welcoming me into perfectness, in fact it was the soft tones of a beautiful Steinway piano played by the Fortnum and Mason pianist. Yes they have their own pianist!
Seated at the best table in the salon, the sun (yes sun in London) poured through the windows as champagne bubbles filled my glass. Ok maybe I was in heaven.
Down to the real reason I was here! The food.
There are three menus.
- Afternoon Tea that features finger sandwiches, scones and pastries.
- High tea; consists of a hot starter portion with scones and pastries
- Savory afternoon tea which serves savory scones and canapés instead of sweet treats
TIP: You would be silly to eat anything before embarking on afternoon tea.
I naturally went with the Afternoon Tea so I could eat tiny little finger sandwiches with my pinkie finger up.
Next up was the tea menu and like any good Brit, “Fortnum’s” take their tea very seriously.
There are over 80 blends to choose from; a challenge for the indecisive. But the good news is you always have the option to order multiple blends during your meal.
As I spotted the traditional tea stand emerged from afar, I started to look like an excited puppy dog. Not exactly the demure, classy poise I should have been going for.
First were the teeny tiny finger sandwiches with a range of fillings from egg mayonnaise, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, cucumber, and coronation chicken.
The next order of business was the scones. As one who is not much of a fan of scones, mainly due to them often being too dry, I managed to down three! “Fortnum’s” have definitely perfected the recipe because these were “melt in your mouth” goodness.
It was an edible tower of scones piled to the ceiling with clotted crème and preserves. Clotted crème! Now this is something I had never come across or experienced, but let me tell you, it could possibly be the best thing in the world.
Tip: You will be served raspberry and apricot preserves, but you need to do yourself a favor and ask for the lemon curd.
Onto the pastries…who knew I could fit in anymore?
There was a rose éclair, chocolate and coffee tart, chocolate and orange macaroon, biscuit marshmallow cherry Alaska bomb, and rosemary infused profiterole.
The rest of the afternoon went by in a haze of sugary delight.
Tip: Many don’t realize this, but the Afternoon Tea is limitless. You can as many sandwich, scones and pastries your heart desires.
The service was impeccable; the staff was attentive and knowledgeable guiding you through the endless selection of teas. They explained all the types of delicacies that were served; it took all my ladylike restraint not to eat while he was talking
A special mention goes to Florentine, a young French waiter, who went out of his way to make my experience one of a kind and memorable.
While all the sugary goodness floats around in your belly, there is also the cake stand that you are offered. More cake! Yes. But you do have the option to take it home; in fact you have the option to take anything home with you, including the little jam jars.
All I can say is there is always room for dessert!
I have experience a traditional high tea in one of the world’s most influential tea salons and it definitely gets my seal of approval. Fit for a Queen, I say.
Herstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.
Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.