A Very English Afternoon TeaPosted: September 9, 2011
To my mind, there’s no more quintessentially English dining experience than an afternoon tea, with its crustless sandwiches and clotted cream. So for my birthday yesterday, my mum and I headed to The Connaught in Mayfair, right beside the peaceful Mount St. Gardens. On this day I forgot my camera, but I’ll do my best to recount the delights we experienced there. You may even get lucky and do some celebrity spotting; we were seated right behind Jason Bateman and it was all I could do to stop myself from quoting Arrested Development.
I started with a sweet, milky Earl Grey, and then came the sandwiches: salmon and cream, cucumber and wasabi, egg salad on whole grain, and the wildcard teriyaki chicken. We then moved on to the plain and ginger scones–the best part, really–with clotted cream and jam. A special Connaught detail is their jam selection; you can choose between over a dozen jams produced by Christine Ferber, who apparently bakes in the morning and makes jam in the afternoon from her Alsace village home. Adorable! I got the fruits du jardin (rhubarb-strawberry-raspberry) and my mum went for blackcurrant. Mix and match.
After scones come cakes and pastries: frangipane with lemon curd (my favourite), chocolate-coffee cake, maple religieuse, strawberry cheesecake, and a ginger mousse. This kept me full through dinner and then some, so afternoon tea isn’t a regular occurrence for me. Instead I’ll usually opt for cream tea with only the scones. Many of the fancier hotels won’t offer this, but I can recommend Sketch in Soho for this purpose (and for its eccentric, Mad Hatter decor). You can also try the Orangery in Kensington Gardens or the Cakehole cafe at the back of Vintage Heaven on Columbia road. My friend Louise and I were shopping for flowers (in January!) and stumbled across this sweet shop.
As I say, most of the fancy hotels (and plenty of the more ordinary ones) will offer some version of afternoon tea. For more ideas, look to Time Out, the London Tea Guild (they have awards for this stuff!), as well as Yelp, which works on reviews and can guide you towards some nice new spots. Brown’s and The Dorchester always come highly rated and are next on my list. Cheers!