I’ve been to a fair few afternoon teas in London, some good, some bad but most pretty much forgettable. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but although I can name the hotels they were set in, I could not for the life of me tell you what I ate or what they looked like (without reading my own blog that is). Well, thankfully that all changed last Monday, the Ampersand hotel in South Kensington asked a group of bloggers over to try their new Science afternoon tea.
When I asked my boss for the afternoon off work because I was going to a Science afternoon tea, he laughed and said yes. Then he asked “what are you actually going to do?” ah… a Science afternoon tea? Incredulous he said that I thought I was joking, oh boy he couldn’t have been more wrong, science is a very serious persuite after all.
Normally the bottom sandwich tier is the most lackluster, hotels may switch up the fillings but by and large there is no site of any other creativity. For the Science tea the Ampersand topped any other I have tried by serving gougeres – essentially like a sandwich with choux pastry instead of bread. Super tasty and a complete relief to not see the same old bread that has been sitting out for most of the day. The scones were little, tasty and again slightly different to normal because while on was plaine the other was white chocolate, it was a little too sweet for me (leave the chocolate for the top tier) but it was another refreshing change.
Then for THE TOP TIER. It was finally time to EAT ALL THE SCIENCE. I am a true kid at heart, and before long I was making roars, evil cackles and the soundtrack to an exploding volcano, just so much damn fun. And it was interactive too, you had to slurp up your evil potion, quickly save the dinosaurs from the wafting dry ice and self medicate yourself with the cherry compote in the weird squeezey thing (what is it caled? At school science was never my strong point). Laughter filled the entire table as this group of professional bloggers all rediscovered their inner children at exactly the same moment. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all about gimmic, there were some serious flavours as well. The fiery planet was raspberry and white chocolate, the potion was a citrus cocktail and the best best best was the volcano which was actually a mango mouse – my favorite kind of volcano.
Now this review has been a little weird for me to write, the science tea on Monday was a magic experience and one that I raved about to everyone I met. I was so happy to be able to write about a comped experience with a completely clear conscience, because I loved it so much and thought everyone should go. The service was perfection, with coats taken when walking in, smiling waiters and water on the table without asking. I love it so much that I went back the following weekend, and that’s where this review becomes awkward.
Coats were not taken, water only on request, we had to ask to order food and when we did there was quite an attitude that we were not all ordering a full afternoon tea. When one on our table ordered the science tea, but asked for it to be as gluten free as possible, they dropped the science entirely and just brought a normal gluten free tea – how hard would it have been to just add the beaker, chocolate dinosaurs and dry ice? An the ultimate no for me is when they brought out the wrong tea for someone at the table and then argued before replacing it. Dude, in a good restaurant you just smile and replace it – what is the cost of some tea leaves compared to a returning customer (or not). And to add insult to injury this second time the scones were doughy inside.
So, I’ve seen the Ampersand at its best and I’ve seen it at its worst. I would seriously recommend the Science afternoon tea for the fun, novelty and brilliant flavours. But given my second experience I probably won’t be back.