I shudder to think how much I have spent on afternoon tea in the last three years. It’s always been a bit of an escape for me. When I couldn’t afford to travel, an afternoon tea was that hint of luxury that I needed to refresh my faith in London. I mean afternoon tea is expensive (£30 to £60) but that is one hell of a lot cheaper than a weekend away, so an afternoon tea junkie I became. As always when you do something a lot, you become quite jaded to the entire thing, so at the start of this year I decided to stop. Why pay that much money when I was no longer enjoying the experience and just critiquing the fluffiness of the scones. That was until I got an email from Zomato asking if I wanted to take the Fortnum and Mason version for a spin…ok, one last tea.
It’s not often an afternoon tea starts with you doubled over laughing, particularly not in such a refined venue as Fortnum and Mason. I walked through the door of the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon just as the pianist started playing the Downton Abbey theme song, utter genius. I was worried that Fortnum and Mason was going to be totally up itself (there were £80 Easter eggs for sale downstairs), but hearing the theme song of that ultimate upstairs/downstairs drama totally put paid to that.
First step in any afternoon tea is to choose the tea – duh. But Fortnum was the first place that I had seen the addition of single estate teas (you pay extra for them) which means that the tea was harvested from one estate or garden rather than mixing from multiple. This also means that like an uber posh wine you can tell variances year on year, and between the same styles of different estates. I never knew I was drinking my tea like such a pleb. I now look at the store brought earl grey in my cupboard with haughty derision. And in case you are thinking that I am over exaggerate the ‘specialness’ of the Fortnum and Mason tea selection, this is a real life explanation of the drying process for one of the white teas “This tea is made from large leaf trees in Jinggu which are left to wilt under moonlight until completely dried”. WILT UNDER MOONLIGHT. Fortnum I love you.
This was also the most chilled out afternoon tea I had been to, thinking back to the Ritz or Sketch where you are hemmed in like a multi-estate tea in a supermarket tea bag, the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room had enough space between tables that no-one would overhear your salacious gossip about the Lord and the parlour maid. And then the pianist started playing Avicii, oh god can I marry that man.
The food was on par, very traditional sandwiches and scones with some unique flavour combinations on the top tier. I loved that they kept coming over and asking if we wanted more food, and actually come to think of it when they brought over the food the waiter said “don’t worry you don’t have to share, just ask and I will bring you more”. Amazing.
And just as we were stuffed enough to roll indecorously down the stairs, the waiter came and asked if we wanted anything off the cake trolley. WE HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE CAKE TROLLY. Yes in addition to your single estate and three tiered (endlessly replaced) afternoon tea there is also a cake trolley to select from at will. Now I see why the Dowager Countess is always so hard done by, this being a toff thing is hard. We looked at the cake trolley, we did a lap of the tea room to try and fit the cake in but it was to no avail.
Lamenting the cake trolley and continuing to sing the praises of the vastly entertaining pianist we wandered out into the cold London streets. Fortnum and Mason totally surpassed my expectations, a five star London afternoon tea of course has to have perfect food but it was the calm atmosphere, friendly (not intimidating) staff and entertaining music that has ha d me raving about Fortnum and Mason ever since.