When I first started blogging it was all afternoon tea all the time. In part this was because there used to be a kick ass blogging afternoon tea every month or so, it was a perfect combination of making friends and adventuring over London. But it was also because afternoon tea is just such a ‘London’ thing to do, and back when I was young and enthusiastic anything that made me feel truly ‘London’ was top priority. I have relaxed into living here a lot more now (ok, can my friends stop sniggering at the concept of me being ‘relaxed’) and so the afternoon tea with its high cost and dry-ass scones have drifted away.

That was until the other weekend when Emma invited me along to try the bunch afternoon tea at the Le Meridien Hotel. Of course I was excited by the concept of a brunch afternoon tea because brunch is an awesome lifestyle choice, but mostly I was excited to hang out with Emma. NB: We were a guest of the Le Meridien Hotel…or more specifically Emma was and I am just really good at gatecrashing.

Emma is not just my first blogging friend in London, I think if I remember rightly she was my first friend in London. We had followed each other on twitter shortly after I arrived in the UK and for a while traded expat woes in 140 characters or less. One day about six months into my London adventure I went to my first ever blogging event (man this post is full of firsts), it was a ‘Ladies in Blogging’ evening where we learned…something? I’m sure it was really important, and I am also sure that I should have been paying closer attention (5 years into blogging and I still can’t tell you a sparrows fart about SEO).

At the drinks before the lecture I had my brave pants on and was actually making an effort to talk to other humans. After talking for about ten minutes to this English girl she turned to me and said “are you Runawaykiwi?”. Turns out this English girl was actually London Kiwi Emma (yeah she is basically the Dr Who of accents, I’m waiting for her to regenerate as cockney soon), and I would continue to stalk her for the next five years and counting.

I think Emma is one of the most generous people I have met. She is the very first person to extend an invitation to something blog related (she is a real champion of other bloggers) and has the best collection of obscure and weird things to do in London. Oh and she is also the very first person to laugh at me when my reaction to being scared in an escape room is to scream and fall to the ground. What can I say, my fight or flight reflex sucks.

Anyway…this post was meant to be about afternoon tea right? So it was partly because it was brunch themed, but mostly because the stars had aligned and Emma and I were in the same country and free on the same day. The afternoon tea was O for Awesome. I am totally over dry little sandwiches but at this afternoon tea you got a full English served in a Yorkshire pudding, yes it was as good as it sounds. There was also eggs benedict in a little pie thing, scones flavoured with red pepper, chilli and cheese, and of course a tray of sweet treats.

The best part for me was the cocktail that I had with it which was gin, Earl Grey, sage and raspberries. It was bonkers how strong the Earl Grey flavour was, something I am going to attempt to recreate at home. I can just put a tea bag in a shot of gin right?

Well…that was a longer post than intended. If you just wanted the short version: Emma is an awesome friend and if you are still on the afternoon tea wagon then the Brunch Afternoon Tea at the Le Meridien Hotel is a tasty one to try.

Xx

Floral Afternoon tea

Step 1: If at all possible win a competition in which the prize is the hottest afternoon tea in town; the Scents of Summer afternoon tea at the Intercontinental Park Lane.

Step 2: Call to confirm your booking and have the man on the phone promise you free prosecco because you booked online. Promptly forget about this offer of prosecco and never ever ask for it #myliverthanksme

Step 3: Change your outfit at least five times before leaving home because a) you are going to a hotel that is two squares away from GO on the Monopoly board and b) because you are going to tea with Angloyankophile who is the most stylish girl in the history of creation (I am slowly Single White Female-ing her and plan to start with getting the same camera).

Step 4: After all your hard work corralling the curls into a shape that can fit through doorways make sure you get caught in a torrential downpour between Green Park tube and the Intercontinental Park Lane to ensure your hair grows three sizes by the time you arrive.

Step 5: Walk into the plush Wellington Lounge of the Intercontinental, see Angloyankophile sitting at the table and promptly break into a huge grin because she is an awesome human who is well worth getting big hair for.

Step 6: Look at the tea list, have the tea list explained to you, know your own mind and what tea you like. Panic and just say yes to the last thing that the waiter said. Then panic again and just order whatever Angloyankophile ordered (see above stalking comment).

Healthy jelly shot

Step 7: Try to convince yourself that grown-up bloggers would say yes to the jelly wheat-grass shot on the top of the afternoon tea tray. Then realise that you are not a grownup and if I have to eat wheat-grass jelly I never want to grow up.

Step 8: Get a tad overexcited at the multi-coloured swirl sandwiches and fall face first into your plate eating them all in a minute flat. Look up like a startled ferret when Angloyankophile asks which is your favourite, then hastily try to remember what they tasted like. It was the butternut squash by the way – why do more afternoon teas not play with squash?

Bright coloured sandwiches

Step 9: Try not to laugh at Angloyankophiles expression when the waiter comes and sprays us with perfume between courses. Apparently something to do with involving all the senses in the afternoon tea (it is called Scents of Summer after all) but actually just brilliantly entertaining to watch a surprise perfume attack.

Floral Afternoon tea treat tray

Step 10: Marvel at the utterly gorgeous treat plate of flowers, chocolate shards, and EDIBLE ROCKS that is presented at the end of the afternoon tea. Almost too beautiful to eat (almost, we are not animals after all) and quite simply the most stunning afternoon tea plate I have ever had. EAT ALL THE THINGS.

 

Just follow those ten easy steps and you too can afternoon tea!!!

Fortnum and Mason scones

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.

Fortnum and Mason sweets

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.

 

Sanderson Afternoon Tea plates

My amazing friend Islay got married a couple of months ago in a beautiful ceremony in the hills of South Africa. We fully intended to have a celebratory afternoon tea before her wedding but life seemed to get in the way. So in December we snuck off from work early and went to the Sanderson for their Mad Hatters afternoon tea.

Sanderson Afternoon Tea Sweet

The Sanderson is a bit of a strange one, an ugly building that is hiding an interior full of design gems. Its the sort of place where you turn a corner and are surprised by a couch in the shape of a giant pair of lips…as you do. The afternoon tea is held in an internal courtyard which is covered in winter and open to the elements in summer. It is an ideal afternoon tea spot for winter because you get the feeling of the outdoors but they have pashminas and heaters just to keep things cosy.

Things got off to a great start with the tea selection. Instead of giving us a boring list the waitress brought out four little glass jars each containing a different tea infusion. After doing the sniff test I went for the apple pie and Islay the mint chocolate. Nice to see a bit of creativity applied to the tea part of the feast.

Sanderson Afternoon Tea tea options

The Sanderson is not the place to go if you are after an insane Mad Hatters experience, its more like they take inspiration from the books for a refined and very proper afternoon tea. For example on the middle tier of sweet treats the only nod to the Mad Hatter was the clock face design on one of the round cakes. I’m not saying this restraint is a bad thing, just that it’s a more serious adult afternoon tea rather than a crazy fun strictly to theme tea.

Sanderson Afternoon Tea savory tray

The biggest nod to Alice in Wonderland is probably the ‘drink me’ potion in the small brown bottle, it was filled with three layers of mousse/gel including a sour passion fruit and velvety coconut; it was simply delicious. There were also the very cute meringue carrots on the top tier hidden amongst the greenery, not full of flavour (just tasted like meringue) but a lovely idea.

Sanderson Afternoon Tea carrots

The other thing that I really liked was that for the first time in London I had a savoury scone. The savoury scone is something that you will see in almost every kiwi cafe, but for some reason it has yet to make an impression on the UK afternoon tea scene. Even better was that just like we got clotted cream for the sweet scones, we were served a herb butter for the savoury. Good work team.

What the Sanderson has got 100% right is the amount of food. Most afternoon teas leave me feeling like you have to roll me home, I like to call it the food drunk feeling (leaves you staggering and you can’t thing straight because you are so overfull). But the Sanderson was just enough to leave you stuffed but not stupidly full. I think it was because the scones and sandwiches were of a sensible size (i.e. small enough to eat all of them) whereas at so many hotels you are full after just the savouries!

The Sanderson was such a pleasant setting to spend hours talking about love, marriage and travels; helped along by a glass or two of champagne. And after the mad mad world of the Saunderson afternoon tea we went off into the cold London insanity of Oxford street at Christmas time.