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.
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.
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.
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.
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.