Sketch dining room Sketch has had massively mixed reviews from people I’ve spoken to, but the afternoon tea looked so enticing that I just had to had to go. Luckily I had the perfect excuse as a friend and I were looking for somewhere to have a birthday/engagement (hers)/new job/ bank holiday ‘and holy crap it’s sunny’ celebration.

Sketch is a bit of an afternoon tea factory at the weekends, which has been one of the biggest complaints from others who have gone. You are crammed in as tight as can be and there are trays flying everywhere. Also, if you are not in the glade room (made to look like Oberon’s clearing by a very cleaver artist who decoupaged the wallpaper) the room is arty but super dark for a tea room which normally specialise in light and airy*. No it wasn’t the most relaxing afternoon tea I have had (we were asked to hurry up because they had another booking), but the food was so good that it completely made up for it (even if I couldn’t take good photos because it was so damn dark!).Sketch savory plateAfter starting with a gin cocktail we quickly tucked into the food, which between the tiered treats, little bowl of marshmallows with macrons, scones and a mini-cheesecake in a shot glass was a little daunting to say the least!

Highlight of the entire thing was the croc monsieur that they served as one of the savory sandwiches. Amazing to see them doing something different on the part of the afternoon tea that is normally interchangeable across every hotel in London. It came hot, with a filling of pesto and mozzarella and served as a little finger in parchment tied up with a little yellow bow. Tasty, naughty and pretty – perfect combination to start an afternoon tea. The rest of the savory plate was amazing too, with each sandwich having a little touch to elevate it from the ordinary like the egg and mayonnaise that came with a little fried quails egg on top.

Sketch sweets

Funnily enough the sweets were less imaginative than the savory plate, but it was still up there with the nicest I’ve had. It was the small portions that still packed some serious flavour that was the key, especially the coffee eclair which I loved loved loved. The scones were also better than normal by serving them hot (a couple of other tea places promised this and then served them stone cold).

All in all Sketch is definitely a place I will return to just for the innovative food.  I think when you go just expect it to be a bustling tea hub, or if thats not your thing just eat in the glade during the week.


*I think the main room above has recently been redone entirely in pick, I need to go back to see!

Science afternoon tea

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.

Science afternoon tea savory

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.

Science afternoon tea beaker

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.

Science afternoon teaa empty

Royal Horseguards afternoon tea

I’ve told you before about the amazing community of bloggers in London, well the other day I got to hang out with a bunch of them at the Royal Horseguards hotel in Westminster. Bunch doesn’t sound right as a collective noun for a group of bloggers… I propose that we start calling a group of bloggers a ‘click’ (anyone who has been out to dinner with a blogger will get it!).

So in a riverside room at the Royal Hourseguards we made friends with Chef Ben, our food magician for the afternoon. We started with a quick tour of the terrace while sipping our champagne – look at that view! I think we all decided that this was definitely the life for us, I was made to sip champagne in a luxury hotel while talking blogs, travel and brunch.

Royal Horseguards view

And to the food. It must be fairly intimidating to cook for a click of bloggers (see, click just sounds right!), but Ben and his team did the hotel proud. After some tasty finger sandwiches I may have gone a little overboard with the scones, you see we had some gluten free bloggers at the table so what on earth were we to do with the extra scones? Ah, eat them.

I ate so many scones that I kind of ran out of room for the top tier, a fact that made me super sad. I managed to squeeze in the mango tart with coconut marshmallow, lovely spring flavours and pretty pretty mouthfuls is a good sign of what I missed out on. I can’t really complain, the scones were amazing and maybe Chef Ben will invite me back to try his top tier. Wait, that came out wrong.

I love meeting new bloggers, not just because its the best way to find new reading material, but also because as school yard as it sounds you get a chance to meet new friends. I may or may not have already started twitter stalking JessonThames and we are brunching this weekend!

I can’t wait to meet the click at the next blogging event, and maybe next time I will not get quite so hyped up on sugar and wont lead to this sort of incident…

Chef Ben twitter

Intercontinental Westminster afternoon tea treats

A few days before Christmas I was feeling a bit grinchy. I had tried and failed to get into Winter Wonderland (a 45 minute line just to get in!), Amazon didn’t deliver my Christmas presents in time and I hadn’t been arsed to put the Christmas tree up. To help overcome my internal grinch Emma from Adventures of a London Kiwi suggested a Christmas afternoon tea at the Intercontinental Westminster.

I had a bit of a an epic journey to get there, Google took me to the wrong hotel, the tube was down and a crazy black cab driver didn’t tell me he was cash only till the of the journey and then made me pay for the privilege of going to a cash machine. But when I walked into the hotel the drama of the journey washed away and I was at a Christmasy peace.

The room was filled with beautiful Christmas trees (decorated with sugar plums, peacocks and fairies), a five person choir singing carols in the corner of the room and a glass of champagne waiting for me on the table. The only way it could have got more anti-grinch was if there had been a little drummer boy waiting to take my coat; but you know, child labour laws being what they are…

We had opted for the endless Champagne version of the afternoon tea because that is how we Kiwi blogger girls roll. So Emma and I quickly got to the important business of catching up and putting the world to rights. The sandwiches were a genuine delight, fresh bread* and tasty flavour combos. We then moved on to the scones which were slightly less of a success. Our lovely waiter told us to let him know when we were ready for scones so he could bring them out hot. But well, when they arrived the scones had the memory of warmth at the very best. They were yum, but note to Intercontinental Westminster, don’t get my hopes up about toasty hot scones if you cant deliver.

The hot eccles cakes on the other hand may be the best afternoon delight I have ever had. Melt in your mouth and the perfect combo of flaky pastry and raisins.

Intercontinental Westminster afternoon tea

The biggest downfall of the Intercontinental Westminster afternoon tea is what is normally the highlight, the top tier. The chocolate macaroon was too rich and overpowering, the thing in the shot glass we couldn’t identify (passion fruit? mango? strangely lumpy?) and the worst bit is that for £45 a head we had to share. Every other afternoon tea I have ever been to brings out enough treats so that everyone at the table can try every different cake. Or at the very least they bring out replacements as soon as they are eaten so the effect is the same. Not so much here. We either had to split the unsplitable, decapitate the snowman or miss out on some of the afternoon tea.

So all up it was a nice dose of Christmas spirit and a lovely catch up with Emma but I probably wouldn’t be back to the Intercontinental for afternoon tea.

*It amazes me how many afternoon teas go wrong on this step

The Modern Pantry Tea

Birthdays are tricky in London. You don’t really want to give anything that can’t be packed into a suitcase and you want it to be special, something they would not buy for themselves. One of my best friends cracked the London birthday code and started the tradition of giving an afternoon tea. Rules are that the location is entirely secret, all the birthday girl knows is the nearest tube station. It all started with my birthday this year, where I was told to meet at the St Pauls tube station and we had afternoon tea at Beas of Bloomsbury. So for her birthday I told her to meet me at the Barbican tube station and we then walked round the corner to have afternoon tea at the Modern Pantry.

Scones at the Modern Pantry

We went for the champagne afternoon tea, because who can really pass up a lychee bellini on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Then we had the hard decision of what teas to drink, the list wasn’t as long as I was expecting but the descriptions were so enticing (imagine the ‘fruity oak’ descriptions normally found on a wine list) that the length didn’t matter at all.

 Afternoon Tea at the Modern Pantry

I was slightly underwhelmed by the amount of food on offer. Normally an afternoon tea has at least four sandwich flavour options, whereas the Modern Pantry only had two. But the funny thing is that for two people it was actually the exact right amount i.e. we were full but still able to move at the end of it. Maybe it is just a bit of psychology that they need to play with, cut the sandwiches in half and there will visually be more to entice the eater.

The huge source of entertainment throughout the afternoon was the family having tea at the next table over. The mother spent the entire time trying to reason with a two year old, giving her the option of a high chair and then trying to verbally convince her it was the best option. The mother went as far as to get down on her knees to show this two year old how much better life would be if she sat a little higher. As two childless expats we watched incredulous and decided that if we were ever crazy enough to bring a toddler to a posh afternoon tea, we would tell not ask.