7 May 2012

Afternoon Tea - No. 1 Fortnum & Mason

I love Afternoon Tea... or High Tea as it used to be called and I just don't get enough of them. With a hungry husband to feed when he comes home I think he'd be pretty unimpressed if I said we were just having a light miso soup for supper as I'd had sandwiches, scones and cake at 4. My friend however not only loves afternoon tea but she has it quite often, and in all the best places (she won't go to the Ritz darling, or the Savoy 'not very good' she whispers). And she's a thin as a rake which just seems a little unfair! I haven't seen her for years so we wanted to meet somewhere, mid-afternoon for a non-coffee related catchup. She suggested Fortnums, I imagined a cup of builders and a slice of cake... how wrong I was.

Fortnum and Mason is a British institution selling tea for over 300 years. And to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee they have revamped and reopened the St James's restaurant now to be called the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room and it is just gorgeous. Light and airy, modern but with an incredibly charming old fashioned air - there is a pianist in black tie to accompany your tea - I could have stayed there for hours. I was incredibly embarrassed to have turned up in jeans, trainers and my husbands shirt (I haven't made it out to maternity shopping yet). I had meant to change after a meeting that actually overran and although, as my mother points out, you don't really have to get dressed up for anything nowadays I really felt that Afternoon Tea at Fortnum's deserves a bit of effort in the dress department.

Now, I have to mention that I found the price a little hard to swallow at first, £38 per person, and the service was a little on the slow side (but they were busy). However, I can't remember a time I was as full and the tea was particularly delicious and the setting beautiful and after all this is tea at Fortnum's. It's a treat - it wouldn't be the same if you could afford it everyday and it just means you have to block a couple of hours out to blissfully settle in to sipping, chatting and grazing, in this fantastic atmosphere that really makes the price worth every penny.

The first thing I noticed, and if fact I couldn't take my eyes off it throughout was the turquoise china. Beautiful and stylish and actually very modern - important I think considering how easy it would be to make it too try-hard old-fashioned. Incredibly polite service and no one asking you if everything was alright every two minutes - you feel like you have all the time in the world and no one minds you being there as long as you like.

You get to choose your tea blend, we had Jubilee tea which was delicious, and then a stand is brought with finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. A separate stand holds the jams and clotted cream and tea comes with hot water to top it up with. The selection of sandwiches was delicious - smoked salmon, egg and cress, pastrami with horseradish, coronation chicken and cucumber - and are replenished once you have finished if you want more. The scones, a selection of plain and fruit, are really light and quite small so you don't feel weighed down and the jams delicious - although I was a bit sad that the apricot didn't seem to have made it to our table the raspberry was addictive!

Finally the cakes, which are small and manageable, where wonderful and more like little deserts - chocolate mousse, lemon tart, raspberries, eclairs. If you have managed to eat all of this you can go an select more cakes from the main cake stand - we didn't get this far (I had seconds of the sandwiches) but I could see and incredible battenburg and a lethal looking chocolate cake.

This was the most fun, and the biggest treat, I've had in ages. I am desperate for an excuse to go back although now I know that I am friends with surely London's top Afternoon Tea connoisseur we've decided to do a Tea Tour of which this is only the first stop. I'm hoping it wins so we can return to it triumphantly. We arrived at 3 and I had to leave at 5 and I just wasn't ready to go...

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