“I am the maker of music, the dreamer of dreams!”
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl.
When I was at primary school, I remember reading Roald Dahl's books front to back until the ink wore off the pages and the covers were dog eared. Accompanied by the all too well known sketches from Quentin Blake, firm favourites were the BFG, The Twits and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What child wouldn't be gripped by tales of fizzy lifting drinks, coloured changing caramels, edible wallpaper and everlasting gobstoppers?
To coincide with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical in London's west end, One Aldwych has collaborated to create a magical afternoon tea, inspired by the whimsical delights of the book and, now, theatre show. And since it's christmas afterall, throughout December there's a festive afternoon tea twist on the usual menu.
It wasn't long before our amiable host was asking us if we'd like to have a moment to browse the menu, perhaps order a cocktail or start on their tea selections. After much deliberation (read: none) we were on our way to trying their signature cocktail charlie. "Bubbles, bubbles everywhere, and not a drop to drink… yet."
A showstopping medley of dalmore whisky mixed with grand marnier cherry, chocolate bitters, grapefruit juice and cherry syrup, the cocktail is finished with a generous topping of champagne. As fruity as it looks with a hint of bitterness, I would never have guessed this cherry chocolate treat had a main ingredient of whisky. and of course that billowing dry ice - how spectacular!
Service was prompt but never rushed, with a leisurely but attentive atmosphere. next up were an assortment of festive inspired sandwiches and savouries. These were turkey and cranberry relish on rye bread, an egg mayonnaise and watercress bridge roll, smoked salmon and lemon créme fraîche on tomato bread beetroot and onion marmalade tart with goat's curd and a cute little leek and stilton quiche. They had remembered that grace is a pescetarian and provided a springy soft cucumber and cream cheese sandwich instead of the turkey.
After polishing off the last crumb, our waiter asked which ones we had liked best and happily brought out more of our favourites. We both opted for the delicate beetroot tart with creamy goat's curt and the moreish quiche with crumbly pastry and mouthwatering flavours. Sipping away at our cocktail charlie, I couldn't believe that I hadn't actually fancied a cup of tea yet, as the norm with quintessential afternoon tea. I perused the menu of winter whispers, smooth caramel, spiced pear and earl grey st. clements and opted for a pot of winter whispers over dessert.
Out came the desserts; an inviting staircase with a sweet treat on every step. From left to right, these were an apple and blackberry mess, homemade candyfloss, golden egg with vanilla cheesecake and mandarin, gingerbread and dark chocolate pops and chocolate caramel milk. Below were a cocoa bean financier, cinnamon brioche and warm scones with spiced orange marmalade, apple and meadowsweet compote and devonshire clotted cream. In true Willy Wonka style, the waiter asked us to guess the flavour of candy floss before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
And what a beautiful mess this was. not one that would usually pick a fruity dessert, I really enjoyed this sweet. Just the right amount with actually not-so-messy perfectly placed meringue on top.
Next up was the chocolate and gingerbread pop. not sure how I feel about this one, as it wasn't the texture I expected. I thought it would be more like a gooey brownie but it actually had a lot of pieces and crunch. Nonetheless a tasty and Christmassy combination.
Behold the golden egg! I knew if I pretended to be Veruca Salt for long enough i'd get one... with a chocolate outer and zesty cream beneath, this one has to be my favourite. Top points for creativity too - I think Willy Wonka himself would have been proud of this one.
Second to that was the caramel milkshake, which I could have drunk all afternoon. My sweet tooth sucked it right up through that charming stripy straw. I reverted back to my 8 year old self who without fail used to have a chocolate milkshake at an Italian cafe in Ashby every Saturday. Which by the way, is still standing proud on market street.
Much fun was had throughout the candy floss eating, since we'd forgotten how difficult it is to eat. yet again the two of us were transported back to our childhood with a face full of a sugary cloud.
Meanwhile I sipped on a warming cup of winter whispers, a blend of the finest china black tea with real orange peels, cloves, hibiscus and cornflower blossoms, finished with almond pieces. Christmas in a cup with a warming and welcoming taste, which was really flavoursome compared to a lot of other fruit teas I've sampled. I surprised myself that I didn't fancy a massive cup of strong English breakfast brew.
Afternoon tea isn't complete without a scone now is it? Here I have to say I wasn't taken at all by the marmalade or compote, which were far too bitter and sharp for my tastebuds. I sheepishly requested strawberry jam and our server happily obliged. Thumbs up for being accommodating on the conserve front. The scones had a glorious crumble to them and the cream was thick and divine.
A fantastic afternoon, which was shortly followed by a much needed skate (counts as exercise to me!) over at somerset house. What a lovely birthday present from my old school friend Grace. I'm afraid this is actually a rather cruel review since this menu is now booked up throughout Christmas, however next year you will be able to try the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired menu for 2015, with most likely will be just as awesome.
Oh and by the way, the candy floss was mince pie flavour.
Nearest tubes: covent garden, holborn temple or charing cross.
At the time of writing, afternoon tea is £34.50 per person, or £45 per person with a cocktail charlie.
note: in case you didn't guess, i didn't pay for my afternoon tea since it was a lovely birthday present. i did treat us to the cocktails though. as always, all opinions are my own.