Fortnum & Mason truly does exquisite afternoon tea. Think fluffy sandwiches, delicate patisseries and a plethora of tea blends to choose from. There's no doubt this will be a positive review, but couldn't wait to share this fantastic afternoon tea in London's famous F&M at 181. Piccadilly.
Sat in The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, opened by HM The Queen, we were met with a daintily laid table with the recognisable turquoise green crockery and detailing. In the background, we heard the subtle tinkle of a live pianist playing classical melodies on a baby grand. I was wearing a floral tea dress and trying not to knock over any passing cake stands.
Unsurprisingly the tea salon list is rather impressive, with a grand total of 82 tea blends. From Russian Caravan to Classic Earl Grey and Chai to Moroccan Mint, take your pick from smoky, fruity, classic and contemporary.
The St James China teapot, cups and saucers are decorated with an 18th Century inspired scene, in a beautiful shade of teal with gold detailing. On this occasion I had a silver plated Art Deco style tea strainer to pour out our premium tea - I'd gone for the number 58 Countess Grey.
"A twist on the traditional bergamot infused blend, Countess Grey is based on well-twisted Orange Pekoe teas, lifted by classic bergamot and a light orange flavour. It has a light and delicate character."
This was a delightful tea, which as expected didn't stray far from a classic Earl Grey. I would said it seemed more delicate, yet had a stronger orange aroma. I loved it without milk, although enjoyed it even more with milk and sugar. Not how it should be, but how I like it.
Since it was a special occasion, we also enjoyed a chilled bottle of Blanc de Blancs Brut N.V, Hostomme (£52) to share between the four of us.
It wasn't long before an assortment of elegant cakes, patisseries, scones and sandwiches were presented on a trio of turquoise plates.
Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon with Caper & Lemon Dressing
Cucumber with Mint & Cream Cheese
Prawn & Gem LettuceMarie Rose Sauce
Rare Breed Hen Egg, Mustard Cress
SconesPlain & Fruit Scones
Presented with Somerset Clotted Cream & your choice of Fortnum & Mason Preserve:
Apricot, Lemon Curd, Raspberry, Strawberry, Wild Blueberry
Selection from the Cake Carriage
The salmon and prawn cocktail choices were just as excellent, with great quality seafood and soft, squidgy bread. We were happily unsurprised at how delicious it all was.
And now, the sweet.
These were an apricot puff, rose eclair, passionfruit macaron, raspberry jelly slice and a dark chocolate and ginger tart. What a nightmare for me - I wouldn't ever order fruit desserts! Sadly I didn't really enjoy any of these (although I promise I had a bite of each) except the indulgent chocolate tart. The macaron was definitely the best of the fruity offerings. Without sounding too brash, it tasted exactly like a creamy and tropical Solero lolly, there's just no other way to describe it.
Luckily (or else why would I keep going back for my afternoon tea?) I love scones. Light, crumbly, buttery scones. These were just that. Dusted with icing sugar with a choice of plain or fruit, I layered up the clotted cream and strawberry jam. De-licious.
You're invited to have more savouries, cakes and scones as you please. In a sandwichy-cakey haze I'd forgotten about the cake display I could pick from. Now I really regret not having enough room for a slice of that battenburg. Apologies - not the best picture - I was mainly trying to take a photograph without sending someone's tea leaves flying.
Overall it was a lovely and unforgettable experience and maybe even the best afternoon tea I've had.
On the other hand, a negative moment came about when we opted out of the discretionary service charge. At £40 a head, plus a £52 bottle of fizz, this was already indulgent, and we felt it was already a fair price for the service. When we didn't pay the £22 overall tip, things got a little awkward as we didn't really have a reason not to pay it, as such.
The waitress (who hadn't actually been the same person who served us) looked hurt and asked for a reason why we had chose not to pay it. To save any upset, we all blushed and just paid it anyway. I guess just bear in mind that although this is Britain, they expect you to pay the (discretionary) charge. Factor in that the afternoon tea is actually £44, unless you want a cringeworthy exchange.
Have you ever been for afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason? Where is your favourite place for afternoon tea in London?
I also really loved afternoon tea at One Aldwych - if you're looking for something different.