So I move to the home of the afternoon tea, the birthplace of the tradition, and until this point, I’ve only enjoyed one during my time in England. Yeah, I’m shocked too. Especially considering London offers everything from the traditional at the likes of Claridge’s to the more creative at The Berkeley. I went through a period where I seemed to be having afternoon teas all the time- I’ve sipped teas and nibbled at Hippopotamus and Martha’s Pantry in Wellington and even had an extravagant experience at the Burj al Arab’s Skyview Bar in Dubai but lately? I’ve barely lifted my pinky.
Inspired by the Mad Hatter’s firm belief that it’s always time for tea, I decided it was high time for another round of tea and cakes. Feeling like a restless Alice on the riverbank that day, I thought a gloomy Sunday afternoon needed a bit of excitement and decided to take her lead down the rabbit hole and discover what edible delights were in store for us at Conrad London St James’ Alice in Wonderland Afternoon Tea.
We arrived to a beautifully laid out table in Emmeline’s Lounge and started our afternoon with a glass of G.H Mumm champagne while we chose our teas- jasmine silver needle, black tea with vanilla, and lemon and ginger. As these were brewing, our savouries arrived. First to be sampled were the smoked salmon and mini club sandwiches, and stromboli; all three were a little dry and disappointing. The curious oyster shells were actually a far from curious thin crostini type crisp, to be served with a smoked mackerel pate which I thought was quite pleasant.
Things looked up when we moved down a tier to the scones. Served with a Devonshire clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam, and a pink grapefruit curd, we all agreed they were delicious. Once you broke through that thin crust, the inside was light and buttery, just as scones should be.
Next to arrive were the desserts, always my favourite part of an afternoon tea, this tray of whimsical cakes and pastries got me grinning from ear to ear. You cannot help but smile when you see the ‘eat me’ earl grey panna cotta or the mini toadstool lemon tarts; these also happened to be my favourite of the desserts. I’m really not an earl grey drinker so I was surprised to find myself disappointed when my spoon hit the bottom of the tea cup and I realised I had complied with the ‘eat me’ instruction a little too well. The lemon toadstools were zesty and light, and gone all too quickly in just one bite.
The other cakes were a little hit and miss; the ‘painting the roses red’ cake was pretty but a little dry, the elderflower macaron was an odd flavour which one of us described as a little medicinal (never, ever ideal in a cake), and while I liked the richness of the checkerboard chocolate truffle tower, I didn’t love the texture of the white chocolate section.
A bit like Alice’s adventures, this visit down the rabbit hole had some puzzling parts but it was also playful and fun. You should never need an excuse to relax over some tea and cakes but if you’re looking for one, why don’t you make a quick escape to Wonderland with Conrad London St James?
Alice in Wonderland Afternoon Tea is £35 or £49 with free-flowing champagne; you can book on their website or grab a special star deal at Bookatable. Just don’t leave it too late, Alice is only around until 10 May 2015.