OK, so the small people might not have yet made it to a British Seaside in their lives, but they can strike another traditionally English thing off their rightful citizenship list (if they have one!) – Afternoon Tea in a swanky London hotel. You can’t get more English than that can you? Even if this version is slightly off the traditional mark.
To be honest, this is something we probably should have experienced at the Royal Garden Hotel where we were staying (they were hosting a fantastic Wimbledon themed tea at the time) but The Small Girl has friends who had been “down the rabbit hole” at The Sanderson, and having completely captured her imagination, the Mad Hatter’s Tea was the only version she dreamt about.
The Sanderson is in a great part of Soho, surrounded by lots of creative media type offices (including my old firm who typically waited until I left to move somewhere really fun. Although thinking about it, my bank balance is probably pleased about that!), and, as you might expect for such a location this hotel is effortlessly cool. The reception area is vast and full of iconic chairs, whilst the stylish Long Bar is indeed one of the longest I have seen with a counter top crowded with every type of bottle imaginable. Next time. Next time…
Shown to our table, we were presented with a vintage book cleverly containing the menu. Not that you really have much of a choice about what you will be getting, this is pretty much a set menu – but it describes what you are about to eat, and what choices of tea are available – both the traditional, and the not so – Chocolate & Mint, and Apple & Strawberry sit beside the Assams and Darjeelings…
And once tea was selected and served (in some pretty funky crockery!) then it was time for the big occasion itself, with a selection of traditional sandwiches on various breads (ham, salmon and egg), carrot shaped and strawberry flavoured toadstool marshmallows, a variety of imaginative (and incredibly tasty cakes), scones both savoury and sweet (which my two don’t actually like – maybe they are not that English after all – more for us!), quiches, tiny bottles containing passion fruit smoothies labelled “drink me” and (a very rare at the moment) glass of champers for the grown ups…
And if and when you run out and find yourself still peckish? Just find your waiter and order some more of what you fancy, or choose a fruit jelly from the trolley where jellies in a spectrum of colours are made in Victorian moulds.
We loved: The tea, the champagne (of course!) and in particular the savouries and the scones. The Victorian sponge clock cake was also delicious, as was the mango cake. The service was excellent and professional, and the balance was right in that without getting the feeling that you were being watched the waiters seemed to know when to appear.
We weren’t so keen on: the matcha chocolate tea-cup which was overly sickly, but that’s a matter of taste of course. Our main complaint? Being automatically seated outside on what was a particularly cold and at times drizzly English summer’s day. Do check where you are seated when you make a reservation or you might find yourself praying you tumble down a rabbit hole for some warmth alone.
Having said all that, whilst personally I think I might be a traditionalist when it comes to afternoon tea, it was a great child friendly introduction to for the Small People to this English ritual, and I know they had no complaints about it whatsoever. 7/10
The Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street, London, W1T 3NG (£30 for children, £48 for adults including a glass of champagne!)