One of the British traditions I was most looking forward to exploring during my trip to London was Afternoon Tea.
This can range anywhere from a very casual cup of tea with a pastry to a very formal, full-service (and pricey) experience. We opted to experience the full grand affair.
There were so many options but we didn’t have many free afternoons in London, making it a little hard to squeeze in Afternoon Tea, but we managed to fit in Fortnum & Mason into our schedule.
Fortnum & Mason is a high end gourmet department store, specializing in teas, jams and other goodies. In addition to shopping, they also have a Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, opened in honor of the Queen. It was originally St. James’ restaurant but after being refurnished, it was opened on March 1, 2012 by Her Majesty the Queen accompanied by Their Royal Highnesses the Duchess of Cornwalland the Duchess of Cambridge, and renamed The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
The Fortnum & Mason’s tea experience is definitely a formal and grand affair. One of the main reasons I was so excited though, was that you could get unlimited refills on the food.
There was a range of tea experiences offered, from the traditional afternoon tea to some savory afternoon tea choices which come with additional savory dishes. We chose the traditional afternoon tea experience. There was a huge tea selection, with more than 80 different ones to choose from.
Our Afternoon Tea also came with a three tiered stand, with finger sandwiches, scones and assorted pastries. In addition, for “dessert” there was a cart of various cakes.
Accompanying the scones were clotted cream and individual jars of their famous jams. If you don’t finish or don’t use the jams, you are also welcome to take them home with you.
The service was impeccable, much like a fine dining experience.
My favorite part of the meal was the platter of sandwiches. I’ve had tea sandwiches before, but there was something in the spread that made these sandwiches extra delicious. Even the simple cucumber one was divine, with cucumbers thinly sliced to just the right thickness to easily bite through but still providing a slight crunch. I adored all the sandwiches and we ended up asking for another plate of refills. When we didn’t finish and asked for them to be packed up (another bonus, you get to pack up leftovers which you usually can’t do at unlimited eating experiences), our waiter packed us up an entire fresh plate of sandwiches.
I also really enjoyed the scones. I’ve always liked scones but this was my first time experience British-style scones, and while they are similar to American ones, the British ones having a lighter and more tender crumb. I really enjoyed the British version and I’m determined to make them soon.
The jams were delicious as well, especially the blueberry one which was absolutely packed with tiny berries in every scoop.
The assorted pastries consisted of a pale pink frosted mini eclair, a French macaron, a chocolate ganache coated cake square, a caramel mousse cake, and a round, biscuit-like cookie. The desserts were all pretty good, but we didn’t get refills because we wanted to save room for the cakes.
Once we had stuffed ourselves silly, we were taken over to the cake cart, which had several cakes on display. When you are done choosing, they bring the slices back to your table.
Mr. K chose a dark chocolate one, which was moist and rich.
One of the reasons I had chosen Fortnum & Mason was because I knew they offered the Battenberg cake which I really wanted try. I had immediately been enchanted by its appearance when I was conducting my research. This cake did not disappoint. It’s a very simple sponge cake, iced with marizpan. It’s a perfect dessert to be paired with hot tea.
At the end of our meal, we were presented with parting tea gifts as souvenirs.
We loved our experience here and I definitely want to experience Afternoon Tea again. One thing I regretted was that we didn’t get to come back and “maximize” on our experience, as we learned several things from this initial dining experience. Here are some tips for those who want to get their money’s worth:
- You don’t have to wait until you finish to ask for refills. Near the end of our tea time, we watched two people sit down at a table next to us and immediately order refills on the sandwiches even before they had finished taking a bite of one.
- You can take the Fortnum & Mason jam jars provided with the scones home.
- Unlike most unlimited or “all you can eat” places, you can box up leftovers. I had wanted a refill on the pastries but didn’t think I’d have room to finish them and didn’t want them to go to waste. Now I wish I had just ordered them as I could have enjoyed some there and some later on.
Overall, Fortnum & Mason was a wonderful experience and one of the highlights of our trip. It’s definitely pricey, but most full service afternoon teas are. The basic afternoon tea was £40 per person and went up from there. It was about on par with the prices of all the other formal afternoon tea places I researched. If we had more places like this in San Diego, I’d request such a visit for every special occasion.
A sample of the tea menu can be found here.
Fortnum & Mason Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
London W1A 1ER