Afternoon tea = More an occasion than a hot drink.
Oh, the Battenburg cake deserves its very own special mention!
What’s not to love about afternoon tea?
I adore it especially with a group of friends and bottle of bubbly – times flies as afternoon merges into night and we’re still devouring another round of divine treats…
So after washing some brick walls (more about that later) yesterday I headed off to Piccadilly Circus and easily spotted the signature duck egg blue Fortnum and Mason branding. The buzzing ground floor was full of incredible chocolate treats, biscuits, jams and their infamous hampers.
To give you a little background, founded in 1707 in Duke Street, the Fortnum and Mason legacy began by Hugh Mason, from a small store in St James Market and a spare room in his house, and the Fortnum family who had arrived in London as high class builders reinvigorating Mayfair in the wake of the Great Fire. William Fortnum, who was quite the entrepreneur, also took a post as Footman in Queen Anne’s household and in Mr Mason’s spare room, where Fortnum met Mason.
Fortnum’s ingenious idea for selling Queen Anne’s half used candle wax, at a profit, paved the way for the beginning of a respectable business. The rest, as they say, is grocery.
After spiralling up the stairs to the top floor The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon we were ushered to a beautiful corner table with crisp white table cloths ordained with clusters of freshly cut violet flowers.
Then the feast began…
The tea selection was thoughtfully tailored and we all selected different flavours so we could swap. My friend was proud to select the one tried by Kate Middleton! Of course afternoon tea wouldn’t be the same without bubbles and we picked the house rose – that matched the occasion beautifully.
Firstly the fine porcelain tea pots arrived with the same matching duck egg blue along with gold trim. Perfect sized tea pots, generous enough for refills.
Tea itself has been a hit since the days of Samuel Pepys, whose famous diary noted it thus in 1660: ‘I did send for a cup of tee, (a China drink) of which I had never had drunk before.’ The glorious tradition of ‘Afternoon Tea’ as a meal occasion, however, came to a gentle boil altogether later. Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford in the 1830s, is credited with first making ‘Afternoon Tea’ into a formal social occasion.
It all had to do with the shifting hour of the evening meal, which became fashionably later and later as more and more houses became able to be cost-effectively lit until well into the late evening. Not that the Bedfords were especially short on candles, but someone has to lead these things.
The beautifully crust-free, neatly cut sandwiches arrived….
Followed by scones and the best lemon curd that I have ever tasted – I almost drowned my scones in it! Some friends had the savoury cheese scones option with salmon mousse, that also nibbled away at my food envy.
Then sugary treats that looked too good to eat… Which one to devour first? (or last?!)
Best bit was the Battenburg cake that was the highlight for me. Never before have I had such a perfectly marzipan-ed, vibrantly-coloured, incredibly tasting pink and yellow freshly-baked Battenburg. Fabulous. The waiters were adorable and kindly even gave us a slice to take home!
Polished off with some cheeky biscuits to sneak home too…
If you fancy an afternoon treat with a twirl, I highly recommend F&M.