My eternally English obsession with afternoon tea continues but I think this time I’ve found something that really beats the usual sandwich and scone combo. Fortnums offer a wide selection of options for afternoon tea ranging from the (I hesitate to use the word really) “basic” option of “Afternoon Tea” (£40) to “Savoury Afternoon Tea” (£42) culminating in the “High Tea” (£44). I’d always wondered what the difference was between afternoon tea and high tea and now I have my answer.
High tea is more elaborate and includes a hot dish followed by all the cakes and scones that come with the straightforward afternoon tea so is somewhere between tea and dinner. Despite being a few pounds more than the basic offering, for me this is the best option. My Lobster Omelette Victoria in lobster bisque sauce with shaved truffle was truly beautiful and was priced at £19 for that dish alone on the lunch menu. Large, tender chunks of lobster flesh punctuated the fluffy omelette whilst the bisque added a saffron tinted slick of richness. There are around 8 other options that you can choose from including kedgeree, eggs benedict and roast ham and cheese souffle but the lobster was a no brainer for me. Its not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen as its covered in a grilled melted cheese gooiness but take it from me, if you like lobster and cheese then you will love it.
I had initially been a bit reluctant at the price tag for what felt like tea above a shop but you are a world away from the craziness of the tourist infested tea-hunting frenzy on the ground floor of the shop. The cranky old wooden lift takes you sedately up to the top floor and you emerge into a light and airy, serene heaven. A gentle hubbub of chatter and the tinkling of a grand piano is punctuated by the chime of a tea spoon or the faint clatter of bone china cup against saucer.
The tea offering is as wide as you would expect from one of London’s finest purveyors of teas. If you really love tea then you will be left dizzy by the bewildering variety of options on offer. I may have mentioned before that my ability to really enjoy an afternoon tea is a little hampered by the fact that I fundamentally don’t like tea so I’m usually left hunting for one that won’t be too icky. I plumped for the green tea with elderflower and shocked myself by really loving it (luckily they sell it in bags on the ground floor so I now actually do drink tea- amazing, its only taken the best part of three decades….)
My general disdain for all things tea usually results in champagne being an obvious replacement- after all doesn’t afternoon tea always feel like an occasion? Except this time I went English opting for F&M’s house English sparkling in the form of Camel Valley.
Very fresh and shouting green apples with a hint of pear, its an excellent choice especially in the terribly British surroundings of Fortnums. If you’re a complete traditionalist though and need your fizz to be French then prices are not completely insane for the location. Billecart Salmon comes in at £58 or 2006 vintage Louise Roederer at £60 making the list prices a lot more competitive than most hotel afternoon teas.
So far so, well, pretty much perfect actually! In contrast, however, Mum wasn’t faring quite so well with her “standard” afternoon tea as the sandwiches that kicked off were five rather measly fingers. Although they were well flavoured they were limited in quantity and not the most exciting ever.
Scones are accompanied by your choice of a jar of jam and best of all you get to take the rest of it home with you. Buttery and crumbly and still warm they hit the spot.
A carousel of two-bite cakes appeared with something to please everyone; from chocolate to lemon to raspberry to praline it was all there. The rose petal eclair was my favourite- very delicate without being too floral.
Even a jammy dodger or two snuck in……
As if you hadn’t already had enough cake, the meal culminated in a choice of larger cakes -or a bit of all of them- from a trolley (or Coronation Cake Carriage as its rather grandly named) in the centre of the room.
Here’s a close up of those cakes and yes I ate them all…….
I managed a mere mouthful of a very creamy, sponge finger raspberry confection before I feared I would explode and disappeared off into the fading sun with the rest of my little pot of jam and my new found love of elderflower tea bags. I would definitely go back for a special occasion it was all delightful from start to finish.
Fortnum & Mason Diamond Jubilee Tea Room