Head to Fortnum & Mason for a traditional afternoon tea, taken in an elegant salon opened by HM The Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Expect crisp white linen and duck egg blue chinaware, with matching padded seats and smartly dressed waiters. The ceilings are a little low, but decorated with pretty chandeliers at least.
A word of warning: if your tea is booked for Saturday afternoon, chances are you’ll have to wait before your table is ready. Sometimes it’s just five minutes, but one experience had us hovering in the reception area outside the lifts for over half an hour. Having said that, a (small) wait is worth it for pitch-perfect finger sandwiches – not a curling corner in sight, and filled with the usual suspects, only far more luxurious: rare breed hen egg with cress, and rare roast beef with Café de Paris butter. Thick slices of soft smoked salmon, available in Fortnum’s food hall downstairs, are also excellent.
Scones are fluffy and come served with whole pots of jam – the best of which was raspberry – and even more clotted cream. Individual patisseries include a subtle rose éclair and are followed by, if you can fit it in, yet more sweet treats chosen from the cake carriage (this time serious cakes, like Battenberg and Victoria sponge). Other perks include the tinkling of a grand piano in the background, and the option to choose a savoury afternoon tea instead (think lemon & dill scones, and oeufs drumkilbo in place of cakes) or even a ‘high tea’ – something more substantial such as fish cakes or eggs royale, followed by scones and cake. Tea options are vast – make the most of the F&M tea ‘sommeliers’ to get the right cup.
Service is sharp, but sometimes overstretched at the weekends considering the sheer volume of afternoon tea covers. If possible, get a corner table furthest away from the reception area for maximum people watching potential.
Star of the show: smoked salmon sandwiches and raspberry jam
Scone rating: 8/10
Perfect for: traditionalists, or potentially savoury-minded people
Price: £44 for afternoon tea with classic blend tea; £46 for savoury afternoon tea with classic blend tea; £46 for high tea with classic blend tea
By Charlotte Morgan
listen to the olive team do a taste test of Fortnum & Mason’s afternoon tea sundae (featuring spiced coronation ice cream!)
olive magazine podcast ep16 – Dan Doherty’s new book, summer slow cooking and afternoon tea sundaes