My second day in London started with a trip to the Tate Modern because I was keen to see Anicki Ri’s In Love with the World exhibition which speculates on the possibility of machine evolution. I think the artist needs to watch Terminator.
Despite my reservations, and a less than glowing newspaper review, I loved it. The machines are giant balloons and they float lazily around the Turbine Hall – it’s very relaxing to watch.
After a wander to the Leake Street Arches (scratching an itch to see street art), I headed up to Soho, stopping off at the Broad Street Pump (appeasing some Public Health History Geekery) before ordering a coffee in a urinal, (Attendant Coffee, Foley Street). I know, I go to all of the classy places.
With some time before Afternoon Tea, I strolled down to the Cartoon Museum before leisurely making my way to Fortnum and Mason’s.
The Jubilee Dining Room is cool and calm, though somewhat buzzing room, at the top of several flights of stairs on the fourth floor – a climb to pace myself over as I was quite keen to be able to speak (and request my table) when I arrived.
There was more white than mint in the room’s decoration but it did remind me of Claridge’s. I was shown to a corner table which gave me a fabulous view of the room where tiered trays of afternoon teas were being shuttled from table to table. There’s an array of dining options here and while I was sorely tempted by the savoury option (not a dessert in sight), I chose the vegetarian afternoon tea (on the grounds that I am keen on cake and it is my birthday), to be accompanied with Smoky Early Grey tea but first a G&Tea cocktail.
The tray arrived and after explaining the menu, Bliss the server explained that everything was refillable. This could be dangerous if everything tasted as good as it looked.
The sandwiches – not your average selection of vegetarian options – were all generously filled and all served on a variety of bread: chargrilled artichoke and semi dried tomato on white; coronation…not chicken… squash with pumpkin seeds on wholemeal; truffle celeriac remoulade on poppyseed; seaweed and tofu with samphire butter on brown and finally… the classic… cream cheese and cucumber on white.
They were delicious and while I knew I was tempting fate, the scones and cakes looked ever so delicately small… so I asked for two more sandwiches – the coronation squash and the truffle celeriac. A plate of four arrived… but at this point, I felt confident: I had been walking since 8am this morning. (OK, apart from one or two coffee stops,but I’d still worked up an appetite).
A piano player had taken position at just after 3pm in the lobby and, with my seat beside the doorway, I was probably in prime position to listen to the music which had to compete with the chatter in the room.
Dining alone for afternoon tea, I’ve rarely experienced any discomfort caused by other guests (though the chap in Warwick who started a commentary on my plate was an exception). Today, the group of four at the next table seemed to find it odd that I was on my own. How did I know? The whispering, furtive glances and reluctance to make eye contact were a clue.
They themselves were sitting in silence with minimal conversation.
Time for the scones. Yes, scones. Two. One plain and one fruit and an entirely separate tray was provided for their accompanying jams and cream. Yes. A choice of jams and cream… and no skimping. I did wonder what would happen to the jam I didn’t finish – these were large jars and I couldn’t see the Dining Room serving up a half-filled jar to another guest.
Both scones were a delight – just the right side of crumbly without breaking up on contact with a knife. I stuck with the wild blueberry preserve on both scones. I’m absolutely certain the strawberry would have been delicious but strawberry jam is regularly served and I love blueberry.
An additional cake appeared. I eyed it and wondered if I had been cavalier in my request for seconds of sandwiches. It’s not as if I don’t know how filling afternoon tea is.
Speaking of which, a pot of tea arrived in time for the cakes, actually in time for the scones but I was still enjoying the cocktail.
Cakes… I started with the lime cheesecake, which stood on more of a maltcake base than biscuit. It was an interesting contrast of flavours but unlikely to be my favourite of the selection – there was a red velvet cake on there after all.
The raspberry éclair was fabulous – light pastry, barely there but plenty of flavour and just the right amount of icing and cream. I followed the fruit them with the miniature lemon meringue which provided a sharp cleanse to the palate before moving onto the chocolate.
The chocolate bomb had the weight of a small landmine and as I bit into it… raspberry and chocolate mousse spurted out over the tablecloth… you really can’t take me anywhere…. which left the red velvet (before I contemplated my birthday cake). It was delicious.
And the added touch of my birthday gift? A chocolate cup which contained some soft fruits and had been extremely generously topped up with sweetened cream. It was too rich for me to finish but was a very nice touch.
The vegetarian afternoon tea cost £62.50 with the cocktail adding £12.50 to the bill. Including service charge that came to just under £85. Was it worth it? As a birthday treat, absolutely. The setting is beautiful. The service is friendly and the food is delicious. Plus there is a choice of complimentary cakes to take away and as for my concern about the potentially wasted jams? They were coming too!!!