Afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Mason
181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER
020 7734 8040
Although my love for Afternoon Tea is unquestionable, my actual experience with the posh grand affair is somewhat restrained. The novelty of using a fine china teacup and saucer with a strainer that you always forget about and end up getting bits of loose leaf tea in your cuppa (#teaproblems 🙁 ) never wares off. I have previously been to the Lanesborough and the Goring both of which were divine but they don’t have one crumb on F&M! Whilst they are both luxurious hotels, F&M is the cream of the crop when it comes to tea, with its long brewed history that started with William Fortnum and Hugh Mason who grew to become specialist grocers and tea merchants. Since 1707 the store has managed to wrap the hearts of all Tealovers with their special teapot cosy and is famous for its excellence in serving and selling fine teas from around the globe.
Unlike the endless list of grand London hotels that lure in tourists and Londers alike with their glistening chandeliers and household name, the F&M afternoon tea experience begins as soon as your enter the store. Surrounded by Oolongs, Royal and Black blends and Greenies galore, you almost forget the very reason why you are tottering around the store with heels and your most conservative posh dress. Once you manage to peel your eyes away from the tea-lined shelves your pretteay experience continues as you ascend the red carpeted stairs and the Tiffanyblue-lined walls (which makes a great backdrop for some snappy snaps). Having left the teas, coffees, chocolates and biscuits behind, on the next floor you will find your teapots, teacups, saucers, strainers, tea cosies – you name it! From gorgeous floral patterns to eye-burning silver-plated sets, there is something for everyone. On the way up to the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon you will ascend through the subtle fragrances of soaps and hand creams and musky leather until you begin to catch the fine tunes of the pianist. There the F&M colour coordinated hostesses will meet and greet you and take you to your table (if you are not too distracted by the impressive range of teas that line the wall!).
Already waiting for you on the table is the classic F&M St James Eau de Nil China Teaware and the chirpy chappy Frenchman who will bring you the extensive Tea List and Afternoon Tea options. We opted for the standard Afternoon Tea priced at £44 if served with a famous blend tea or at £48 if served with a rare tea. The standard menu comes with the classic finger sandwiches (fortnum’s smoked salmon, coronation chicken, cucumber with mint and cream cheese, honey roast ham with grain mustard and rare breed hen’s egg mayonnaise with english cress), scones (plain and fruit) served with clotted cream, strawberry preserve and lemon curd and a selection of pâtisseries as well as a selection of cake from the Cake Carriage. Other options include the High Tea and the Savoury Afternoon Tea menu which comes with savoury scones (cheddar cheese and caramelised onion) and instead of pâtisseries additional options such as a wild mushroom puff with truffle and asparagus with parma ham. If I am honest, my biggest regret is not opting to go for one Afternoon Savoury Tea option and one standard option and then sharing the two! Since you get a slab of cake at the end, having the additional savouries is a wise decision.
Nonetheless, the sandwiches were exquisite, the scones cooked to perfection, and served warm, and the slab of cake was a generous serving with the carriage full of a diverse range (chocolate ganache, blackberry bakewell tart, lemon and raspberry cake, Battenberg and fruit cake). As well as being the connoisseur of all connoisseurs of tea, F&M also stands out from the crowd because of their offering from the cake carriage. If you feel like you won’t be able to squeeze in another morsel of cake – fear not! – ask to take home a doggy bag. Also don’t forget that in the posh Afternoon Teas you can ask for endless amounts of everything! So if you want more sandwiches, scones or cakes just ask and it won’t cost you a penny more.
The tea is also unlimited and you can try as many different kinds as you like. I sampled the Afternoon Blend, the Breakfast Blend, the Royal Blend, the Strawberry Black Tea, the Countess Grey Tea and the Manuka Tea. I have to say, as much as I am a fanatic of the classic English Breakfast Tea (taken with milk and no sugar!!) I absolutealy LOVED the Strawberry Black Tea which must be taken without milk – it was so light and refreshing that milk was just not necessary. The Manuka Tea was my second favourite. The light flavour of the Manuka honey made a perfect accompaniment to wash down the fluffy scones. In terms of the classic black tea, the Afternoon Tea Blend was a bit too light for my liking and I much prefered the Royal Blend. The Countess Grey Tea is a must try for all Earl Grey fanatics and has undertones of orange which gives it an intriguing twist.
To complement the endless amounts of food and tea, I highly suggest you try the fresh F&M lemonade. With my sensitive palate I can’t stand fizzy bubbles popping in my mouth and so I asked for it to be made with still water instead of soda which they made without any fuss. The service at F&M cannot be faulted and they attend to your every need without pressuring or rushing you – we spent 2 1/2 hours there! They also brought me a little box of truffles and a candle with a happy birthday sign which was just the icing on the cake (as if I hadn’t had enough already!!). Even if you are not going to celebrate a birthday, I suggest you email before hand and tell them you are anyway – you never know what freebie you can get out of it 😉
The whole experience went from phenomenal to exceptional and therefore Fortnum and Mason’s grand Afternoon Tea undoubtedly deserves a 5 teacup rating!