An English Afternoon Tea Experience at Fortnum and Mason
I'm really not a tea person, but guess what? I had an absolutely lovely time at Fortnum and Mason and I think since then I've been drinking much more tea! So how did I end up at afternoon tea - a fine English tradition.
Well, at the beginning of the year and amongst travel enthusiasts and bloggers there was a lot of buzz about 2018 travel goals. To be honest, I wasn't really fussed. I remember mentioning to a few people that it'd be goal attained if we managed to travel anyway as a family this year - seeing as our first attempt to travel with a new born was quashed.
Anyway, when my friend Dee (who I've featured here and here - seeing as she's travel and career goals) shared her travel 2018 goals, it ranged from Australia to Capeverde to Switzerland to Belize and Indonesia. That's 5 continents!
While chatting randomly, she mentioned that she'd also love to have afternoon tea. Ah, finally something I could do. She'd been in the UK for two years, was returning to the US and wanted to tick this off her UK bucket list.
Well I had been here for 4 years and didn't exactly even have a UK to-do list. I thought I could start with this one. And so we set a date to experience this together.
So what's afternoon high tea?
Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner - and she would become hungry in between. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones, cakes and pastries are also served. Tea is also served from fancy tea pots into tea cups.
Based on our research some of the best places for this were fancy hotels and tea rooms. We settled for Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason. Fortnums as it's popularly called has been serving tea for 307 years! Little wonder it's such a popular thing that by the weekend before our set date, most places were fully booked - but we got one for the rather early 11am.
What to wear?
As I hurriedly got into my jeans that morning I thought for a second "what if they don't let us in if I'm dressed too casual". Particularly as the tradition had a history of being a fashionable one during which women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats. A quick call to Dee confirmed my thoughts of going with smart casual. But we need not have bothered too much - loads of people turned up in denim and very casual clothes.
I had my first impression of Fortnum even before I arrived. You see, I was running real late thanks to a missed train and they were kind enough to push our booking back by an hour - even though tables are typically reserved for 1.5 hours. And when I finally arrived, I was amazed at how huge and fancy it all looked. Like a reviewer said "you think to yourself that nothing bad could happen in this building"
We were shown to the table and finally time to order. We decided to go with two different options so we could try it all. So I had the afternoon tea which had amongst other things coronation chicken and smoked salmon sandwich plus some plain and fruit scones; Dee had the savoury afternoon tea with the same selection of sandwiches but some savoury scones.
We could have had champagne for an extra £12, but we decided to stick with two pots of tea. And my royal blend tea was so fab I asked for an extra pot - and finished it too.
It's amazing how the items looked so small yet we couldn't finish it all.
And the taste? Everything was so good! Typing this up a month later and I can almost still recall the exact taste of the salmon and the scones. Eating the scones (apparently pronounced like gone and not stone) reminded me of a conversation at work where colleagues debated the proper English way to eat a scone - whether the cream or jam should be spread first. This afternoon tea etiquette article suggests it's cream before jam - but who really cares?
Another good part? We could take out left overs with us and the waiter very kindly packed this up in a nice box plus we also got a huge chunk of cake from the trolley!
1.5 hours went by so quickly amidst good food and conversation and then we had to leave the salon. But we didn't have to leave the building so, we explored for a bit - including window shopping [theres a lot to buy though] and photo taking!
In all, I had such a lovely time and it's definitely one that has been added to my what-to-do-in London-list. So ditch your regular lunches and dinners and meet up with friends for afternoon tea! - or DIY it and have your own afternoon tea at home. Why not?
Have you had English fancy afternoon tea? Would you enjoy it? Are you a tea person - I'd love to know.