Fortnum & Mason: Tea For Two

As an Ameri-Brit, being both American and British, I love a cultural collaboration. Proper, silver service afternoon tea combines the prim execution of English elegance paired perfectly with American indulgence. You can spend hours slowly sipping a fine selection of steeped tea, whilst stuffing yourself to the gills with delicate sandwiches, scones and cakes. There isn’t a more divine way to have a much needed catch up, and certainly couldn’t have been hosted in a more luxurious setting.

I was invited by restaurant reviewing site, Zomato, to one of England’s most typical and historically fabulous spots for afternoon tea. In desperate need of a catch up, I invited the lovely Jaia to come along as my date.

Fortnum & Mason Fortnum & Mason We pored over the seemingly endless tea menu, with countless pages of beautiful blends to choose from. Having never tried an elderflower green tea, but loving the flavours individually, I made my choice. She went for the English breakfast blend served at the Royal Wedding of Kate & Wills. Although, we soon found the dizzying excitement of such a sugary afternoon greatly impaired her ability to put the strainer in the cup before pouring her tea. This resulted in a fit of giggles as I watched pieces of tea leaf flow into her cup time and time again. Not exactly the polished behaviour of the Royals, but we probably had way more fun.

Fortnum & Mason The Diamond Jubilee Tea Room is classically beautiful, with all the refined elegance you would expect from a building visited by Royalty. With sophisticated design featuring Fortnum’s duck egg blue in pieces around the room and bright pops of gold, my date fit right in with her pretty little striped number. Fortnum & MasonWe asked for a quick snap from our server, which came out a little blurred. But, we’ll forgive her as she’s the one that brought us the towers of treats!Fortnum & MasonNeedless to say, the service was impeccable. After our server arrived with our Afternoon Tea, she talked us through each layer of delicious decadence.

Fortnum & MasonWe started with sandwiches. What? You weren’t going to scroll straight to the dessert, were you?!
We nibbled away on sandwiches of cucumber & cream cheese, chicken & sweetcorn, rare roast beef with Café de Paris butter, Fortnum’s smoked salmon & horseradish cream and rare breed hen egg with mustard cress.
Fortnum & Mason

Then, slathered scones with clotted cream and topped with Fortnum’s deliciously fruity raspberry & apricot jams.
Clotted cream before jam, right? Fortnum & MasonAlready feeling quite full, several pots of tea into conversation, we began to tackle dessert, without too much arm twisting. 
Fortnum & Mason
Clockwise, the little pink eclair was flavoured with rose, the chocolate cake had milk chocolate mousse, lemon curd and a yummy, crunchy base, the snowball looking thing was a yoghurt flavoured gel consistency hiding a cherry centre on top of pistachio cake, the profiterole sandwiched a lime coconut cream and the macaron was a rich raspberry, dark chocolate. I’d have to say the chocolate lemon was surprisingly my favourite of the bunch. Although, I loved the look of the yoghurt and pistachio cake.
Fortnum & MasonWith cakes, sandwiches, scones and tea swishing around our overstuffed tummies, we were then offered a slice of cake from the Tea Room’s stunning selection. A white marble table sits seductively on the side, proudly showcasing the tempting cakes. I seriously considered wheeling the whole thing out the door with me, but assumed someone may take notice.

How absolutely beautiful is this mint coloured cake stand? And don’t you just want to pick that raspberry and bit of cake up with your fingers and pop it in your mouth? No judgement for screen licking.
Fortnum & MasonI’d like to tell you that with all the restraint and poise of dignified ladies we politely declined, but how could we resist? Jaia went for the Battenberg.
Fortnum & Mason And I caved for the insanely decadent chocolate cake. Fortnum & MasonWe quite literally struggled our way through as much of the cakes as we could, like greedy sugar fuelled monsters. However, we eventually surrendered to our stomachs, replete with overindulgence. Fortnum & MasonWe finished off our tea and story swapping, and Jaia even remember her silver strainer! Fortnum & Mason

In a bit of a delirious state, we headed down to peruse Fortnum’s finest. We started in the gift shop, where I found a series of great cards. 
Fortnum & Mason
Including one with my favourite building. Fortnum & Mason And one with an impulsive penguin.

We then found these darling teacups, which aren’t exactly what they appear to be. Fortnum & Mason

The cups themselves are mirrored, taking on whatever pattern they’re sat on. Fortnum & MasonDidn’t expect that! Did you? Fortnum & Mason I also found awesome, London-inspired Halcyon Days boxes to add to my collection. Fortnum & Mason Fortnum & MasonI’d love these beautiful candle stick holders.
Fortnum & Mason Not sure if I prefer the black or the white, what about you? Fortnum & Mason And just look at these mini copper pots! I definitely need these. Fortnum & MasonMay leave the hat, though.
Fortnum & MasonBut, this candle would definitely suit the bathroom. Fortnum & Mason And who doesn’t need a turquoise Japanese teapot?!Fortnum & MasonHaving had our fill of unnecessary future home decorating, we headed to the basement, which happens to be my favourite level. Down here is the wine cellar, flower shop and most importantly, food hall. You must promise me you’ll make a visit, as I didn’t take many snaps. I was too busy scurrying around gushing over all the products.

I did happen to take a picture of these gooseberries. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a minute to properly look at them, they’re translucent! I’ve accepted the fact that I may be the only one that finds this remotely cool. But anyways, have a look.
Fortnum & Mason

I know if you follow me on Twitter & Instagram (@Alessandra_LDN – wink, wink, nudge, nudge) you’ll have already seen these. These strange looking flowers have an even stranger name. Do you know it?
Fortnum & MasonThat’s right. They’re called Banksy Hookers. So strange.

Also, be sure to stop by the first floor’s incredible chocolate collection. A very special someone received a custom made box, all hand-selected from their hundreds of options. Harder to do than you think and may have taken me far too long to choose! But, I managed to deliver them with only one stolen in the end.

Fortnum & MasonIt was a truly lovely afternoon spent with amazing company in beautiful surroundings. Special thanks to Zomato and the lovely people in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room for such an enjoyable experience.

Where’s your favourite Afternoon Tea? Leave a comment or send me a tweet. I’m always on the lookout for a new one to try!

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sketch Summer Afternoon Tea

Claimed to be a vibrant gastro-brasserie, sketch has long been one of London’s must see spots. Its interior aims to defy the ordinary, allowing its  restaurants to not only nourish the body, but tantalise the mind. It has become an institution and is the place I bring my visitors for a real wow factor meal and memorable experience.

I was delighted to hear The Gallery at sketch has recently been redesigned and a little overly excited to be invited to try their new Summer Afternoon Tea. Paris based India Mahdhavi, who is both an architect and designer, has created a backdrop for artist David Shrigley’s work. Shrigley, if you haven’t heard of him, is responsible for the satyrical sketches lining the wall, deriding everyday situations and thoughts.

Sketch Afternoon Tea The room is now a feminine fairy tale of muted pinks and rose golds, with the famously stunning floor created of 96 different types of marble remaining the only recognisable element from its previous design.

We chose our teas and ordered a Summer Afternoon Tea each, more than ready to ‘forget about it’ and disappear into The Gallery. Sketch Afternoon TeaAs with everything at sketch, the champagne service is part of the act. Sketch Afternoon Tea A very retro looking champagne trolley was rolled over, filled with bottles of chilled champagne. My date was theatrically poured a glass whilst I snapped away, obviously embarrassing the lovely sommelier. Sketch Afternoon TeaSketch Afternoon Tea For tea, we went for a green blend of Osamnthus. The flowering green tea is hand tied around an orange osmanthus flower for a subtle hint of citrus and a beautiful presentation.

Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon TeaHappily sipping our tea, we continued to admire the surrounding sketches, pointing out our favourites, giggling at a few and finding others utterly disturbing.

Our attention, however, was soon drawn to the main event. Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s exciting arrangement of sandwiches, cakes and pastries were delivered on three tiers of David Shrigley designed crockery.

Sketch Afternoon Tea Just look at that selection! You’re jealous aren’t you? I can tell. Maybe I’ve saved some for you to try?
No, no I haven’t.

It was served with accompaniments of raspberry meringues, bubble gum marshmallows and warm scones with fresh fig and strawberry jam. Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon Tea
Sketch Afternoon TeaThe miniature mozzarella and pesto croque monsieur was texturally pleasing with delicious flavour. Posh comfort food that I would happily indulge in on a daily basis.
Sketch Afternoon TeaA tiny triangle of egg and mayonnaise sandwich with quail egg and caviar was next. This was laced with truffle for a subtle earthiness, continuing the luxurious comfort food I so desire to have fill my fridge at home. 
Sketch Afternoon Tea
Having polished off the sandwiches and scones, we indulged in a miniature coffee eclair, an almond and berry tartlet, strawberry cheesecake, mousse malabar, bubble gum marshmallows, meringue tart, raspberry meringues, sketch opera cake and old fashioned pistachio macarons. Sketch Afternoon Tea I was now regretting the tight outfit choice and wondered if sketch also harboured a wonderfully mysterious nap pod. Sketch Afternoon Tea

I had no such luck, so we sipped away our sugar high whilst finding more of our favourites scattered around the room.
Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon TeaOur incredibly attentive and rather charming server checked on us throughout tea, asking if we’d like any cheeky extras of any of our favourites. Literally about to burst out of my dress, I temporarily listened to the debate going on between the little voices in my head. One argued the point of being on a beach in California next week, the other reminded me of the creamy, nutty pistachio macaron which was my firm favourite of the tea.

You can guess who won.
Sketch Afternoon Tea Don’t give me that look, they were delicious!

Some more rest was required as those little gems securely put me over the edge. Sketch Afternoon Tea
Sketch Afternoon Tea
Sketch Afternoon Tea Sketch Afternoon TeaFinally able to move, we nipped to the loos before leaving. You may find this detail an odd inclusion, but these are something special. Sketch Afternoon Tea

That’s right! Egg pod toilets. As probably one of the most photographed bathrooms ever, these are definitely worth a visit.

Dining at sketch is like something out of a fairytale. The Summer Afternoon Tea is surely something every tourist and Londoner must do this season.
But you’ve been warned, be sure to wear something a little loose!

The Savoy: Afternoon Tea

The Savoy. London’s most famous 5-star hotel stands magnificently on The Strand. Tucked in from it’s neighbouring buildings and the bustling Strand, a perfectly paved road leads to the massive sign proudly declaring in thin, bold letters: Savoy.

Ever since The Savoy’s closure and my move to London, I have been waiting for my Afternoon Tea at the hotel. Michelle, my London-partner-in-crime, and I headed to The Savoy to finally indulge in this long overdue tea party.

The Thames Foyer is located at the heart of the hotel. With a massive, glass cupola located overhead, the lavish tea room is flooded with natural light. A gazebo houses a grand piano where the pianist plays classical music for the entertainment of dining guests. Everything in the room emits elegance and luxury, and it really is a perfect, classically beautiful location for a quintessentially British Afternoon Tea.

We were seated in the perfect location. Our backs were to the wall, and we had the perfect view of not only the entire room itself, but anyone entering the foyer. We selected our tea, had a particularly awkward photo taken, then set about commenting on the potential life stories of surrounding guests and of course, the outfits they were wearing.

Our tea stand arrived and I was pleasantly surprised by the sandwich selection. They had innovative fillings and were each served on a different type of bread. The scones were freshly baked and still warm, served with an in-house made Strawberry Jam. After finishing our tower of treats, our waitress arrived with a tray lined with gorgeous desserts. I would expect nothing less from The Savoy, but each dessert was truly beautiful, individual, and delicious.

We requested a long intermission and sat sipping our tea whilst digesting our delicate feast. About an hour later, our waitress appeared with a trolley table side. On her trolley were three large bricks of English Fruit Cake, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, and Banana Cake. I thought I may burst if I ate one more bite, but Michelle insisted we try a bite. We shared the Banana and Carrot Cake, and of course, they were amazing.

I love the pop of the orchids paired with the turquoise sculpture. It’s an incredibly vibrant, modern centrepiece contrasting with the black and white, Edwardian surroundings. 

I have a habit of sampling each sandwich, then eating them in order, saving the best for last. Strange, I know.
Clockwise: Mango chutney and cheddar, courgette and hummus, smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber with cream cheese, ham with apple honey mustard, chicken with mango butter, egg and cress, another chicken with mango butter, tomato with pesto and rocket.

Clockwise: Raspberry Passionfruit Macaron, Vanilla Lavender Eclair, Strawberry Fruit Crémieux Tartlet, Orange Almond  Weekend, Savoy Chocolate and Pistachio Opera, Royal Chocolate Cake. 

After finishing our several hour long Tea, we decided to wander the hotel seeing what £220m of refurbishment looked like. We took a peak at the gym and pool, investigated hallways, and checked out the hotel’s other restaurants. 

At last, I have enjoyed Afternoon Tea at the famous Savoy hotel. If you’d like to indulge at The Savoy, be sure to make reservations several weeks in advance.

Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum

There’s nothing better on a rainy day in London than a spot of Afternoon Tea. Lounging on plush chairs, chatting with a friend over a delicate feast is all I ever crave when the skies open up, as they do so often here. Today Michelle and I fancied giving The Athenaeum a try.

The Athenaeum is a gorgeous, luxury hotel in Mayfair completely covered in a vertical garden. The living wall is unlike anything i’ve ever seen and is very hard to miss. The tea room was relatively empty as it was reserved later for an evening event. We chose an oversized chair that made us look like dolls in a giant’s home. From our spot, we had a view of the hotel’s garden, and all the party planners running around trying to set up this evening’s do.

I love anything different and unique. It wouldn’t be worth going to Afternoon Tea if every stand was filled with the same sandwiches followed by the same desserts and scones. I’m always on the look out for what the hotel or venue has done to separate this Tea from the others.

We were handed wooden tea menus, with little capsules of the actual tea leaves encased in the menu itself. We chose our teas and chatted, waiting for our Tea to begin. Soon after, the waitress brought over a selection of sandwiches to choose from. We tried one of each of the Smoked Salmon, Ham and Onion, Prawn, Egg and Cress, and Cucumber sandwiches. The sandwiches were good, and I enjoyed the different flavoured breads, but nothing spectacular. Following the sandwiches, we were served our Scones and Crumpets. They were warm and fresh, served with Clotted Cream, Lemon Custard, and Strawberry Jam. After our Scones and Crumpets were sampled with each one of the spreads, a glorious tray was wheeled towards us. Cakes, cookies, tarts, and jellies were beautifully presented with scattered, edible pansies. I chose several of the cakes to sample and a delicious champagne jelly with fresh strawberries.

What a successful rainy day! If you’d like to have Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum, I suggest you reserve in advance.

Dubai

I’ve just returned from a very last minute, 5 day getaway to Dubai. It is such a whirlwind of extravagance that I don’t know where to start. I landed late and besides meeting up with my gorgeous friend Michelle, I only really had time to spend the first night to staring out my window in wonder at all the towering, newly constructed buildings surrounding a manmade lake of clear water.

In the morning, we laid by the pool and had breakfast before getting ready. We then went to the Dubai Mall, which of course, is the world’s largest. This place made the American superstore look like a small shopfront. We had lunch on the terrace facing the Burj Khalifa lake at the base of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. After spending the rest of the day of wandering around in what seemed like a city, we had worked up an appetite. We changed quickly at the hotel and took a cab out to Atlantis.

Atlantis hotel is positioned at the tip of the Palm Jumeirah, a cluster of manmade islands in the shape of a palm, which houses some of the world’s top hotels and most expensive residences. Inside the Atlantis is one of the most spectacular aquariums, which is reminiscent of the lost city itself. Even more spectacular than the aquarium is Dave Chihuly’s glass sculpture in the lobby of the hotel. I can’t help but stare in fascination wondering how the complex piece was created.

We had a spectacular meal at Nobu, with Sushi, Yellowfin Sashimi, Rock Shrimp Tempura, Wagyu Beef, and of course Nobu’s famous Black Cod. We then indulged on a Flourless Chocolate Fondant with Nobu Beer Ice Cream and Passion Fruit & Coconut Ice Cream. Sorry for the lack of Nobu photos, most were taken with my iPhone and didn’t come out. But, at least I posted the desserts!

The next day, we had an early breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt before heading to Abu Dhabi. We briefly wandered around and had a delicious Za’atar and Halloumi wrap for lunch. Before heading back to Dubai, I insisted the cab driver take us past Ferrari World and the Formula 1 track. I’m definitely looking forward to the opening of Ferrari World and hope to return when it does.

When we returned to Dubai, we went to the most amazing local market. This was by far one of my favourite parts of the trip. It was as if we had entered a different world, leaving all the tacky extravagance behind. A local world of poverty, bordering some of the most lavishly wealthy in the world. However, first sight of the market was incredibly disturbing. A row of dead, bloody sharks lined up on a platform at the mouth of the market was heart stopping. I decided against including these photos because it really is sickening. Inside the market was a maze of fresh fruit, spices, and pounds of dates. I walked along unashamedly accepting all offers of date samples. We then headed deeper into the market which eventually leads to little local shops selling hookah pipes and more spices.

As darkness fell, we headed home to get ready for our dinner reservations at The Observatory. The Observatory is located on the 52nd floor of the Marriott Hotel and offers incredible views of the palm and downtown Dubai. It has low-lighting and a modern interior, but we weren’t there for the interior design.  I must say I admired the innovation of the chef, but not everything was to my liking. Overall, we enjoyed our meal with our well-lit view of downtown Dubai.

Here’s what we had:
– Seared Scottish Scallops with Microsalad, Pumpkin Sauce, and a Chocolate Ribbon
Portobello Mushrooms filled with Garlic, Goat’s Cheese, and Sun Blushed Tomato
– Asparagus Risotto
– Home Smoked Salmon enhanced with Soy-apricot Sauce and Wasabi Ice Cream
– Seared Tuna encrusted with Pink Peppercorns and served with Microsalad, Apricot, and Sweet Chili Sauce

Dessert:
– Trio of Chocolate with Granduija Soup, Maracabo Chocolate Brownie, White Chocolate Mousse, Date Scented Camel Milk Ice Cream, and Pink Pepper Caramel
– Milk Rice Pudding with Truffle, Candied Mushrooms, and Pine Nut Milk in Coca-Cola Jelly
– Electric Ice Cream of Date Scented Camel Milk with Rose Mouse Wrapped in Rose Water Parcels

Each evening at around midnight, we’d spend about an hour messing around in the hotel’s rather large gym in an attempt to make a dent in the day’s calorie consumption. The next morning was spent lounging by the pool. We then headed to the magnificent, sail shaped, 7 star hotel, the Burj Al Arab. Architectually, the exterior is phenomenal, one of a kind. But, and it is a definite but, the interior is absolutely, appallingly tacky. Rainbow fountains, mismatched carpets, and strange robotic panels seemed shockingly Vegas for this world renowned hotel.

Aside from the navy and forest green, cruise ship like interior, the views from the Sky Bar were unlike any other. We were seated in the middle of the dining room at a booth facing outwards towards miles of crystal clear ocean. On either side, all of Dubai was visible. We chatted away listening to the beautiful pianist playing Disney songs on her glass, grand piano. We then began our Sky Tea, and I think it would only be fitting for me to describe this as the world’s best afternoon tea.

It began with a miniature Beef Wellington, what an incredible beginning. Two bites of the best Beef Wellington i’ve ever tasted. Then we were served Vegetable Samosas with a spicy dipping sauce. Then came the Sky Tea. A massive, sail shaped stand was placed before us, and my little foodie heart skipped a beat. On the bottom plate, a selection of pastries, second, a fruit cake, carrot cake, biscuits, and shot glass of creme brûlée, third, a selection of savoury pastries and breads with delectable fillings, and on top, delicate tea sandwiches each on a different flavoured bread. The spread and presentation were amazing and we happily munched for hours. Nearing the end of our tower conquering, a waiter appeared with a platter of all the sandwiches we had just devoured. We naughtily took seconds of our favourites, feeling a bit like bears storing up for winter. As our stomachs neared their bursting point, we decided to stop and save room for the scones. The scones! Warm, freshly baked scones with the most gorgeous spreads i’ve ever been served to accompany this after tea treat. Strawberry mousse, clotted cream, passionfruit jam, and strawberry jam with rose petals, each more delicious than the last.  We sat back, sipping our tea, gazing out at the silky blue water, completely content. And then he appeared, again. The sight of the silver platter of tiny treats was almost overwhelming. Being the greedy little monster that I am, I took a strawberry, dipped in chocolate with a gold flake garnish, and decided that it was the last bite of food I would consume for the rest of my life. Or at least, until dinner.

After being driven off the Burj Al Arab’s island by a golf kart, we wandered around the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. It was built to resemble a traditional Arabic marketplace, but is rather touristy. We bought a few gifts before heading to the Dubai Mall to get boxes of macarons and Patchi chocolates to bring back to London with us. We then went to the hotel to relax before getting ready for dinner. That’s right, more food.

Verre is Gordon Ramsay’s Dubai restaurant with a modern, Eurpean inspired menu. The restaurant was almost empty, besides a few couples and a family with a screaming baby, my favourite. Once the family left, I was much happier and able to focus on our incredible meal. The service was impeccable, if not a tad robotic. It didn’t matter because the food was all delicious.

Here’s what we had:
– Rolls with Olive and Garlic Butter
– Beef Tart Appetizer
– Vine Tomato Minestrone with Basil Pesto
– Ahi Tuna
– Ravioli of Scottish Lobster and Salmon, with Tomato Chutney Glazed Lettuce, and Lobster Vinaigrette
– Pan Fried, Line Caught Halibut, Seared Scallops, Coriander Linguini, Roasted Asparagus, and Lemongrass Veloute

Dessert:
– 3 Cheeses with Paired Fruit
– Chilled Valrhona Chocolate Fondant and Pear Sorbet
– Chocolate, Passionfruit Chocolate, Turkish Delight

I can only describe my trip to Dubai as extravagant, decadent, and memorable. I have a feeling this won’t be my last trip to this manmade, world record breaking, lavish emirate.