It’s been a while since i’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. I made a bit of a habit of it as a child, because I grew up in the countryside where they were literally everywhere, and I was a clumsy child! But yesterday I dove elegantly head first down the rabbit hole on Berners Street to attend the Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel.
Our table was booked for 1.30, and knowing full well I was going to be making the most of the bottomless sarnies and scones, I skipped breakfast (What’s that? It’s the most important meal of the day? Well i’ve never heard that before!) and arrived hungry, as did my tea companions; my lovely mummy and her ex-work colleagues.
We were shown through to our table positioned under large umbrellas in the courtyard, complete with patio heaters and a nice shrubbery! Compared to other afternoon teas I have had (Pret a Portea, Sketch…) there were a lot more men sat around the yard than I would have expected. Maybe Alice in Wonderland is the more gender neutral theme when it comes to tea and cake?
We sat down and were handed a vintage book which hid the menus, and were also given a selection of glass jars containing the herbs, leaves and dried fruits that made up the different speciality teas, including Rhubarb and Custard, Apple Pie & Strawberries and Cream.
We ordered our teas (a pot of each, because why not!?) and a few cheeky glasses of champagne too (extending the celebration of my birthday last week!) and we strapped ourselves in for a crazy culinary journey.
But alas… it was 45 minutes before our sandwiches and cakes arrived, by which point our hunger was so great, inanimate objects had begun to look appetising! It was a shame to have been left for so long waiting for cold plates of what we assumed was pre-prepared food, and it initially made us quite cranky… We’re women not to be left hungry!!!
Luckily in the interim there was the option to raid the self service jelly stand which curbed the hunger pangs and silenced the tummy rumbles. The jellies were dense and wobbly, definitely made with real fruit juice which gave an intense sweet flavour. The texture wasn’t to all of our preferences but I personally thought they were great. We also had plenty of time to try each of the teas, with the Strawberries & Cream being my favourite of the four.
The crockery was beautiful – perfectly in-keeping with the theme of the tea, with references to the cards, the clocks and the acrobatics of the story, made by Luna & Curious.
Finally the food arrived looking beautiful, mouth watering, delicate and perfectly designed.
The sandwiches were made beautiful to the eye with a use of different flavoured breads, including lime with salmon and cream cheese, curry bread with egg mayonnaise and sundried tomato with the gorgeous ham. The lime bread was described by our table as ‘claggy’ – quite dense, sticking to the roof of the mouth with each bite, though I quite enjoyed this texture. The ham sandwiches were the star of the plate, though the mini quiches were also quite delightful! And with unlimited re-orders of the sandwiches and scones within your two hour slot, we ordered several plates!
The savoury mustard seed scones were served with a butter too hard to spread and were sadly a little dry and lacking in the punchy taste of mustard I was hoping for. It needs something wetter to accompany it – maybe a chutney, a mayonnaise or possibly a seasoned cream cheese. And being served warm could also improve them, and that goes for the sweet scones too (which otherwise were perfection!)
After two rounds of cream and jam scones, it was time for the sweets.
I couldn’t resist starting with this gorgeous dark chocolate tea cup filled with white chocolate and green tea mousse topped with a chocolate playing card. I LOVED this. The mousse wasn’t overly sweet or sickly, and the dark chocolate was beautiful and not heavy. There might not be many uses for a chocolate teapot, but these little teacups definitely proved their worth to me!
The pretty toadstool inspired marshmallows were fluffy and bouncy with a gorgeous sweet flavour of strawberries and cream. They also gave a bit of entertainment factor when we realised how red our tongues went as a result. Always a good look, i’m sure you’ll agree!
Time for cake – the most delicate and light sponge, with all the flavours of a traditional Victoria Sponge and all the beauty of a magical clock. The white chocolate tear drops contained mango cheesecake, however these were a little too sweet for me – i’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate, and they were very creamy that too much of them and they became unenjoyable.
And to finish… we were told that we should save the ‘Drink Me’ potion to the end of our tea experience (possibly to help us climb out of the rabbit hole, though by this stage we really needed a heavy duty crane to lift us out!) – this mysteriously presented finale was stunning! Layers of passion fruit, coconut and mango made for a tangy, mouth watering explosion of flavour so good and moorish it was gone before you’d even realised you were making that annoying straw slurping noise.
For imagination, attention to theme detail and presentation, this afternoon tea deserves a full 5 stars… (though I never actually grade my dining experiences) – every element of the tea was bursting with imagination, and I have no doubt this is just the kind of spread Lewis Carroll pictured Alice eating at her Mad Hatters Tea Party… but is it the best Afternoon Tea i’ve ever had? Not quite. Service was a little too slow (though very friendly) for six women who had starved themselves in preparation to stuff their faces, and a few of the elements missed the mark with the flavours and textures, (the savoury scones, the ‘claggy’ bread) but for anyone who enjoys a bit of imaginative magic with their tea, it’s one definitely worth giving a try!
The Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at Sanderson will continue to evolve, with elements and flavours changing seasonally. Tea is served daily and is priced between £48 and £65 per person excluding service, £35 per child for children 4-11 years old.For table reservations, please call 020 7300 5588.