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Jun 2, 2009 04:41 PM

Three Afternoon Teas, London

• Threadneedles Hotel, City
A generous serving of pleasant sandwiches with a perceptible brush of butter -- finely chopped egg with watercress, or thin slices of salmon. Medium thick crisps of vinegar and salt.

A classic rendition of creme brulee (you get 1 choice of dessert), thick crunchy evenly caramelised layer, very soft creme, with smooth and clean finish.

Warm scones, slightly soft and fluffy on the inside, with a little jam of hotel Wilkinson jam and basic clotted cream.

A very citrusy earl grey tea in a tetrahedral strainer of fine netting, which makes for easy control of the brewing processes. Respectable, pleasant and substantial.

Warm wood finishes, comfortable interiors under a big patterned glass dome, grand but subtle. £20 iirc.

• Wallace Collection, Marylebone
Tea under a glass sky, with lights and shadows that change with the mood of the sun. Potted plants and thin curls and curves of metal for tables and chairs provide a suggestion of a park.

Parisian Tea provides cerain French substitutes.

A solid tuna tartare, decent meaty tuna, with a strong presence of capers and onions. Thin flat planes of cucumber on the side. Inert white bread, very lightly toasted.

On ok rustic bread, fine with the a foie gras terrine, rich and slightly tangy and a meaty pork terrine. Not bad, but nothing extraordinary. (warm brioche with foie gras would have been nicer, but perhaps would be asking too much)

The sweets on the Parisian Tea seemed quite at home on this side of the channel: a very thin layer of raspberry jam beneath almonds in a bakewell tart, moist victoria sponge cake with strawberry jam and cream, and finally a sharp lemon tart.

An ok medium bodied darjeeling, not the most aromatic or memorable but nothing bad.

On the whole, great for the ambiance, decent food, but not special at £20-something iirc.

• Andaman, St James Hotel & Club, St James
One of my favourite teas so far, in a luxurious, elegant and peaceful neighbourhood, mre civilised than the crowds a couple of blocks away on Piccadilly.

A little cup of white asparagus soup, creamy but not cloyingly thick, subtle nutty notes from asparagus.

An open faced sandwich, bruschetta-like - crusty and mildly chewy, topped with a tomatoe sauce and prosciutto, with perhaps red pepper iirc.

A quenelle of osetra caviar (pleasantly low on the salt, decent good pops) on a comparably sized quenelle of sour sour cream, and blini that could be a shade more puffy.

Prawn salad with good sweet little prawns, served in a martini glass.

Taking advantage of the first blush of strawberry season, strawberries wtih cream, with crystals of sugar. More strawberries in a starwberry tart with a lovely aroma and edge of kalamansi lime, very soft and richly vanilla flavoured cream, impeccable crust with clean dots of crumbs. Excellent patisserie which reveals itself again and again.

A white chocolate coat on a champagne truffle with crunchy hazelnut. Beside it a tiny shot of strawberry with vodka. Delightful snap in the biscuits breaking into microscopic crispy leaves - perfect restraint and balance in the marzipan and chocolate biscuit , immense flavour in the vanilla biscuit.

Miniature scones, again with the same skilled baking as the rest of the items. Delicate crust, perfect compromise of fluffiness, softness and crumble. One flavoured with vanilla, the other with chocolate, both excellent departures from the classics, going well with not only the superb clotted cream (rich, creamy, without excess stickiness), but also a vanilla cream, a passionfruit jam (my fave, especially with the scones) and a raspberry jam.

Finally, lovely temper with a glossy surface on a chocolate cake, with a golden boozy background and a nuanced citrus (orange?) flavour, layered with chocolate mousse, garnished with little gold globes of (what I thought were) crispy puffed rice.

A musky, citrusy earl grey.

Warm charming service, very comfortable environs. A steal at £22, especially considering the strengths of the baking and the effort to go beyond the basics. The items change with a monthly theme.

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  1. i had tea at the wallace collection at the weekend. we had the english tea, of which the raisin scone (with clotted cream and, on request, fabulous peyton & byrne jams) were far and away the best part so, if i go back, i'll go for the much cheaper cream tea of scones, jam and cream.

    11 Replies
    1. re: abby d

      Thanks for the tip -- will definitely go for cream tea next time. Have you (or anyone) had the tea at the National Dining Rooms? I think they also offer Peyton & Byrne jams; are the scone there any good?

      1. re: limster

        You would hope they would (offer B&B jams) as they are both run by Oliver Peyton (one of the judges from Great British Menu).

        1. re: limster

          Peyton runs that one, too, so I'm sure they offer the P&B jams. I see they are for sale at Heal's and I might try them one of these days. My husband is also searching for the perfect jam. I like the ones at Fortnum & Mason but I think they even cost more than the P&B.

          1. re: zuriga1

            it was the essex blackberry p&b jam which really stood out for me - lots of fruity flavour and not too sweet.

          2. re: limster

            the jams at the National Dining Rooms was amazing. I had the raspberry jam when I went. Plus, the clotted cream was just as good. The scones were cold and hard as rocks though.

            Nevertheless, I'm still thinking of the clotted cream and raspberry jam mixture in my mouth. so good. I might have to pop over to Heals one day.

            Here's my short take tea at the National Dining Room:

            1. re: felizglfr

              I'll try the National next after reading this. I've had good and bad teas all over town, and quality seems to be independent of cost/location - especially when you factor in the crowd experience. My current theory is that if you go into one of the museums and the tea is sub par, you can at least salvage the experience by enjoying at the art. I had a shockingly delicious and cheap snacky tea at the V&A recently. Might have been a fluke.

          3. re: abby d

            Tried the cream tea -- was pretty good -- scone was warm, soft and cushiony on the inside, clotted cream was on the dense buttery side, strawberry jam had an intense fruitiness.

            1. re: limster

              Limster your post has made me want to go to Andaman. I had a great afternoon tea at Sketch the other day. Admittedly the price was a bit more steep but the pastries were fantastic and the quirky decor really adds to the atmosphere. Another one to add to the list for the afternoon tea addicts amongst us.


              1. re: Gourmet Chick

                I vaguely remember reading somewhere that there were staff changes at the Andaman, so I'm looking forward to hearing about an update. Thanks!

                1. re: limster

                  Andaman has closed and will reopen as Seven Park Place (a bistro / brasserie type thing) on 1st September. Head Chef will be William Drabble (ex-Aubergine).

                2. re: Gourmet Chick

                  Gourmet Chick, I hope you will write about Sketch in your blog. I can't say I had a good afternoon tea there a couple months ago and would like to read another experience.