The Most British Of Occasions

Dainty sandwiches, scones and a glass of champagne anyone? Donna Richardson recalls a memorable afternoon tea at Fortnum and Masons

I have always dreamed of experiencing the grandeur of a traditional British afternoon tea with my family in London. And what better place to do this than at the exclusive Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Masons.

Entering the famous department store, we were struck by the surrounding opulence as we made our way up the red-carpeted stairs to the top floor, peaking at the fine goods on each level. We arrived at the top and the pianist’s beautiful music put us all at ease. We were then led to our seats and greeted by a personal tea sommelier who presented us with a bottle of Platinum Jubilee Blanc de Blancs and two glasses. He also handed us two crimson menus with gold lettering etched onto them – one for the tea and the other for the food.

Historic setting

As I perused the tea menu, I felt lost in time reading about the history of Fortnum and Masons and its association with royalty. It opened in 1707 when the East India Company needed a place to sell their fine wares. In 1902, King Edward VII demanded to be brought the “finest tea in all the land” and Fortnum’s rose to the challenge with Assam from India and Flowery Pekoe from Sri Lanka, which were blended together to create a smooth, honey tea.

The salon was opened in 1926 and later reopened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee – hence the name. In keeping with tradition, I finally settled on the Queen Anne blend, a strong and smooth tea which
is described as perfect for any time of day, while my partner went for the wedding breakfast, made to mark the nuptials of William and Kate the Prince and Princess of Wales, which he described as rich and aromatic and very drinkable. It is a splendid mix of Assam and Kenyan tea which is a bestseller.

And then came the food – dainty sandwiches and scones on fancy afternoon tea stands. It is a traditional afternoon tea combined with a savoury version for a bit of variety. Both featured London smoked salmon blini and sandwiches of Coronation chicken, egg mayonnaise, cured ham, and cucumber and minted pea cream cheese. But it was the sweet scones with champagne jam and clotted cream that stole the show. Although the Cropwell Bishop Stilton scones with cream cheese and redcurrant jam were equally delicious. We had a mixture of sweet and savoury patisseries which we nibbled on as we sipped our tea, and I concluded that the savoury ones were interesting with options such as salmon eclairs and duck mousse, but I found myself leaning more towards satisfying my
sweet tooth.

For all the family

Our daughter enjoyed her own children’s tea with ham sandwiches, scones and a variety of cakes with wonderful names such as ‘chocolate dog paw’, ‘toadstool’ and ‘frog cake’. What she loved most was her pot of hot chocolate which she took great delight in pouring into her delicate china tea cup. She has always loved playing tea parties with her teddies and was as bowled over by us at the tremendous experience. And the waiter kept topping up our plates with our favourite treats.

Dressed in all our finery, with every bite of the delicious food, we realised that this was an experience each of us would never forget. Afternoon tea at Fortnum and Masons is £75 per head and £30 for children.

Our writer and daughter arrive for a luxurious afternoon tea

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