“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
With Afternoon Tea week coming up in just a few weeks time, and the array of miniature treats I’ve been posting recently, I thought I would share a proper afternoon tea with you today.
For my birthday back in April I went to the Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea at the Conrad London St James Hotel. The Conrad regularly changes its tea theme, with each special tea only being available of a few months. Although this tea is no longer available, I wanted to share some of the gorgeous treats with you, and give you a sense of the type of thing you could expect from an Afternoon Tea at the Conrad.
I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland. There’s something magical about the nonsense writing, magical creatures, and the quirky outlook thats always appealed to me. The stream of nonsensical characters, running quickly through the book, dipping in and out of adventures. The tenacious, mischievous Alice, holding her own against some of literature’s strongest figures.
We settled ourselves onto elegant sofas in the lounge, and poured out steaming cups of tea into delicate cups.
We with the savouries, served on a traditional cake stand.
Roe topped mackerel pate served with thinly sliced, crunchy toasted, a cheese Stromboli, and a selection of traditional sandwiches.
The pate was delicious. Rich and flavoursome, but delicate. It was perfectly balanced, not over poweringly fishy, and a delicious coarse texture. I could have eaten so much more.
The stromboli was good, but less exciting than the pate. The flavours were delicious, a strong sharp cheese ran right through the middle. The outer pastry was beautifully crispy, but the centre was perhaps just a little too stodgy for my tastes. None the less I gladly ate mine in just a few short bites.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Nestled down on the bottom tier were the scones, wrapped snuggly in a crispy white cloth. We were delighted to find they were still warm. The scones were the perfect size, big enough to tuck into, but not too large as to ruin your appetite for cake. A slice through the crisp crust revealed a crumb that was tender, moist and perfectly cooked.
They were served with thick clotted cream, and a choice of jam or grapefruit curd. Initially suspicious of the curd, I tried a little on the edge of my scone. It was nicer than I expected, not as sharp or sour as I thought it would be. Rather sweeter, and much lighter and delicate. Still, I am rather traditional when it comes to my scones, and I think I’ll always prefer lashings of jam under my cream.
“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
The cakes were the true highlight of the tea. This is where the theme came into its own.
This pretty plater was brought to the table, and cameras and phones were instantly whipped out of our bags to capture just how pretty it was. Each little treat dainty and delicate, and each bringing out a different element of the wonderland stories.
Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words “EAT ME” were beautifully marked in currants. “Well, I’ll eat it,” said Alice, “and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door: so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!”
This little tea cup was filled with a delicious earl grey panna cotta. We were instructed by our waiter to use the ginger biscuit to scoop it from the cup. It light, creamy and beautifully scented. The little biscuit was delicious with it, but not quite up to the job of getting all the panna cotta from the corners. I had to utilise my tea spoon to get everything from the cup.
These adorable little toadstools stood on top of a lemon tart. The sharp lemon filling was sat inside a meltingly buttery pastry case. This was one of my favourites of the selection. So fresh and refreshing.
“When I’m a Duchess,” she said to herself (not in a very hopeful tone though), “I won’t have any pepper in my kitchen at all. Soup does very well without. Maybe it’s always pepper that makes people hot-tempered,” she went on, very much pleased at having found out a new kind of rule, “and vinegar that makes them sour—and camomile that makes them bitter—and—and barley-sugar and such things that make children sweet-tempered. I only wish people knew that; then they wouldn’t be so stingy about it, you know—”
A little jam tart to take you straight back to childhood. Melting, sweet pastry topped with sweet strawberry jam. Small and perfect, and so nice to have a homey little morsel.
A delicate blue and white macaroon, coloured like Alice’s dress. So pretty with a smattering of gold. It was a perfectly chewy texture, with a smooth and creamy filling.
Next I tried a chocolate checkerboard cake, which I’ve sadly forgotten to photograph. The cake was enrobed in chocolate, and inside a chess board of dark and white checkerboard sponge cake.
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
The last little cake I tried was my least favourite, and a little disappointing. This little painting the roses red Victoria sponge was such a cute idea, but sadly it didn’t taste as good as it looked. The sponge had dried out and crisped a little around the edges. The buttercream was made with shortening instead of butter, and had an unpleasant greasy taste.
Despite its rather disappointing finish, this tea was lovely. I loved the presentation and most of the cakes were delicious. It was so much fun talking through the Alice references, a story told through cake.
The Alice in Wonderland Tea is sadly no longer served at the Conrad. But for summer they’re serving a very delicious looking Summer in the City Afternoon Tea, which looks well worth checking out.
Are you planning to celebrate Afternoon Tea week? Have you any recommendations for delicious teas?