Monthly Archives: April 2016

Afternoon tea at Madd Hatter’s Cafe review – Covent Garden

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Madd Hatter’s Café

6-7 Great Newport Street

Covent Garden

WC2H 7JB

Ace of Spades tea: £14.00pp*

Queen of Hearts tea: £9.00pp*

No service charge

Booking required

mht4

Anywhere that provides me with a egg timer is always a winner

One thing must be made clear before we continue. Scones In The City will not always feature Scones. I know, it’s a disappointment (rather like when ‘Taggart’ was still called ‘Taggart’ fifteen years after ‘Taggart’ died. Actually, come to think of it, this really is nothing like ‘Taggart’ at all) but sometimes an afternoon tea is scone-less and there’s nothing the author can do about it. Therefore, let us take comfort in tea-infused macaroons and Nutella-flavoured cupcakes instead. Variety is the spice of life, after all, or in this case, the sugar.

MHT3

Keep calm and eat many, many cupcakes

Now that that has been cleared up, let’s begin. And let me start by saying that, though it is rare for me to encounter a dessert I didn’t like, I rarely have the privilege of meeting one that if it was legal I would happily marry. This dream came true at The MADD Hatter’s Café. Located within The Art’s Theatre (café and box office combined to delightfully bohemian effect), this charming hideaway offers an Alice-inspired feast of tiny treats and innovative tea and coffee options. The Alice in Wonderland theme crops up frequently throughout the capital and the name alone conjures up images of tea parties and drink-me bottles and pocket watches covered in butter (though none are so committed to the theme that they push door mice into teapots, soggy rodents tending to put people off their crab puffs). And with cups and saucers piled up in the window (for decorative purposes, not because the dish washer was faulty), comfy sofas and a large selection of cakes this is a perfect blend of creative and kitsch (even if they are stuck in a musical time wrap that ended in 2002 with Delta Goodrem. Well, we can’t all have a loony reciting “Twinkle, Twinkle” while still wearing the price tag for his hat).

 

MHT2

A selection of “Can of Peas” as my mum insists on calling them. It never gets old

Booking is a must as it does get awfully busy. However, as I was alone and exuded the air of someone whose day/ week / life would be ruined if they didn’t sample a Maltesers cupcake immediately the assistant kindly managed to squeeze me in. I ordered the “Ace of Spades” tea at the counter, practically salivating over the idea of tea infused macaroons (spelt ‘macarons’ on the menu. I always feel at home in places where people spell even worse than I do. Very comforting) and, more intriguingly, a gingerbread “Hug Piff Paff Truffle”. I had no idea what a Piff Paff was. All I knew was that it sounded adorably Edward-Lear like and I wanted one without delay. I also got to pick between either a slice of cake or one of the aforementioned cupcakes. In these situations I would normally pick a slice, mostly to ensure that my daily quota of sugar/ sponge/ icing / E numbers is sufficiently filled, but the words ‘Banana’ and ‘Nutella’ catch my eye from the cupcake pile, and I find myself gazing longingly at the frosting and crushed hazelnuts sprinkled on the top. They look too good to eat, but I certainly won’t let that stop me.

 

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The “Hug Piff Paff” Truffle. A gingerbread ball of perfection

The tea itself is lovely. A selection of small (largely fish-based) canapés arrive along with a small tray of desserts and a spout-less pot of loose leaf Massis tea. I allowed it to brew for the required four minutes and watched in delight as, having sat the pot on top of the cup and pressed down, a stream of tea spurted out of its bottom and rapidly filled the mug. The novelty of this was so thrilling for me that I asked for addition hot water three times to enjoy the effect over and over. I may even have clapped my hands in the manner of a demented seal. I didn’t mind. I take pictures of pots of jam in my spare time. I gave up looking like a serious and credible human being a long time ago.

 

MHT5

I’m reliably informed that that blue thing is called “fruit”. Doesn’t look much like a pastille to me

The canapés themselves were faultless though small. You know when things are tiny when you nibble at them and they still don’t last more than two minutes. But the taste of each was lovely and left all the more room for dessert. The cupcake itself was light and chocolaty, but the stars were the truffle and the mini macaroons, in particular a sticky caramel concoction that pictures alone cannot do justice. Let’s just say that this small, delicate delight, when eaten in conjunction for the squidgy, sugary ball of excellence that was the gingerbread truffle, did things to me. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim it was what D.H. Lawrence might euphemistically have called “a lady crisis” (no one would have heard me even if it was. Christina Aguilera’s kittens-wailing-in-a-sack-floating-down-the-Thames caterwauling in the background tends to drown out all other noise), but it was glorious nevertheless.

Verdict: Fun, charming and tasteful. And now to pay homage in a way most befitting an Alice-themed tea:

“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!

How I wonder what you’re at!

Up above the world you fly,

Like a tea-tray in the sky…”

*Prices correct as of 27.4.16

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Glam Rock Afternoon Tea review – Shepherd’s Bush

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K West – Glam Rock Tea

Richmond Way,

London

W14 0AX

Spring Rocks Afternoon Tea: £24.50pp

Spring Rocks Prosecco Afternoon Tea: £31.50pp

Rock N’ Cocktails Tea: £36.50pp

(Optional 12.5% surcharge)*

Booking Required

Tea 1

Afternoon Tea meets Arnold’s Drive-in from Happy Days

I knew I was in the right place when the hold music for bookings was Blondie’s ‘Atomic’. If one was being pedantic you could argue that this is thematically incorrect, as New York punk has nothing to do with platform boots and mirrored top hats. But pedantry isn’t my aim, and there are only so many Sailor or Alvin Stardust songs you can play before your life slowly starts to ebb away from you.

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Me reflected in the teapots in Alfred Hitchcock-style cameo. Damn you, shiny surfaces!

I booked on Saturday for the following Sunday. 15:00pm. I’d checked out the location before, a snazzy boutique hotel and spa 5 minutes from Shepherd’s Bush station. The spa part is important, as I quickly find that many diners  take afternoon tea whilst wearing bathrobes. This is laid back stuff. Virtually horizontal. I feel overdressed in my sixties-style daisy dress and suede boots (I don’t own a pair of bell-bottoms). Upon arrival I’m seated and shown the menu.  The waitress runs through the options, including a run down on the cocktails. I’m too distracted to listen. There is ‘Rebel Rebel’ playing in the background and I’m checking the back of the table mat, the vinyl cover of the Boomtown Rats ‘A Tonic for the Troops’ from 1978, seeing if this is the album that contains ‘Like Clockwork’. It is. I award myself an imaginary coconut and tune back in to hear talk of smoky flavoured tea. The is the Tea Rex bespoke blend, loaded with peppercorns and peonies and other ingredients that owe more to potpourri than tea. It is rather delicious, though again I’m distracted by the table decoration; a LP of The Beatles and the iridescent teacups. It was pictures of the colourful crockery that first attracted me to The Glam Rock Tea, as for all of my supposed intelligence I’m still hopelessly enamored by shiny objects.

Tea 2

I still say The Boomtown Rats weren’t glam rock

The waitress informs me that the food will take 15-20 minutes.  What surprises me is that for a Sunday it isn’t overly busy. In fact with the exception of myself there are only three other tables occupied, some diners in dressing gowns, some (shock) in actual pants. This gives everything a calm, relaxed feel, and when Queen’s ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ is succeeded by Sparks ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us’ I feel like I’ve come home. Finally, I am with my people; people who like novelty place mats of obscure late 70’s albums and a penchant for Kimono My House.

Tea 6

A room full of empty people

Then the food arrives. Oh, the food! So much food. American style food. Mini burgers and chocolate hotdogs and mini donuts and candy floss (sorry, cotton candy) and everything I don’t normally eat that I will happily scoff because it is miniature and cute and I’m a glutton for novelty. Yet it all tastes good. The burgers – a foodstuff I have never, ever eaten in all my 29 McDonald’s dodging years – are delicious. The beef is cooked to perfection and the Halloumi is rich and tasty. With eyes much bigger than my belly I find I’m already full two sesame seed buns in. This will not stop me. I nibble the open sandwiches slowly, a collection of pastrami on white (nice); roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes on focaccia (slightly damp texture to the focaccia) and smoked salmon on rye, the taste of which I find unpleasant but which among rye bread enthusiasts is probably amazing (I’m a fan of tinned Ravioli mixed with Hula Hoops, so my opinion on the culinary merits of certain foodstuffs can be taken with a pinch of salt, though that might have improved the taste).

Then comes dessert. Many, many desserts. I don’t know where to start. Strangely, amongst this celebration of burgers and donuts and other food that looks like it came from Elvis’s 1964 magnum hopeless ‘Roustabout’, the mini scone seems an anomaly, yet an afternoon tea without one would be wrong. Like Laurel without Hardy. Chaka Demus without Pliers. Turner without Hooch. So one is included and lost among its more colourful counterparts, though the cream and trio of preserves are gorgeous (I urge you to try all three spread together. The taste is…. Interesting).

Tea 3

Sex and drugs and chocolate rolls

The Daim Dog is essentially a mini brioche bun sliced down the middle with a thin log of chocolate inside, strawberry jam drizzled over the top. Then there is the candy floss, a barely there wisp of pink fluff that is as unsatisfying as all candy floss ultimately tends to be (served in a shot glass filled with what can best be described as sugar sequins. I found myself sprinkling these over pretty much everything). There are also four rather bland mini donuts on sticks and a tiny berry smoothie, so charming I left it to the end to avoid seeing an empty glass sitting on the stand (I had a feeling it would probably look better than it tasted. I do so like to be proved right).

Finally there is the “Legendary” Crème Egg burger. Actually, that really should be “Mythical”. We have all heard of deep fried Mars Bars. They supposedly exist in the House Of The Never Rising Sun (more commonly known as Scotland); terrible, artery-clogging bars of death that are as clichéd a depiction of the culture as haggis or sitting under cashpoints asking for change (there goes the Scottish demographic). However, people dispute its very existence. Like Loch Ness. Or the concept of a heat wave (that’s good, Julia. Keep shovelling). Surely nothing that unhealthy could ever exist outside cartoons and cultural stigmatism, right? Wrong. Step forward the deep fried Crème Egg! Scotland, rejoice! London can trigger diabetes better than you can.

Tea 4

The real Death By Chocolate. What a lovely way to go

Of course. it isn’t normal batter. It is clearly fried in donut batter. There is a clear similarity in taste between the coating covering the crème egg and the mini donuts, but still, this is really quite bad. Elvis in his Vegas fat years bad. No good can possibly come from something so unhealthy that is made to resemble something that is also notoriously unhealthy. That’s two lots of unhealthy combined, for goodness sake. And yet…  and yet… Mmmmmmmmm. Fondant crème egg. Clotted cream. Strawberry jam. Sesame bun coated in thick white chocolate. It’s wrong. So very, very wrong. Yet that’s what makes it so wonderful. And it’s big. I couldn’t hold it. I had to eat it with a knife and fork. It oozed and stuck to the plate and the bun slid off the egg but it was amazing. Everything about that and the entire tea was meant to dazzle and delight, and it does. If only they wouldn’t insist on playing The Bay City Rollers. Images of tartan flares are enough to put you off your cherry blossom tea.

Tea 7

Scones accompanied by Mud’s ‘The Cat Crept In’.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go before the SNP finds a new place to put a caber.

Verdict: Fabulous fun. P.S.  The men in the bathrobes remained covered at all times. I’ve yet to decide whether this was a good thing.

*Prices correct as of 15.4.16

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Café Prestat – Chelsea

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Café Prestat

186 Pavilion Rd

Chelsea

London

SW3 2BF

£6.50pp* Mini Cream Tea (no service charge)

£3.50* Mug of Hot Chocolate

Scones 2

Gluttony is a very underrated concept

This is controversial. The people who spend too much time talking about the correct way to eat scones and not enough time eating them will be flabbergasted. Furious. Incandescent with rage at the ruination of their chosen foodstuff. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present you with the future: chocolate covered scones!

Hot Chocolate at Cafe Prestat Chelsea

Mmmm… chocolate

The location of this delight / abomination depending on your viewpoint is Café Prestat, a charming little hideaway in Chelsea. Allow me to deviate for a moment if I may (and as this is my blog I am at liberty to deviate from my point more often than Tristram Shady). This cafe is very nice. The staff are very nice. The toilet is very nice (lovely hand wash). I care for these things not one jot. This is where I get my hot chocolate fix.

Orange shot hot chocolate to be exact. Essentially a melted Terry’s Chocolate Orange in a mug, additional hot milk on the side to draw out the experience as I sit cradling the mug in my perpetually cold hands. As I nurse this drink/ dessert / legal narcotic of choice I rarely get around to sampling the cakes or pastries, but in the spirit of investigative journalism I indulge in their cream tea: two mini scones (emphasis on mini) and either a hot choc shot, pot of tea or cup of coffee of choice. As I am already wired to the moon I opt on this occasion for tea, a large pot of loose leaf English Breakfast in delightful Pip Studio china. Coming from a retail background (a department store famous for its yellow bags and staff that if hit hard enough would splat when they hit the floor) I am an expert at recognizing the brightly coloured roses and hummingbirds motifs. It brings out my desire to arrange a tea party surrounded by Beanie baby guests and Play-Doh sculpted cupcakes.

Scones

Love the mini milk churn

The scones arrive piping hot. Not enough to fill a hollow tooth, as my grandmother famously never said. Actually, they are near-perfect, especially as by an advantageous administrative error / kitchen cock-up I am served an additional pot of clotted cream alongside the two preserves I asked for; strawberry jam and chocolate spread. You see where the ruination lies? I was willing to forego cream altogether! I wanted the hard stuff: nutty chocolate spread. I’ve sold my soul for cocoa. And now the entire population of Devon and Cornwall and the Mary Berry fan club want to do terrible things to me with a cake splattered spatula and a whisk.

Cream tea at Cafe Prestat Chelsea

Everything is better when you use a zoom

OK, a slightly paranoid reaction on my part, but tradition was definitely given the boot that day. I did make one concession; slathering one half of a scone in the cream and a huge blob of the wonderfully rich strawberry jam. After that: pure Willy Wonka. Chocolate spread over jam spread over chocolate spread over even more chocolate. Fortunately I had chosen to sit with my back to the mirror in the corner booth, otherwise the sight of my bulging, chocolate smeared face might have stopped me licking jam off the knife handle.

Verdict: A charming way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

P.S. Seating is limited, especially at weekends, so if busy allow for a 10-15 minute wait. If you plan to return (and seriously: why wouldn’t you?) remember to ask for a loyalty card and to get it stamped. 9 stamps and get your 10th drink free. Happy days!

*Prices correct as of 8.4.16

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie review – Soho

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Patisserie Valerie

7 Marshall St.

London

W1F 7EH

£25 for two (no service charge)

No booking required

 

It’s Easter Sunday. I’ve considered the religious implications of the day and have decided I’d rather focus of chocolate bunnies (I start with the ears and work my way down). However, I cannot afford to indulge properly. I know where we’re going later and I can’t take up precious stomach space with masticated Thumper’s. After back-to-back teas to celebrate this egg-cellent time of the year (there will be no more puns, I promise) my heart is now suitably clogged with cream and there is something distinctly Augustus Gloop-y about my appearance.

Scones

So much food, so little time

Patisserie Valerie knows the value of afternoon tea. An article from The Telegraph in 2015 shows that profits for the firm soared through the sale of its afternoon tea and selection of personalised cakes. They have tapped into a growing market of selfie-lovers eager to Instagram themselves holding a teacup with their pinky raised, and they have tapped into it exceedingly well. It isn’t what you would call innovative. There are no sparklers or frothing liquid or chemistry set shenanigans going on as with other afternoon teas out there. As mentioned in an earlier post, everyone is searching for that special twist that is going to ensure scone-loving tea-tourists like myself flock to their door, stretchy pants at the ready (or no pants at all. Whatever lights your candle). What PV does is provide a fixed and unchanged concept: quantity and quality.

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A selection of savories. Not a egg in sight. Bliss

For two people you will receive ten finger sandwiches with five different fillings. This might not sound like a buffet but to a teaholic with an eye on value this is important. There is cucumber, ham and mustard, chicken and sunblazed tomatoes, smoked salmon and cream cheese and egg mayonnaise (my guest on the day politely took these from me in exchange for their cucumber, brought about by the wind-inducing properties of the latter on said guest). There are also two mini quiches which, though pleasant and served warm, are pretty much all pastry with only a paper-thin layer of unsatisfying filling per casing. This, despite my pettiness over tiny tart center’s, is good eatin’ by anyone’s standards. The food is plentiful and tasty and has the rare afternoon tea advantage of making you feel as though you have eaten something nourishing, as opposed to the normal process of gorging on scones until your stomach feels like a concrete boulder that has been shoved down your jumper. There is also a copious amount of tea. We pick English Breakfast as this is a mutual favourite, and dissuades my companion from muttering caustic remarks about polluted swamp water if I dare order my preferred choice of camomile.

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Jammy and gooey and sticky and creamy

There are two scones apiece. One plain, one fruit, and with the delightful quality of being warm enough for the cream to ooze onto the currants (levels of oozing may vary depending on time taken to eat sandwiches, toilet breaks, time spent in mindless chit-chat etc.). They are small compared to some I have eaten recently but given what preceded them their manageability is rather welcome. Besides, scones are but the second course; the prelude to the grand sugar finale (despite their jammy fruity creaminess scones aren’t really considered a dessert as such. They occupy the same grey area as teacakes and crumpets: just the ticket during the day, cast aside in favour of ice cream and sorbet and meringue nests by night).

The top tier of treats is another delight, not least as they seem to be miniatures of the larger desserts and pastries PV has on offer. This is extremely pleasing. If you have read my article regarding Maison Blanc in Chiswick (March 26th) you will know that one of my main bugbears was the lack of care that seemed to have gone into the contents and presentation of the tea, in particular the cake “bits”; a collection of crumb-like bites that appeared to have been cut from another cake and plonked on the plate as an afterthought. There is a sense with PV that they have actually taken time to create tiny, perfectly formed treats specifically for their afternoon tea.

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Tiny treats. The carrot and walnut cake a particular delight

They are sweet and delicate. Thought has gone into making them light and dainty, as though the team are aware that you may not be able to fit much more in but will fill the tiny remaining gap regardless. Again, they aren’t innovative and mostly conform to what you would expect from a traditional afternoon tea (Victoria sandwich, mini éclairs, carrot cake etc.) but they are so pretty that it doesn’t matter that they aren’t covered in honeycomb and popping candy (whoever thought of the latter should be burnt as a witch. Ghastly stuff). This is the prevailing theme of the PV afternoon tea; the sense of everything being done as well as it can be. There is no sense of skimping or of anyone taking a half-hearted approach. Everything down to the matching silverware and serving tongs is done with style (unfortunately neither myself nor my companion possessed much style and proceeded to pick up everything with our fingers, only noticing over our bloated, distended stomachs afterwards that the tongs were threaded through the handle of the stand).

Verdict: A charmingly old-fashioned collection of treats. Great value and enough tea to sink a passenger liner.

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx