Madd Hatter’s Café
6-7 Great Newport Street
Ace of Spades tea: £14.00pp*
Queen of Hearts tea: £9.00pp*
No service charge
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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