In Search of "Genuine" Afternoon Tea in London

Afternoon tea on the Ritz has develop into ‘extra British’ this yr.

The Ritz celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee for instance by going again to its British roots – and eliminating the French patisserie. As an alternative, Victoria sandwich, Dundee cake, lemon meringue pie, and custard slices have been served up, and I am informed you additionally get a model of Eton mess (an exquisite confection of meringue, cream and strawberries).

There is a bit extra to it than that. The Ritz has additionally added a little bit of ‘delicacies’ to the cooking; the cucumber sandwich now comes with dill and chive seasoning, and the smoked salmon sandwich makes use of lemon-infused butter on rye bread to create a little bit of zing. That is a step forward of the standard slices-of-white-smear-of-butter-and-summat-in-the-middle which is the ‘conventional British’ sarnie as my mom made it.

Nevertheless I am left questioning whether or not that is ‘actual British’. For many of us, actual British afternoon tea comes from Greggs the bakers – cream horns with confectioner’s cream and scatterings of massive sugar crystals, millefeuille with horrible pink fondant icing on prime that makes it look as if Dame Edna Everage had a hand within the design. You find yourself together with your mouth clogged with sugar. And naturally it needs to be washed down with a mouthful of ‘builder’s tea’ – brewed (or ‘mashed’) for about half an hour until it is so robust you would etch glass with it, and with sufficient sugar to make your spoon get up.

Greggs won’t be a gourmand expertise. However it has the benefit of being a lot, less expensive than the Ritz.

Nevertheless, afternoon tea for me is not a gourmand expertise actually (and whether it is, my favorite is probably The Arch with its eclairs) – it is a consolation meal, and it is one which should have a particular tang of the home-made about it. I am fairly glad to haven’t any patisseries in any respect, simply the scones – in the event that they’re good and large, with actually good jam and an honest dollop of clotted cream. A very good Bakewell tart is a pleasant factor too, with its crumbly almond and wealthy jam (although I hate it when that delicate combine is upset by including fondant icing on prime). Or a chunky slice of Victoria sponge, dusted on the highest with icing sugar.

Unusually sufficient, one of the best place in London for this type of tea appears to be Irish. Correct huge muffins and a selection of fascinating teas (or espresso in the event you’re feeling revolutionary) make J+A Cafe in Clerkenwell successful. No doilies although, so solely 9 out of 10 for conventional English tea.

Bea’s of Bloomsbury is sweet for tea, at both of their places (St Paul’s or Theobalds Street). However they miss out on ‘trad Brit’ standing since they serve cupcakes, which as American-style treats are an abomination to me as a part of an English afternoon tea, however additionally they have ‘correct’ muffins with a contact of creativeness – their seasonal menu features a Guinness and chocolate cake that appears very depraved certainly.

The most effective afternoon tea? Properly for one of the best conventional English tea expertise, you want to get out into the nation and discover a village that’s having a fete, or a bring-and-buy sale on the village corridor, or an occasion just like the Bergh Apton Sculpture Path (nicely value attending if you can also make it as much as the wilds of Norfolk) or a great cricket match. Then you definitely’ll get a correct hand-crafted slice of cake, or an awesome massive scone that almost collapses beneath its personal weight; and although you won’t get the selection of ginger and sencha chai or lapsang souchong that you simply discover in posh central London inns, you will get the Nice British Tea Expertise utterly undiluted.