Living in London doesn’t mean high tea, Buckingham Palace and fancy horse races with frilly hats. It’s only that way sometimes.
Take, for example, the afternoon tea in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Mason, a gourmet food emporium with several restaurants inside dedicated to the fine art of British food and tea. It is a must-see on the list of any tourist’s visit to London.
Fortnum and Mason was founded in 1707 and today it boasts many culinary accomplishments, like having invented the Scotch egg (a boiled egg coated in sausage and breadcrumbs) to having created a bespoke smoky Earl Grey tea for Queen Elizabeth II. The tea’s smokiness is counterbalanced with a surprisingly light finish; it’s a great wintertime sipping tea.
Everything in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is finished in its signature blue color, from the china to the menu covers. It’s these little touches everywhere that make the tea experience just that much more special at Fortnum and Mason.
The beauty of the menu at Fortnum and Mason is that there are actually several menus to choose from. The High Tea comes with your choice of an entree, followed by scones with clotted cream and jam and a selection of tiny little cakes and treats afterwards. The Afternoon Tea, on the other hand, comes with an array of traditional finger sandwiches instead of your choice of an entree, followed by the same scones and sweet treats as the High Tea. Then there’s the Savoury Afternoon Tea, which includes hors d’oeuvres along with finger sandwiches and savory (think cheese) scones.
So, with all those options, how do you pick between the menus? Our waiter helpfully suggested that, since there were two of us, that we order the Afternoon Tea and the Savoury Afternoon Tea so that we could try a bit of all of the treats that Fortnum and Mason has to offer. And here’s another little known fact — it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for more of any of the items included in your Afternoon Tea. In other words, think of this as the most delicate, elegant all-you-can-eat buffet, ever. The only thing that stands between you and finger sandwich nirvana is your pride.
If you’re worried that afternoon tea is all pomp and no substance, that’s definitely not the case at Fortnum and Mason. The scones were fluffy, with just the right amount of crust on the outside to give the scone shape and texture. A foie gras eclair was piped full of creamy foie gras and slathered in just the slightest bit of tart cherry jam. The glazed ham sandwich with Fortnum’s mustard is truly special. The ham itself is made from pigs that are exclusively bred and raised to Fortnum’s own specification, it’s sweet and briny and porky.
Still, it’s probably not a good idea to fill yourself up with finger sandwiches to the point of no return, because just when you think that your high tea experience couldn’t possibly get any better, your waiter will come to your table and whisk you away to a Magical Cart of Dessert Heaven. The dessert cart is in addition to the petit fours and other mini-treats that are included on the tea stand at your table, and it’s filled to the brim with cakes of every size and shape imaginable. The dessert is included as part of your afternoon tea experience, and it’s not to be missed — try anything slathered in the glossy chocolate ganache.
If you’re too full to even think of having dessert, your helpful waiter will box your treat up in a signature blue Fortnum and Mason’s box so that you can gorge yourself on it at home. Plus, you can skip through London with your takeout bag, a subtle message to everyone around you that you just had the singular experience of a Fortnum and Mason tea and that perhaps you’re not to be messed with, since your body composition is now 80% scone, 10% sandwich and 10% cream.
Fortnum and Mason accepts bookings online or over the phone; a credit card is required when making the reservation. For more information, visit Fortnum and Mason’s website here.