When I got an email from Emerald Street well over two months ago, advertising 2-for-1 afternoon teas in various locations across the country, I snapped up the opportunity. It’s not something I have the time to do very often, making it a nice change from my usual weekends. A day to get dressed up and participate in something very British – and let’s be honest, I don’t think it gets more British than afternoon tea at my chosen venue: Threadneedles Hotel in London.
Named the ‘Great Britons’ afternoon tea, I almost felt a part of history as a I tucked in to treats created specifically for six named Great Britons, figures from the past. My surroundings for the afternoon were incredible – sitting underneath a beautiful centrepiece: a 19th century glass dome. As we took our place in the lobby, the architecture was amazing and made me for a lovely afternoon. The over-sized grandiose chairs added a masculine touch to proceedings (I felt tiny in comparison), while everything else was feminine and elegant. Although I felt quite far away from the table and couldn’t sit back properly in the chair, that would be my only complaint from the whole afternoon.
There was an option to begin with a flute of champagne (£5 per person), but as I was driving home and very hungry, we decided to go straight into the tea itself. Unfortunately we weren’t given the tea and coffee menu, so just panicked and went for the straight-forward breakfast tea. As two pots of tea arrived, with milk and sugar, a three-tier cake stand followed with all the afternoon’s goodies on, before another server brought out a plate of condiments: herb butter, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
We began with the finger sandwiches, cut perfectly with crusts off, consistent in size – very dainty. These ranged from honey roast Norfolk ham with English mustard to Scottish smoked salmon with herb crème fraîche. My favourite was the roast beef with horseradish cream and watercress, while the simple cucumber with chive cream cheese was refreshing and a great palate cleanser.
Carrying on with the savoury selection, there was a mini tart: goats cheese with caramelised balsamic onion relish and a savoury scone, which was served with a herb butter (rock hard and impossible to spread). I’ve never been a fan of savoury scones and I found this one a little dry. One pot of tea down, I ordered another, just in time to accompany the sweet treats and it’s fair to say at this point, I was already full.
The sweet scone was a lot nicer, moist and neither dry, nor heavy. The clotted cream and strawberry jam were lovely and I piled each half with mountains of each. Which do you add first? Is there even a correct way?
The main event were the six Great Briton cakes and pastries which we left until last. The menu explained each of them as well as a brief description to each historical figure they were named after – a nice touch, I thought. We were given one of each, meaning we could sample a bit of everything – and half was more than enough, there’s no way I could have managed all six!
And so, we had:
Dundee cake – fruit cake made with whisky, topped with marzipan and fondant icing
Diana, Princess of Wales
Victoria Sponge filled with homemade raspberry jam and topped with rosewater cream and a sugar rose
Queen Elizabeth I
Lavender cupcake, topped with lavender cream and a silver and lilac sugar crown
Sir Isaac Newton
Caramelised apple and lemon thyme tart using Cox's apples from Buckinghamshire, encased in a sweet vanilla pastry
A layered coffee and chocolate gateau with a cornflake base
Admiral Lord Nelson
A rich spice cake soaked in Navy Rum and topped with a chocolate barrelAt £29 per person normally (plus the mandatory 12.5% service charge), it’s definitely worth experiencing – it’s not your standard afternoon tea by any means and it wasn’t just the menu that was unique! Considering it was a Saturday, I couldn’t believe how quiet the city was – shops were closed, there were no pedestrians and I didn’t even clock that many red buses. I loved walking through the unusually serene streets back to Liverpool Street.