I last went to The Sanderson for afternoon tea in October 2014... No I can’t believe it was that long ago either! It remains the only place in London I would be more than happy to return to again and again – because it is that good! I took my lovely friend Poppy for her 30th birthday celebrations, which have been going on for weeks and thankfully, she loved it just as much as I do. I also need to return, because as of yesterday, the menu was revamped. There is also an evening Tipsy Tea which contains martini flights, so that will definitely be next on my list!
The menu differed quite dramatically from the last time I visited – but everything else remained the same – and it was just as whimsical and unique as I remembered. Although the tea and food selection is very good, it’s all about the Alice in Wonderland theme, which makes it so different from other hotels.
First though, we enjoyed a drink in the Long Bar, while we waited for our table to be prepared. You can upgrade to a cocktail afternoon tea, but the offerings on the menu didn’t really excite me – and although I was driving later on, a pre-feast drink was on the cards. Both Poppy and I chose the Love & Rockets (Beefeater 24, St Germain elderflower liqueur, rocket, strawberry, lemon and prosecco), which was vibrant, fruity and not too sweet. The fizz of the prosecco topped it off.
What I love most about afternoon tea at The Sanderson, after the theme of course, is that you’re sat in a beautiful terrace, in a lovely courtyard garden. For those cooler days, there are patio heaters and blankets – but we didn’t need those on Saturday. Because there is plenty of natural lighting, it means photos turn out decent too... there’s nothing worse than being stuck somewhere dingy, that doesn’t do justice to the food or table setting.
Like before, the afternoon tea menu was inserted in the middle of an old book – ours was a guide to DIY; the sugar cubes were housed in an old wind-up jewellery box; and the loose leaf teas were in the centre of the table, in little glass bottles, so you could smell them before you decided. They were labelled with coloured stickers and these matched up with playing cards, which explained the ingredients and notes in each.
We ordered our teas first: Mad Hatter (green tea, infused with passion fruit, guava and mango) for me and Queen of Hearts (red rose congu, infused with red rose petals, with a hint of chocolate and vanilla) for Pops. I loved both varieties – but found that the Mad Hatter tasted better when it had been infusing for longer. These arrived in large King of Hearts teapots, complete with paper crowns and of course, there was a tea strainer – which Pops forgot to use a couple of times (whoops!). I love the china, which can actually be purchased through Luna & Curious. It wasn’t long before the food arrived, but it gave us plenty of time to chat and get snap happy...
The savoury came separately on individual plates, although we were told with the new menu, everything will arrive at once. I personally prefer that as it looks more spectacular! I would never mix savoury and sweet, but know people that do like to pick between the different tiers. The savoury selection was also completely different to what I ate last time. There were mini scotch eggs, filled with quails egg and smoked salmon, topped with caviar; a savoury profiterole/éclair stuffed with fresh crab meat and dill, topped with paprika; and two different varieties of sandwich. The hot option were ham & smoked applewood croque-monsieurs and the cold, a cucumber & cream cheese filling between slices of pesto bread. Those were by far my favourites – and we enjoyed the savoury so much, we ordered an additional plate each (at no additional charge). Although I regretted that decision as soon as the epic three-tiered cake stand with the sweets arrived...
We worked our way from top to bottom, sampling no fewer than nine desserts and treats... and that’s before the extra surprise(s)! The orange carrot meringues in long grass were sweet, but incredibly light and were gone in a mouthful. The strawberry & cream magic marshmallow mushrooms were even better second time round, so light and fluffy; while the chocolate and pistachio blue caterpillar was richer – but still didn’t touch the sides! The blue dye did stain my fingers though.
On the next level, the red velvet ladybirds were incredibly sweet; I found the coffee macarons a little too rich. I love coffee and I love macarons, so was a tad disappointed. These have since been replaced with a vanilla option. The Oreo cookie soldier with red fruit crème pâtissière was absolutely divine and also looked spectacular. However, my favourite was the banana bread-and-butterfly: a mini banana bread muffin, spiced with cinnamon, topped with cream frosting and rice paper butterfly. There was also the iconic Alice ‘Drink Me’ potion: a layered drink consisting of passion fruit, coconut and mango. Pops wasn’t keen on the consistency, but it was a good palate cleanser before the scones.
The scones were lovely and although I usually prefer fruit ones to plain, I found them just sweet enough and not dense or bread-like. They were still warm, even though we left them until last. The cream and jam were both good – and the right consistency.
There was one last surprise: a mini ice cream flower pot. I think it was lemon ice cream with raspberry swirl, resembling a cheesecake topped with chocolate biscuit ‘soil’ crumb, honeycomb and decorative flower. It was light enough to be enjoyed over a good hour-and-a-half of over-indulging – and was completely unexpected.
The service was excellent throughout and the staff were keen to ensure we were enjoying ourselves, as well having enough to eat or drink – without being intrusive or fussy. As well as unlimited tea, there’s also the option to have coffee or hot chocolate. We just stuck with tea. They were also good at turning the patio heater off when we were getting too hot; although, by the time we were finishing up, the sun had gone in and it had clouded over. They also get a special thank you for bringing a birthday cake with candle to the table – I had mentioned in my Open Table booking that it was Poppy’s 30th, but it meant the surprises continued and it was another lovely extra touch.
Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea is served daily and is priced from £48 per person, with the option to upgrade to Champagne packages, or add on cocktails. Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea is served daily (7-9pm) and is priced at £58 per person. Service charge is discretionary, but is added to the bill at 15%.
Love, Lucy xx