With Christmas light displays switched on across the city and Christmas playlists playing on repeat in stores, I feel that it is now officially acceptable to fully immerse ourselves in the festive spirit of Christmas and eat all the mince pies. The latter of which I may already have had a head-start with, making up for my last minute efforts last year, and stocking up just in case we’re thrown into another surprise lockdown, God forbid. Nonetheless, I digress.
One of the things that especially excite me at this time of the year are festive afternoon teas, and this year I’ve decided to be more organised and put together my Festive Edition of afternoon teas for the season – the first of which went live on the blog last week.
Christmas in London is of course never complete without a visit to Fortnum & Mason, and their renowned afternoon tea has been a regular feature on my blog, for all the good reasons. I was fortunate enough to try their first Festive Afternoon Tea offering last year which was delightful, and was excited to see what new creations that they had come up with this season.
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon certainly sets the scene, a historic room which has been through huge transformations over the last 314 years, originally an apartment for the Fortnum family, before being turned into an interior decorating department in the 1920s and 1930s, an antiques department and a restaurant, and since 2012 pays homage to the timeless tradition of Afternoon Tea. Located on the fourth floor, a live pianist had just started to play on the Steinway grand piano as we arrived and were shown to our table by the window in the South Salon.
From their extraordinary selection of teas, I decided on one of their exclusive Fortnum’s Famous Blends, the Smoky Earl Grey, created in 1835 after a request from the palace for a tea with real oomph. Made from a combination of traditional bergamot, wood-smoked Lapsang Souchong and Gunpowder tea, there was indeed a distinct smokiness which I’m rather partial towards. Fully embracing the festive spirit, we also ordered a festive Champagne cocktail each; I went for one of their popular options, the Three Kings (Cognac, lemon, plum, apple, cinnamon, Fortnum’s Blanc de Blancs), whilst my dining companion had the French 75.
We ordered one each of the Classic Afternoon Tea and the Savoury Afternoon Tea which we shared between us. Elegantly served on traditional three-tiered silver stands, each stand came with a delicate selection of classic finger sandwiches which included:
Suffolk cured ham with mustard
Cucumber with mint cream cheese
Cotswold Legbar egg mayonnaise
Fortnum’s smoked salmon with orange caper butter
The creamy coronation chicken sandwich was once again a winner with both of us which were were kindly served seconds of – their interpretation of the famous Coronation Chicken sandwich, a twist on chef Rosemary Hume’s original 1953 recipe, mixed with plump raisins, sweet mango chutney, and fresh coriander.
I’ve always been keen on their warm savoury scones which changes each season; this time they included a Stilton scone served with Port jelly, and a walnut scone with chive cream cheese. On the classic tier were plain and fruit scones accompanied by Somerset clotted cream and Fortnum’s strawberry & wild blueberry preserves.
Making our way up the tiers with gusto, we eventually reached the top and began with the afternoon tea savouries; a bite-sized muffin topped with Portland crab and cucumber, a luscious Ragston goat’s cheese encased within a deep purple blackcurrant jelly, a luxurious duck and pistachio mousse finished off with a shiny cognac glaze, and a wild mushroom & Parmesan turnover. In the centre of the dish was an Oeufs Drumkilbo served in a dainty eggshell cup, which was my favourite amongst them; a quintessentially British dish consisting of a decadent shellfish cocktail, in this case lobster, with chopped egg.
Indulging ourselves in the true taste of Fortnum’s Christmas at teatime, we moved on to the final platter of sweet cakes which celebrates festive icons; a moist ginger loaf, a creamy mandarin mousse creatively presented in the form of a Mandarin orange, a miniature violet éclair, a white chocolate cylinder filled with cream and topped with a candied cherry which imitated a candle, and my favourite, the pistachio and lemon bauble.
Making sure our sweet-tooths were completely satiated, we were then served some extra treats from their cake trolley which has also been given a festive twist – a classic Battenberg cake with their distinctive check pattern coloured red and green, and a rich chocolate cake topped with redcurrants.
The Festive Afternoon Tea is available daily until 3rd January 2022 and is priced from £70 per person, with the option of upgrading to include champagne or other drink options.
Reservations can be made via their website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
- My afternoon tea experience at Fortnum & Mason Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was complimentary – views and photos are my own.