Reena Patel takes an afternoon to enjoy this time honoured tradition at Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
Fanciful festive window dressings welcomed us into Fortnum & Mason, the exquisite department store on London’s Piccadilly.
We took the lift up to the fourth floor, where the entire space has been elegantly refurbished to reveal a quintessentially English tea salon. Georgian style duck egg blues and crisp whites dress the fresh, spacious room with soft hints of silver, while a grand piano plays with subtlety in the background. It’s just the place to mark special occasions and makes a wonderful sojourn from the surrounding mayhem of Mayfair.
We began with a short tea tasting session, inviting us to sip on a few blends before choosing ours from the incredible selection of over 150 varieties.
Our expert ‘tea-rista’ presented us with a bowl of delicate, pale coloured Japanese Silver Needle Pekoe – a top grade white tea with a gentle smokiness. We also tried a smoky Chinese blend – Handmade Dongting Bi Luo Chun – originating from West Island in Tai Lake near Suzhou, with a light and slightly sweet flavour and a soft, savoury aroma. Our favourite was the Margaret’s Hope Muscatel second flush Darjeeling – a fine golden liquor with a pronounced classic off dry character. In the world of tea, Darjeeling is known as the champagne of teas and we couldn’t resist in ordering a pot to accompany our food menu.
We also chose the Irish Breakfast – a bracing blend of expertly selected Assam and Kenyan teas, where the first provides maltiness and the second adds brightness. For me, afternoon tea would not be complete without sipping on a cup of Earl Grey Classic – black tea flavoured with aromatic and stimulating oil of bergamot.
Steeped in rich tea history, the world of tea and the name of Fortnum & Mason have been intertwined for over three centuries. Fortnum & Mason were one of the first companies to successfully bid for the new Indian teas when they were first auctioned in London in the mid- 1830s. Today, the iconic establishment holds the royal warrant for the Queen for grocers and provisions merchant and as tea merchant and grocers to the Prince of Wales.
There’s an impressive selection of menus to choose from here. As well as the classic afternoon tea served with finger sandwiches, moving on to scones and desserts, a savoury version awaits those with slightly less of a sweet tooth. For warm, hearty dishes pre-desserts, there’s the celebratory high tea option, which is what we decided to go for. After a sparkling glass of rose champagne, our magnificent high tea started with delicious hot plates of salmon fish cakes with caper butter sauce and a light, fluffy haddock and cheddar cheese soufflé topped with a poached egg and a chive butter sauce. Next appeared a stunning three-tier stand, filled with sun-dried tomato and herb scones served with basil cream cheese and ham and cheese scone with mustard butter. The top tier presented us with a smoked salmon blini with crème fraiche and caviar, smoked duck breast on crisp toasted pain d’epice with a pear and saffron chutney, mushroom and tarragon shortcrust pie with garlic crumb and mille feuille with tomato and black olive, mascarpone and white anchovy.
Our afternoon tea affair continued with another pretty cake stand, delicately laced with mini mince pies, a rose éclair, a modern twist on black forest gateau and other delightful mini patisseries and cakes. The middle tier crammed with classic fruit and plain scones, accompanied by Somerset clotted cream and Fortnum’s preserves. As is the tradition with afternoon tea, they are all replenishable goodies. Our host explained that we could also enjoy any of the Highgrove cakes displayed on the grand carriage towards the centre of the room. We indulged in two large sharing slices of moist chocolate with a decadent ganache coating and a walnut and maple with butter cream frosting. There was also a raspberry bakewell leading us further down the path of sweet temptation but we decided our tea was complete with a fresh caffeine-free infusion of perfumed chamomile flowers, known for its calming qualities. Decadently divine.
Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
Tea Salon Savouries & English Afternoon
Tea Monday to Saturday 12pm to 9pm. Sunday 12pm to 8pm.
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is open from 12pm to 6pm.
Christmas Trading Hours
From Monday 12th November to Sunday 23rd December Monday to Saturday 12pm to 9pm. Sunday 12pm to 8pm.
Reservations are always recommended. For weekdays 1 week in advance is recommended and for Saturdays, 6 weeks are advised to ensure availability. To reserve a table please contact our Reservations Team on 0845 602 5694 between 9am and 6pm Monday to Saturday or use the attached booking tool.