Eating: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Posted on March 13, 2011


Reviews are proving popular on Parlour & Pantry, so here is my latest culinary exploit to share with you!

A recent journey ‘down the rabbit hole’ was had at The Sanderson Hotel in London, attending their delightfully named ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’. As a keen consumer of afternoon tea in London, I’m used to subtle tweaks on the standard arrangement of scones, sandwiches and cakes allowing each establishment to differentiate their service from the array on offer. The Sanderson though take these ‘tweaks’ to a whole new level, rather in keeping with the quirky design of their establishment.

On arrival, we walked through to the Suko restaurant where our cake was to be served. It’s worth noting that the experience of afternoon tea here is very ‘non-traditional’. If you’re looking for the elegance of The Lanesborough or the refinement of The Dorchester, you may be disappointed. This is an altogether modern affair, from teas to tables. Seated at benches overlooking the kitchen, in what clearly is a restaurant designed for noisy, night-time social dining, we perused the menu. Interestingly, this makes no mention of the teas on offer, supporting the very non-traditional nature of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, where other establishments will offer a whole menu just for the tea choices (given I nearly always choose English Breakfast or Earl Grey, this posed no issue for me and rather simplified things!).

The real excitement though comes from a perusal of the quirky selection of delights in store. A ‘Queen of Hearts’ strawberry mousse, toffee, lemon and apple drink, and chocolate and praline lollies, me for hungry to taste! Our cake stand arrived, accompanied by a platter of sandwiches made from flavoured and coloured breads (beetroot bread, tomato bread, spinach bread) and our pots of tea served in heavy, black cauldron pots rather than the more typical ornate bone china!

For once, the scones seemed out-of-place! It felt that a selection so extraordinary could not possibly serve a mere scone alongside. Instead we expected scone biscuits with raisin jam or some other deconstructed affair. That said, they were lovely. Buttery, sweet and unfortunately slightly too filling! The highlight without doubt was the amazing drink, which tasted like a confused custard which couldn’t decide whether to be lemon one minute or toffee the next. I wished the bottle could have been like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag with the straw never reaching it’s endless bottom.

The one positive of it finishing though was allowing the next indulgence to start. The runner-up to perfection was the ‘Queen of Hearts’ which almost unneccessarily had Eat Me artfully written across the top. This pink heart, made from smooth white chocolate, encased the lightest strawberry mousse, and was completed by a heart-shaped layer of sponge. Wow!!

Chocolate lollies containing praline ice cream, and coffee and chocolate ganache cakes, whilst all lovely could not compare to these treats!

Another plus point for The Sanderson, in addition to their rather unique afternoon tea, is their service, which was attentive and accommodating of my special requests for some sandwich alterations. As it’s not a mass afternoon tea destination, it’s also rather unhurried and relaxed. Having arrived at 2pm, we could happily sit and chat until 4.30pm without being subtly managed out by another sitting (common in the more traditional venues). At £25, it’s also very reasonable in comparison to some other the ‘big names’.

So, if you fancy a quirky treat and can free yourself from the need for gilt and fine bone china with your afternoon tea, make like Alice and head for The Sanderson!

Helen x