Afternoon tea is quintessentially British and, apparently, we have the 7th Duchess of Bedford’s hunger pangs to thank for it. As the story goes, she used to get hungry about 4pm and couldn’t wait until 8pm for dinner. To satisfy her appetite, she was served tea along with a tray of sandwiches and cake. Over time, she invited her friends to join her and the rest, as they say, is history. It became a fashionable, social event among high society women who would dress for the occasion. Hence, the formality of afternoon tea.
I have only ever had two formal afternoon teas in my lifetime. The first was at the Ritz in London, years ago. Normally, if I’m going to have afternoon tea, it tends to be just a cream tea because it’s more widely available, less formal, and more affordable on a regular basis. However, it’s nice to have a treat once in a while and I’m on a mission to add a bit of luxury to my life, whether or not I’m travelling. So, when I was invited to afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel by Selena, a fellow blogger, I just couldn’t resist, especially as it was in South Kensington, where I used to live, many moons ago.
My latest afternoon tea, however, was most certainly one with a difference and is this week’s Foto Friday.
We started with a glass of champagne, which isn’t traditionally part of afternoon tea, but it was a wonderful treat. Then, along came the tea and the usual 3 tiered cake stand with gougères rather than sandwiches at the bottom, scones with clotted cream and jam in the middle, and pastries on the top – nothing unusual with that. It was the top plate that made it really different. If you take a closer look at the photograph, you will see the pastries are slightly different to the norm. It was funny because, when the waiter brought out the fully-laden cake stands, between all the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’, he said something about dry ice. I didn’t catch what he said about it, but it soon became clear. He returned, adding something to the top tier, and the next thing I knew, there was smoke coming from the top tiers. That was a nice touch, which fitted perfectly with the science afternoon tea theme, and wasn’t something we had expected.
After all that, it was time to tuck in. I’m vegetarian, so the only things I could eat on the bottom tier were the two cheese and fruit chutney gougères. I didn’t have any problems with the other two tiers. The science-themed top tier included a hazelnut and walnut chocolate cake with a mango mousse volcano and chocolate dinosaur; a pistachio macaroon with a cherry sauce pipette; a raspberry cake planet; and a citrus cocktail.
It was such a fun and unusual way to present afternoon tea. If you want to experience this great British tradition, there are lots of places you can go, like the Ampersand. If you like the idea of the science-themed afternoon tea, I think you’d be hard-pushed to find another place doing anything similar. As it stands, this particular afternoon tea is only available until 21 March 2014. If, like me, you’re vegetarian, it’d be worth asking if it’s possible to have more vegetarian gougères before you book. You can find out more about what they offer and book online here.
If you’re interested in seeing more photos and our experience of the afternoon, click here.
This is where the hotel is…
Have your say
What’s your experience of afternoon tea? What do you think of the science theme?
Along with a few other bloggers, we were invited to experience this rather unusual afternoon tea, so we could write about it. As you can probably tell, we all had a great time and I’m not just saying that. I love quirky and it was certainly that. I also love a bit of treat once in a while and it was certainly that. As you can see, this is an honest account of my experience because I have pointed out the lack of savoury vegetarian options.