“Yes, that’s it! said the Hatter with a sigh, it’s always tea time.” Lewis Carroll
The quirky Sanderson Hotel tucked off of Oxford Street in London invites guests to ‘tumble down the rabbit hole’ and enjoy their bespoke Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland celebrates its 150th birthday this year and this the much-loved children’s story is being celebrated worldwide with many themed events. What better way to enjoy Carroll’s classic and the fantasy he created than in the form of tea and cake with a good friend at a posh London hotel.
The exterior of this luxury boutique hotel is reminiscent of an office block as soon as you enter the revolving door that notion is instantly dismissed as the contemporary lobby screams trendy and pretentious. This 1950’s building (originally the headquarters of wallpaper and textile manufacturer Arthur Sanderson and Sons) located in Berners Street just off the hustle and bustle of busy Oxford Street, was transformed by designer Philippe Starck back in 2000 into the bizarre and fantasy-like world that it is today. The minimalist lobby decor is offset with a mismatch of brightly coloured indiscriminate chairs including a large bright red lips sofa, funky art and silver curtains. The Long Bar, adjacent to the open-air courtyard where afternoon tea is served, is an 80-foot well-lit white bar surrounded by high-backed bar chairs with eye-catching decorations, literally large eyes embellish the back of each chair which gives an overall dramatic effect.
The afternoon tea is a collaboration with Shoreditch based Luna & Curious, who have crafted the bespoke theatrical monochrome tea service that features kings and queens on the teapots and tea plates, cups and saucers adorned with ticking clocks, zebras and birdcages. Our waitress brought us a range of tea leaf blends in miniature glass vials presented on a tiny silver try to smell the aromas and select our favourite, she looked quite disappointed by our standard choices of a latte, hot chocolate and good old English breakfast. The menu is hidden within the pages of a vintage book, sugar cubes were neatly stashed inside a child’s music box entitled ‘A spoonful of …….’ complete with dancing ballerina and music, of course it was!
The menu combined classic afternoon tea staples such as dainty finger sandwiches and scones served with a quirky twist that embraced the eccentric Mad Hatter theme perfectly. Multi-coloured breads made up the range of sandwiches filled with smoked cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard on sundries tomato bread, smoked salmon and lemon butter on dark rye bread, cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread and egg mayonnaise with watercress and sea salted on lemon bread. All very tasty and a perfect mix for meat/fish eaters and vegetarians like myself, the sandwiches were replenished often so there is every chance of overeating!
An antique looking Stark ornate tea trolley was in one corner offering a ‘Jelly Wonderland’ with three varieties of jelly served in Victorian moulds. Glass dessert bowls were provided to help yourself to the wobbly sugary treat.
On the top layer of the traditional three-tiered cake stand sat chewy strawberries and cream marshmallow mushrooms alongside delicate carrot shaped orange meringues hidden in a bed of pea shoots inside a black and white striped cup. A circular ‘Tick Tock’ traditional multi-layered Victoria sponge clock was joined on the middle layer by a melting mango cheesecake and a matcha Green tea and a white chocolate mousse presented in an edible milk chocolate teacup topped with a Queen of Hearts playing card.
The bottom layer had a small brown glass apothecary bottle with ‘Drink Me’ potion but instead of the magical shrinking potion that Alice drunk in the book it was filled with passion fruit panna cotta that you sucked through a straw. A mixture of home-baked savoury scones were served with herb butter while the sweet crumbly variety were accompanied by clotted cream and fruit jam. A riotous mix of colour, carbs and calories, even my sweet-tooth was over indulged and my friend, a self-confessed chocoholic was also overwhelmed with the amount of sugary deliciousness on offer.
You certainly leave the Mad Hatters Afternoon tea with a smile on your face, a very full belly and an emptier wallet but hey it’s London you expect to pay for the privilege of such an experience. The courtyard offers a relaxed and cozy atmosphere that was perfect for catching up with a friend but also ideal for people of all ages and walks of life, we were surrounded by a mix of families, tourists, business folks and birthday celebrations. Was it the best quality afternoon tea I had ever had, no that still goes to Claridges, but it had a certain charm and is definitely one to remember.
MAD HATTERS’S AFTERNOON TEA
Location: Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street, London. W1T 3NG
Telephone: 020 7300 1400
- Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea £38
- Mad Hatter’s Champagne Afternoon Tea (Includes glass of Thienot Brut NV Champagne) £48
- Mad Hatter’s Pink Champagne Afternoon Tea (includes glass of Thienot Rose NV Champagne) £58
- Children (Aged 4 to 11) £30
Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. Long Bar chairs photo (in grid) used courtesy of booking.com and final full tea photo used courtesy of lunaandcurious.com