When I'm not designing coasters, I'm drinking lots of lovely cuppas, served beautifully! Here are my 5 latest brews...
Now this is an afternoon tea that is out of this world! From Jupiter Cakes to Galaxy Macaroons, the space-inspired Gravi-Tea at Skylon Restaurant on London's Southbank is a truly stellar experience.
Keeping the ‘sky' from Skylon in mind, Executive Chef Kim Woodward told me her team were inspired by the restaurant's planetary Christmas decorations. She told her pastry chefs to go crazy with the cosmos concept and the result is just fabulous, with a delicious, galactic menu that takes you on a journey through the solar system . . .
Colourful delights include:
And that's just the top tier! There's also traditional freshly backed scones, with clotted cream and preserves, and a tasty range of finger sandwiches of which the salmon and avocado was my favourite.
Served with Brew Tea Company's loose leaf Breakfast Blend (champagne and cocktails also available) this is a quirky afternoon tea and a playful, edible astronomical adventure.
Tea tip: Sit as close to the floor-to-ceiling windows as you can - those views of the Thames are marvelous.
Need to know:
Gravi-tea Afternoon Tea is served in Skylon's bar and river view area,
£25 per person (not including alcoholic drinks)
Skylon, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London SE1 8XX
020 7654 7800
In busy, buzzy Soho on the corner of Greek Street and Old Compton Street is the Bun House & Tea Room. Upstairs is a steamy street-food-style cafe serving Chinese steamed buns, aka bao (not to be confused with the popular bun-of-the-moment Taiwanese bao which are served open like a sandwich. Chinese bao are ball-like and sealed so that the filling is hidden.) At £2.50 each they are more filling then they look. I had the lamb (slightly spicy and very juicy) followed by a custard bun (salted duck egg, coconut milk and carrot juice) which was so messy but so tasty I was licking every spillage off my fingers!
Alongside my bamboo basket of pretty stamped buns was a teapot of oolong – bought from nearby Chinatown obviously. Refreshing, delicate with a light flavour, and just what I needed to wash down my sticky lunch.
I loved everything about this place; the fast food bustle, the smiling servers, the soft, bouncy, flavour-filled buns, my large pot of tea, the beautiful green tiled floor and all the Asian touches throughout the small space. I could linger there with my cuppa all day, just sipping and watching the activity of the place.
Tip: if you're a glasses wearer be prepared - it's so steamy in there that you'll be fogged up for a while!
The Tea Room
Downstairs is a Hong Kong-style speakeasy, lit with neon green Cantonese lettered lights, it's a fun throwback to 1960's Hong Kong tea rooms and serves cocktails and a much longer tea list. It's a different food menu - no steamed buns and you can't bring them from upstairs down with you which I think is a shame. Because of this I only popped down to take a look but shall have to return to try their tea list which includes Uncle Cai's Fuding White Tea and Uncle Dong's Yunnan Dianhong Tea. It has a 3am license so you can satisfy your tea cravings well into the early hours (if you haven't moved on to the Rose and Lapsang cocktails by then!)
Need to know:
24 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 4DZ
Bun House has limited first-come-first-served seating only. (I went at 2.30pm on a Saturday and I didn't have to wait long for a table but be warned, I hear it can get very busy!) The Tea Room accepts reservations. Opening hours vary quite a bit so double check their website.
A cream tea with your Mum is one of the loveliest ways to spend an afternoon! And a great place to do that is at The Tea Terrace at the top of House of Fraser in Guildford. With its ‘modern interpretation of a traditional English tea room', it has fantastic views over the town and uses gorgeous Royal Albert teacups and saucers alongside it's buttery scones. Their Organic Darjeeling was from Novus Tea, it was deliciously light and certainly didn't need the pint of milk it was served with!
I loved this 1800's poem about scone pronunciation printed in their menu:
“I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone."
Update: I recently had the most beautiful afternoon tea at The Tea Terrace for a friend's baby shower. The perfect spot. The blue and pink chairs mean you can coordinate the theme perfectly if you know it's a boy or a girl! And, would you believe it, but after all the excitement (and maybe the sugar rush) my friend went into labour that afternoon and gave birth to a beautiful little girl - can't wait to take her here one day too!
Tuesday Tea Tasting
Now this is a good idea for a Christmas pressie! If you're looking for gift ideas for a tea lover then this could be something unique. London Tea Club offer membership that includes three vials of tea (now that's different!) and descriptions cards with handy brewing instructions and tasting notes.
I love the packaging and the knowledge that every month you can try something different and unexpected. A gift that keeps on giving!
Tea: So far I've tried the Creme Earl Grey which has the hint of vanilla alongside the citrus flavour. While Earl Grey never looks good with milk (not a pretty hue), adding it makes this brew extra creamy and smooth.
Details: 3 month membership costs £30 to UK members, £36 for international.
For more tea by the London Tea Club, check out my review of their Apricot Peach Cold Brew.
Or discover another Earl Grey here, with more of a Bond theme!
Tuesday Tea Tasting
Ever been to a vintage wonderland? Neither had I. But that is just what Hillman's Tearoom is - with a whole load of good tea poured on top.
In North London, E17, down a hidden alleyway (you wouldn't know it was there if you didn't know it was there) is this small tearoom.
Full to the brim with vintage crockery, retro furniture and mouth-watering cakes served by a tea lady in old school tea lady get-up. With swinging music and a flickering black and white TV in the corner, this time capsule is a little vintage land you can lose yourself in.
Off the delightfully long tea list I tried Rose Congou China (a light fragranced flavour with rose petals) and Mim 2nd Flush Darjeeling (a deep strong cuppa) accompanied by light and moist Lemon & Raspberry Cake and Carrot Cake. YUM!
Hillman's do what every tearoom should do; give you a large teapot and keep offering to top it up with hot water until you are totally tea'd out. It's this attention to detail that makes this tearoom extra special and in addition, Jason the owner has collected the beautiful pieces for years and will happily chat to you about his favourite teapot or chinaware.
Hillman's charmed the pants off me and I couldn't recommend it enough. I think I'd like to live there. Read about another vintage tearoom further south in Brighton.
Need to know: Sad news...Hillman's Tearoom has now closed.