This weekend, I met my lovely friend Laura for afternoon tea in Mayfair. But this was to be no ordinary afternoon tea: it was a fancy, festive treat as it was entirely Christmas themed!
We arrived a little early at the lovely Chesterfield hotel. We were divested of our heavy winter coats, and offered a seat in the bar until our reservation. The bar was lovely; I think Agatha Christie would have sat there in one of the leather wingback chairs, absorbing ideas for another genteel whodunnit. And then the bartender brought us some complimentary nibbles, so I was in Twiglet heaven.
At two o'clock, we were shown to our table, and brought a nip of warm, spiced, mulled wine. We sipped our way through these treats and perused the menu, even though there was never any doubt what we were going to order: Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea, with Christmas spiced tea.
The staff were incredibly lovely and attentive, and talked us through the various seasonal nibbles on offer. We were both quite excited to hear that we could have as many top-ups of food and tea as we liked. Yes please!
We started with sandwiches: all the afternoon tea classics plus the addition of turkey and cranberry. No crusts obviously, because nicely brought up young ladies cannot possibly be expected to exert themselves to chew things as tough and unpalatable as crusts. Fluffy bread only for us.
As we cleared the plate of sandwiches, and we were offered, and accepted, a second plateful, Laura and I realised that we both have the same, highly compatible approach to afternoon tea. We eat at a similar pace which is important: I'm normally a pretty speedy consumer of food, and I am not very patient when it comes to waiting for everyone else to finish their sandwiches so I can start on the sweet treats. But Laura and I managed to munch sandwiches, sustain a flow of delightfully frivolous chatter and keep pace with one another.
Secondly, we both consume our sandwiches in order of preference, starting with the least favourite, and ending on a high with the best, which to me seems the only logical approach. You can't possibly imagine how frustrating it is to dine with people who start with their favourite, or worst of all, people who don't even consider what order to eat their food in, and just mix and match willy-nilly with a reckless disregard for the ensuing anarchy.
Scones next: studded with cranberries and most delicious. Very festive. And it's jam first, in case you were wondering. I'm not a cream fan, so I did without, but even so: jam first.
As we worked our way through the lovely afternoon tea stand, the staff kept our teapot fully charged and topped up. I'm not sure quite how much tea we drank, except that we know we drank over 4 full teapots-worth. I appreciate the teapot is not a standard measure either in the Metric or Imperial system, but it was a large teapot and had a nice pouring action with no drips. It was also a lovely tea, with hints of citrus and cinnamon which were very Christmassy,
I had looked forward to the top tier of the stand as this is where all the festive pastries and desserts were located. And we were spoiled! We had cranberry cheesecake, a little fruit tart, rich chocolate yule log topped with marzipan holly leaves, a gingerbread cupcake with coconut cream and a mulled wine macaroon. Last, and therefore my favourite, was a chocolate pot: a little flowerpot filled with a rich, dark, chocolate mousse, topped with crumbled chocolate brownie 'soil' and with a little Christmas Tree biscuit planted in the top.
There was one of each little dessert, but we requested an extra chocolate pot, and then Laura requested an extra cheesecake and I sampled an extra mulled wine macaroon, all in the spirit of quality control.
My goodness, we were full. But each and every mouthful was delicious, the hotel was luxurious and it felt cosy and Christmassy to be tucked away inside, and the whole experience was absolutely wonderful!
Some two and a half hours later, we headed back to the lobby: it had grown dark and there was just time to get a picture or two of the beautiful tree before slipping out into the cold and home, promising never to eat again, expect maybe tomorrow, or later in the evening.
So full marks to the Chesterfield for a lovely and imaginative and very festive take on afternoon tea.
P.S. This post is part of series I'm blogging for Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class: capturing festive memories every day throughout advent.
P.P.S. And this represents another ambition accomplished from the list!