8 June 2015

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

Afternoon tea in London has become a craze unto itself. It is a perfect excuse to spend an afternoon chatting, catching up, eating delights and sipping beverages of choice. Hoteliers have realised it's a perfect way to entice luxury lovers through their doors without costing an absolute bomb, and bloggers have realised that it is a scrumptious weekend pastime - high-end treats, bubbly and sparkle.

It does mean that the market is a little saturated and personally I love this - there is an afternoon tea for literally everyone - from dainty on-the-hoof treats to extravanganzas you need to book 3 months in advance. As an afternoon tea addict, I often get asked to recommend my favourite tea, but it's an impossible question at times - almost as hard as picking a favourite child.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel
 
So much depends on occasion, location and budget, how do you narrow it down to a single choice? Teas do generally seem to slice into to 3 price-point levels (less than £25, £25-£40 & £40+) and into two categories of design - crazy and traditional. Then, when you add the complication of dietary requirements into the equation life can get pretty interesting.

The Sanderson's Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea settles comfortably at the top of my personal list of mid-priced gluten-free slices of luxury so far and - as it turns out - is perfect for expat farewells and celebrations.


Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel
 
We were seated with a smile - our request to enjoy the sunshine of the outdoor terrace happily sorted - and our waitress apologetically explained that there was a 2-hour limit to the table. Unlike teas I've been to in the past - where the staff aggressively seat you then seem to forget that you're waiting for the tea, before hurrying you to finish once the tiers finally appear - the lovely staff at The Sanderson whisked our treats before us quickly, then patiently explained all of the flavors before us.

They accommodated my gluten free requirements happily (they remembered from the booking to us being seated) bringing all of my treats out on a separate cake stand (to prevent cross-contamination) and for the first time in an age I got to have an almost identical tea to my tea date. Believe me when I say this rarely happens, and when the tea is as quirky as this one you don't want to be missing out.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

The experiences felt a little down the rabbit hole compared to many we've been to before, but in such a good way. Presented with a tray of perfumed vials instead of a tradition tea list, we were encouraged to smell our way to a selection. Assured that we would be able to try another round later, we eventually chose the delicious Rhubarb and Custard, and Apple Pie - intent on swapping with each other mid-pot.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

Our sandwiches were the most traditional aspect of the afternoon - Cucumber & Chive Cream Cheese, Smoked Cumbrian Ham & Mustard, Cold Smoked Salmon & Lemon Butter, and Egg Mayonnaise - and were lovely. Moist, not too thick and spongy (a common issue with gluten free bread) and more on demand should we have wished.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

My gluten free scones were a touch pants but to be fair they are difficult at the best of times to succeed, the plain much better than the fruited (pictured) but the herbed butter delicious as a savoury topping. We both dove into the clotted cream and strawberry jam which were deliciously naughty as ever.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

Then we got to the really good stuff, the patisserie layer. We couldn't help but begin with the 'Drink Me' vial - a strawberry flavoured potion that had both of us 'ahhhh-ing' in delight as we sipped through the tasty levels. We then nibbled our way through the 'tick tock' victoria sponge, a melting mango cheesecake (my personal highlight) and giggling, crunched our way through the matcha chocolate tea cup - a really pleasant taste, and my date's favourite on the tray.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

Exploring the very last tier we discovered homemade marshmallow mushrooms and meringue carrots nestled in a cheeky bed of pea shoots, before being shown the jewel-hued jellies in a corner of the room delighting everyone who had room - sadly they didn't have us amongst their number.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel
  
Mad Hatter: Would you like a little more tea?
Alice: Well, I haven't had any yet, so I can't very well take more.
March Hare: Ah, you mean you can't very well take less.
Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

Each aspect of the tea has been planned with precision - the super cute crockery featuring zebras, clocks, royalty and carousels, riddle adorned napkins, gorgeously whimsical jelly tray and bound menu hidden inside vintage books. The hotel foyer has surprisingly modern art scattered throughout and a long beautiful bar for those that want to linger and be seen.

Mad Hatters Tea Party - Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel

3 & a half hours after we first sat down, we stumbled out from the Sanderson Hotel, back into the crazy real world thoroughly sated and amused. That was until we both realized that it was the last time we would see each other for a London afternoon tea for a goodly while.

Luckily, I can re-visit on behalf of my much missed friend.

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