Disclaimer: Access to The Wallace Collection is free, but we were invited guests of The Wallace Restaurant for afternoon tea. My (very many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn't happily revisit (again and again and again like I do...)
Even if you aren't willing to admit to the above personality traits publicly, I absolutely know that it is true of many of my good mates. So, in the interests of the culture vultures in us all, we took a little stroll away from the Oxford Street shopping carnage a weekend or two ago, and simply indulged in a little classical opulence. ('We' being the foodie loving, worldwide crew of myself, Jess, Heidi, Madeleine and Manjiri.)
It was a fairly grey old afternoon, cheered up a thousand-fold by the thought of an hour or two strolling the treasure rich halls of The Wallace Collection. A stone's throw from Marylebone High Street, Oxford Street and Bond Street Station, resides a collection of priceless fine art and sculpture collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the son of the 4th Marquess. It was bequeathed to the British nation by Sir Richard's widow, Lady Wallace, in 1897.
Since then, the Collection has resided in Hertford House, open to the public as a free museum/gallery. Each room is sumptuously decorated (we spent a good hour simply admiring the jewelled tones of the wall hangings) and has a unique theme contained within the ornate gold frames.
Items include grand neo-classical portraiture, miniature claw-foot marble bathtubs, filigree candelabras, decadent parquet flooring, dazzling chandeliers, intricate gilded everythings, swathes of extravagant drapery, sweeps of griffon bearing staircases and enough beauty to exhaust a camera battery.
It is simply glorious and very Downton Abbey.
There is even a wonderful room where you can sit for hours and admire the sumptuous collection of Canaletto's stunning Venetian canals. (We even took a cheeky proof selfie for a good friend who if missing for more than an hour, can usually be found in this corner of London entranced by the Italian paintings nb. it was my first and probably only museum selfie.)
Now, I have a confession to make. I got called an afternoon tea snob the other day. At first reaction I protested, but took a few more seconds to really think about what my friend said. After visiting umpteen London afternoon teas including Sketch, Claridges and a host of quirky alternative platings, I guess she is right. Practise makes perfect, right?
In my experience, The Wallace Restaurant afternoon tea is a nice, well priced, very traditional tea. The beautiful courtyard is somewhere you could relax in luxury after admiring the beautiful art - a gorgeous afternoon you could have with your Mum, sister or best friend and come away with a smile on your face.
There is a lovely array of tea and a refreshing glass of champagne on offer, and I rather love that you can opt for a full tea, or simply a selection of your favorites.(Ps props to Miss JessOnThames, my favourite tea elbow model.)
Each person is presented with an individual stand of sandwiches (coronation chicken, smoked salmon and cream cheese, ham, egg and cress), an enormous scone (served with clotted cream and Peyton and Byrne preserves)...
<Yep, I'm a proud jam then cream sconner. >
...and a selection of changing cakes (on our visit we had an eclair with chantilly cream and caramel, a madeleine with lemon zest and Amaretti Biscuit with orange zest.) I enjoyed the eclair the most, though slightly too large to eat delicately, the filling of rich vanilla chantilly cream and crowning of just-this-side-of-sharp caramel suited my sweet tooth down to the ground.
We spent a good few hours nattering away in the beautiful atrium until dusk began to fall and we collected our bags (and assorted photographic kit cause y'know, bloggers).
What is your favourite aspect of afternoon tea?