More at home half way up a mountain in his waterproofs cooking boil in the bag whilst huddled over a camp stove, hubbie was somewhat sceptical when I suggested he join me on one of my London afternoon tea forays. After all, it’s just for girls, right?
Wrong, gentlemen, wrong! It may not be manly to delicately nibble miniscule morsels, or elegantly sip shimmering cocktails before gently dabbing your lips to banish any stray crumbs from the scene. Yet if you’re doing all this for the sake of your wife, girlfriend or mother then it’s totally acceptable behaviour. And trust, me, you may surprise yourself and find you secretly really enjoy it! A lot was riding on the success of the tea experience, and not wanting hubbie to turn around and say ‘I told you so’ the pressure was on to get it right. So I opted for an old favourite of mine, One Aldwych where the folks always get it spot on. I’d had my eye on their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed afternoon tea for a while, and was disappointed to miss out on my last visit as my pregnant tea-buddy was more into chocolate gerkins than chocolate eggs! Hubbie however doesn’t need to be asked twice if there’s chocolate involved.
We nearly didn’t make it. Our booking was very last minute since it had taken me that long to persuade the other half to come, and unsurprisingly One Aldwych were fully booked. Yet they kindly agreed to squeeze us in, using some of that Chocolate Factory magic no doubt. Something I love about the hotel is that you never have to open a door, there is always someone there to do it for you, making you feel like royalty the moment you enter. After our coats were taken away to the cloak room we were shown to the classy yet comfy lobby bar where the afternoon tea is served. Hubbie sashayed confidently across the polished floor, already getting into the swing of being posh and pretending he does this all the time. The presence of several other gentlemen chatting merrily away over their respective cuppas confirmed that he didn’t need to feel out of place.
I love a themed tea, so the first excitement was the menu. Each came with a different Charlie character on the back (I got the pink and precocious Veruca Salt), detailing all the yummy bits and pieces we’d be tasting. The tea selection at One Aldwych is always unique and comes in flavours that even I, as a non-tea drinker, actually find delicious. This time I opted for the Jewelled Apple, with wild strawberry leaves, caramel and real apple pieces. Rather like drinking a toffee apple in fact. Hubbie went for sweet tooth overload with the Smooth Caramel, which with its caramel chunks and hints of vanilla was a definite winner. To complete our line-up of decadent tipples we then had to decide between a glass of Champagne or a Cocktail Charlie. There really was no contest. Even hubbie agreed that a magically bubbling glass teapot full of such things as whisky and chocolate bitters was a must. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, the dry ice in the pot kept it ‘steaming’ away for a good 10 minutes. That it was delicious as well was just a bonus. A memorable experience for hubbie’s first ever cocktail.
By this stage he’d stopped worrying about afternoon tea not being very macho, and dug eagerly into the plate of savouries, not even batting an eye at the mini leek and stilton quiche, which he’d normally run a mile to avoid. Pronouncing it delectable (once he’d thought of a posh enough word for it) he continued with the smoked salmon and herb crème fraiche finger sandwich whilst I tucked into the roast beef and grain mustard. After a short break, during which we noticed the oompa-loompa song sneakily popped in between the background classics, came the piece de resistance. The sweets. Considering the theme and not being a fan of chocolate overload I was a little concerned it might be too much for me, (a fact not lamented by hubbie), so I was thrilled with what was laid before us.
The waitress advised we start with the basket of pastries, great advice as the scones, blueberry brioche and cocoa bean financier were all freshly baked and still warm. I would kill for the financier recipe, honestly one of the tastiest little cakes I’ve ever had the pleasure of chomping on. My other winner was the lime, coconut and white chocolate pop, which tasted a bit like those white Ferrero Rocher chocolates, but with a delicious surprise in the middle. Hubbie declared the golden chocolate egg the best as it was filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango sauce. Or should that be coulis? Whatever it was it didn’t last long. We saved the candy floss to the end, having been told by the staff we had to guess the flavour. A long and heated debate ensued, yet it turned out that both ‘sherbet’ and ‘marshmallow’ were way off the mark. Even after tasting we decided there’s no earthly way of knowing the identity of the elusive flavour! I won’t divulge London’s latest culinary secret here, you’ll just have to go and find out for yourselves!
The lounge is such a calm and relaxing spot that we lingered a while, putting off returning to the mad and bustling outside world of London a little longer. Yet all good things have to come to an end, and eventually we waddled out, satisfied, relaxed, and buzzing.
So what was hubbie’s verdict?
Clearing his throat so he could speak in a low and growly masculine voice he reckoned the afternoon tea… “did the job”. I asked myself why I bother, but then noticed the spring in his step, the grin on his face and the sparkle in his eyes. I don’t think that was just down to the sugar!
The Charlie Tea costs £34.50 per person, or £45 per person with a glass of Champagne or a Cocktail Charlie. Many thanks to One Aldwych for providing us with complimentary afternoon teas. As always, words and opinions are my own.