A Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea for my very own Alice
Two years ago - which was around the time that Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland film came out - the Sanderson Hotel in London started doing a Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea. I was looking for something to do with my friend Alice for her birthday and decided this would be the perfect treat.
The Sanderson hotel is quite quirky - it has a giant sofa shaped like a pair of red lips in the lobby and a sort of hanging bauble you can sit in as well (take it from me, it's not easy to get out again!). Afternoon tea is taken either in the courtyard garden or in the bar/restaurant alongside; we sat inside on high stools at a long bar-style table with a nice view of the garden outside (it was February after all).
Looking at the Sanderson's website I see that the menu has changed somewhat since I was there; they do say that the menu continues to evolve and I think over time the hotel has perhaps come up with some better ideas and become a bit more daring - for instance it says "Guests will be invited to ‘Jelly Wonderland’, where the most delicious fruit jellies made in Victorian jelly moulds are presented on a lavish Phillipe Starck cake trolley" - which I don't recall being there in 2011.
We started with a selection of finger sandwiches with traditional fillings - cucumber, ham and mustard, salmon and cream cheese and egg mayonnaise. However, they were served on different colour bread, which had been coloured with beetroot, spinach and saffron - the colourings didn't give the sandwiches a strong flavour and it was an unusual touch.
There were also scones, which I don't think I took a photo of. It was the other elements of our afternoon tea that were really worth talking about. For instance this "drink me" potion - a little bottle with a straw in, that tasted of apple pie, lemon curd and English toffee - one flavour after another. It was more Willie Wonka than Alice in Wonderland!
We also had a little round chocolate cake decorated to look like a clock ("I'm late! I'm late!") and a blueberry lollipop that somehow turned from hot to cold in your mouth. I've no idea how they did this! Then there was a strawberry and cream mousse encased in a strawberry shell, with "eat me" piped on it:
Finally there was an ice-cream lollipop, which the menu promised would "explode with a single bite" - unfortunately it exploded on the tablecloth when the ball (it looked a bit like a cake pop, but was ice cream inside a chocolate shell) fell of the stick on its way from the cake stand to my plate!
Afternoon tea is £35 per person which is no more expensive than anyone else - though I don't recall being told the food would be replenished if we wanted more, as was the case at the Ritz - and it's definitely worth paying for the unusual experience. Children would love it and adults with a quirky side would certainly too - though it's not the sort of place I would have taken my grandmother. But then, afternoon tea isn't just for a day out with your grannie - we were two 30-something working women and it was a great way to celebrate a birthday.
I loved how unusual and quirky it was and I definitely recommend it.