Whether you're a true connoisseur, just in it for the caffeine or, dare I say it, a 'hipster', chances are you probably drink a lot of our national beverage. Now, that muddy mess you slosh around a bit in the morning is all well and good, but if you want something a little more luxurious you may be interested in this humble column of mine. Off the bat I think a disclaimer may be necessary, I'm most certainly not the self-proclaimed Jean-Baptiste Grenouille of blends and infusions (the sensory genius and main character of Süskind’s ‘Perfume’, as I’m SURE you all already know), so taking all of what I write to heart may be ill advised. I hope you'll forgive me this, but I had hoped we could go on this little adventure of discovery together.
Not being a so-called 'risk taker', I thought I would open with something familiar, something comforting, something which I had already planned before I had even heard about The Gazette. I am, of course, speaking of the tea-pilgrim's Mecca for nearly 300 years, and indeed one of my favourite London haunts, Fortnum and Mason. More specifically, The Diamond Jubilee Tea salon on the top floor which, as you can probably guess, is a rather recent addition to the store. So, before I get on to the tea, I'd just like to say a few words about the tearoom itself. It is charming. With wonderful duck egg and cream décor and beautiful silverware, (available to buy downstairs, providing, of course, that you don't really want to go on holiday this year anyway...) it is indeed almost charming enough to compensate for the fact that most of the clientele seemed compelled to scream their small talk across the tables (“DARLING, I DO WISH YOU’D KEEP THAT TEA AWAY FROM MY PASHMINA”). I am also at a loss as to how one could extract such a din from a simple set of cutlery, no matter. Surprisingly, these oblivious percussionists were far more diverse than I could have ever anticipated, which was pleasantly refreshing, and I’m sure that some of the tourists present must have arrived on the same plane as the tea that they were now drinking. Quick, let’s get to the tea before I find something else to exaggerate!
I'm going to have to use the excuse of 'when in Rome...' to justify my rather unoriginal choice of tea, Fortmason, the house blend. Although, if I'm honest, it needs no real justification at all! A black tea, half India half China, it has a gorgeous aromatic taste and scent provided by an orange blossom perfume, making it ideal for a light afternoon pick-me-up. I would always take it brewed lightly, without milk or sugar (although to be fair I consider milk in any sort of tea sacrilege of the highest form) but if you are that way inclined, a drop of milk, but only a drop mind you, is permissible. Keep in mind this isn't the punch to your palate that, for example, a dark smoked tea such as Lapsang Souchong would be, but if you're looking for a delicate start to the day, or a companion to your elevenses, or in my case the wonderful selection of endless finger sandwiches, scones and enticing miniature cakes that made up the set meal, I can't recommend it highly enough!
Continuing along the theme of horrific puns, I felt as though a gimmicky rating system would only be appropriate.
The service was punctual and the waiters were courteous, although somewhat robotic.
As you would expect, it can not be faulted. Absolutely delicious!
One would not expect originality from such a traditional institution, however, some of the flavour combinations took a creative spin without detracting too far from proven classics.
Fortnum and Mason UK, 181 Piccadilly London W1A 1ER