Having a ‘cuppa’ tea is something of an English tradition. In fact, we drink 165 million cups of the hot stuff every single day and we love nothing more than popping the kettle on in a bid to solve life’s great dilemma. It’s a reason to break away from our desk at work for a natter, it gives us comfort when we wake up in the morning and it only tastes REALLY good when accompanied by a chocolate biscuit (or three!) To celebrate our new title as Mr & Mrs (post on our wedding here) we were treated by our friends to afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason which happens to be very famous for its loose-leaf tea and of course, its luxury picnic hampers.
Fortnum’s (as it’s often known) has been located in Piccadilly, London, for an impressive 310 years. The story behind this long-standing establishment started in the royal household of Queen Anne. Her insistence on using new candles every night resulted in a lot of leftover wax which a footman, William Fortnum, would sell for a tidy profit. He also had a sideline business as a grocer and he persuaded his landlord, Hugh Mason, to be his associate and they founded the first Fortnum & Mason store in Mason’s small shop in St James’s market.
Now, back to afternoon tea! A ritual started by the Duchess of Bedford whose hunger pangs between breakfast and an increasingly late dinner (thanks to the invention of gas lamps) forced her to snack in her room at Woburn Abbey every afternoon. Guess what? She wasn’t alone and the Duchess was soon inviting her equally as peckish friends for tea and a ‘light refreshment’ and once news reached London, tea rooms were set up and took off like a new season of Suits.
We sauntered though the department store, trying on hats and smelling the various scents, and made our way to the top floor where you will find the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
We were greeted by friendly staff and a lovely serenade played by a suited gentleman on the grand piano. The pianist was however MIA by the time I got to take a photo!
There’s a menu of Fortnum’s famous blends and rare tea to choose from. I opted for the Wedding Breakfast black tea (it seemed fitting!) which happened to be named in honour of Kate and William’s engagement. It’s made with Kenyan tea – where William asked the question.
We ordered two glasses of their pink champagne which promptly arrived with three tiers of savoury and sweet treats.
The sandwiches had everything covered – coronation chicken, glazed ham, smoked salmon and the old favourites, cucumber with mint butter and rare breed hen’s egg mayonnaise with chives. The great thing is you can order another plate of sandwiches at no extra charge if the first round wasn’t enough so fill your boots!
The tea salon adopts F&M’s signature colour Eau de Nil, from the chinaware to the arm chairs. The plain and fruit scones were delightful and still warm from the oven, we caked ours in the Somerset clotted cream and F&M strawberry preserve.
We were too full for the sweet stuff but Fortnum’s can arrange takeaway boxes for any failed attempts at clearing all three tiers!
Avoiding the hectic scenes of tourists frantically buying anything branded with F&M (William and Hugh would be pleased!) we took a moment to appreciate the windows displays which celebrated English summer scenes and playful takes on their iconic picnic hamper.
We really enjoyed our afternoon at Fortnum and Mason so a special thank you to Mark, Natasha and Jasper. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is a wonderful place to celebrate a special celebration. if you have something in mind, make sure you book in advance, it’s pretty popular after 310 years in business! Book your afternoon tea here.
Fortum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER.
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