I think I should start with a confession, I am absolutely obsessed with Alice in Wonderland and have been for years. I did a photography and textile project based around her for my A-Level work and for my 21st birthday I had an Alice in Wonderland themed party. Then last year I stayed up until 3am for an immersive theatre performance at Edinburgh Fringe. London has had a good range of Alice inspired events this summer and although I’ve been too late to book most of them, I did get to go to afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel.
On the day of our afternoon tea I was pretty excited, it had been months since my last afternoon tea and I couldn’t wait to sample this specially crafted delight. We arrived at the Sanderson Hotel a little earlier than our booking, unfazed by the rough looking exterior of the building, we made our way into a much fancier looking reception. After giving our names we were quickly seated outside in the courtyard and left to settle into our surroundings. I was worried about being sat outside in the chilly air but the heater above me soon made my worries disappear. As I waited for my friend to come back from the toilet I began quizzically picking up the items on our table. I soon discovered the menu for the afternoon tea was hidden inside the old book and the jewellery box was full of sugar cubes. What I failed to find was the exciting* tea menu but our waitress quickly pointed out the pages in the old book that it was hidden on.
*when I say exciting I mean flavours you would not expect to find as tea
Our waitress bought over some of the tea leaves for us to smell and help with our decision making of which tea we wanted. She was also quick to ask if there were any dietary requirements so they could begin preparing our plate. After much debating we settled on an apple pie tea and an English breakfast tea (you know, just to be safe). We’d spent so long debating that we actually received our food before the tea!
I’m not going to talk you through every flavour and taste because the menu (which is available online) does a pretty good job of that. However, you could tell the flavours were very well thought out and of course not your typical afternoon tea expectations. The colours were bright and fun, just as you would imagine and there was the obligatory black and white worked into the stack. The cakes were the main draw of the afternoon tea, all decorated with an Alice theme and tastes to match. There was a queen of hearts, a tea cup, carrots and marshmallow mushrooms. However, all together they did become a little too sweet and I wasn’t able to finish every single one. No Alice afternoon tea would be complete without a ‘drink me’ potion and I’m pleased to say we had one. A creamy mango flavoured drink which thankfully didn’t shrink me.
The theme even continued through onto the china wear, each plate and tea cup had a black and white design and the ones surrounding us were all decorated differently. The teapots were either decorated with a king or queen face, again in black and white. The detail and thought which has gone into this afternoon tea was well beyond my expectation, even as an Alice obsessive.
Despite being a pricey experience at £38 plus 15% service charge I really felt like the whole experience including the food was worth that money. Especially when you think of the central London location and status of the hotel. The staff were friendly, helpful and very clued up about the food and drink. The service wasn’t far from that we received at Sketch a much higher priced restaurant in central London.
The Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at the Sanderson is running indefinitely and you can find all the details, including how to book a table on their website. I would easily go again it was that good.