This was something I was really looking forward to. About a month before my trip to London, I began studiously researching the different Afternoon Teas available around London, but this was not the fruit of that labour. A few years ago, on some flight or other (possibly British Airways), I came across an advertisement for an Alice in Wonderland themed Afternoon Tea, and it stuck with me. Not because of the recent explosion of appreciation for the show, but because it's been one of my favourite cartoons since I was a child. So when I saw it, it immediately went onto my bucket list. It had to be done! And what better time than the present?
So I made reservations for three of us, and they were incredibly accommodating about adding a third person at the last minute. There was a response which made note of the dietary requirements, i.e. two vegetarians, and all two of our aversions to raisins/currants in scones.
So we Google Mapped our way to the hotel. It's a reasonably nondescript building which hides treasures within it.
This was the front of the hotel:
Very pretty! I was too excited about the tea to take pictures of the hotel lobby (I'm sure you're sensing a theme to this), but I really should have. It's done up in a very modern, artsy way with an assortment of eclectic couches and seating at the bar. It's very open plan and really quite pretty. It would definitely appeal to the hipster crowd. It's quite a transition between regular afternoon teas which tend to be found in more traditionally decked out hotels, so it was quite an experience to wander through the lobby looking at all the different pieces which fit together rather oddly.
So Suka is styled in a very different manner and I suspect it's to accommodate this particular afternoon tea because the restaurant opens into an outdoor area which is styled like a tea garden. It's really quite a spectacular setting because it feels like you're walking into a world of your own.
[Suka, Sanderson Hotel]
It was sheer luck that the day was quite pleasant, but they had outdoor heaters to ensure comfort. The English "summer" is not to be trusted. But seriously, look at the setting. It truly does make you feel like you're stepping onto a set of The Secret Garden, or to be corny, "Wonderland"...but not so much.
Now, back to the experience of the tea.
When you're seated, you will immediately notice your place settings because I have never seen anything quite as lovely and fantastic:
[Napkins Wrapped in Riddles]
[Matching Plates, Teacups and Saucers]
Each place setting has a different theme and the plates are extensions of the cups and saucers. I absolutely love these! I want them in my house! Also, since I have a few issues, I did ask for a new plate and cutlery for the sweets after eating the savoury bits, and they replaced them with the same plates ensuring continuity in the theme. Talk about attention to detail!
[Sugar Cubes in a Musical Box]
Yes, the ballerina in there even twirls with the music! The klepto in me really wanted to take this home but I stopped myself.
You do see that book on the music box? It functions as a menu:
[Afternoon Tea Menu]
This truly is the most thought I've seen given to a theme.
It must be said that the waitresses were absolutely fantastic. They knew their stuff and were more than helpful in accommodating our random requests. Firstly, they took our orders for tea and informed us that Sanderson Hotel had three proprietary blends which weren't available anywhere else. In order to introduce these teas to us, they brought us samples of the tea to smell:
How pretty is that? I can't recall what the three teas were because I'm not a fan of fruity teas, but they would definitely appeal to fruit tea lovers. I'm reasonably sure these were tisanes, but I cannot be positive.
They also informed us that we could have regular teas if these weren't up our alley. It was only after we were almost done that we realised that they also had flowering tea at their disposal. I should probably have let her finish talking before saying I wanted English Breakfast Tea. So, two of us had that and the third had one of the fruity teas...raspberry something or other if I'm not wrong.
In ensuring that we didn't get fruit scones, we were informed that the set came with savoury and sweet scones. The savoury scones were olive scones while the sweet were blackcurrant scones. We requested for the latter to be replaced with plain scones and were informed that their plain scones were gluten free. I was somewhat skeptical, but gluten free is far better than currant filled so it worked for me and we ordered those.
[Teapots and Milk Jug]
Look at the teapots! Aren't they absolutely adorable? All their pots have both the King and Queen caricatures on either side, and the pot on the left contained the fruit tea while the pot on the right contained the English Breakfast tea.
[Sanderson Hotel's Proprietary Blend of Fruit Tea]
[English Breakfast Tea with a Dash of Milk]
[Herb Butter, Clotted Cream, Strawberry Jam]
They served the accompaniments first. The herb butter was for the savoury olive scones and was really very yum! The clotted cream was possibly just butter and the strawberry jam was a tad too sweet for my liking. However, they were packed with flavour and very fresh.
[Tea Set for Two]
I had a set of my own because the two of them were vegetarian. I quite enjoy being possessive so hahaha.
Let's go through the layers. It's so exciting!
[Tier 1: Smoked Cumbrian Ham with Wholegrain Mustard on Sundried Tomato Bread (Orange), Cucumber and Chive Cream Cheese on Spinach Bread (Green), Cold Smoked Salmon and Lemon Butter on Dark Rye Bread (Black), Egg Mayonnaise with Watercress and Smoked Sea Salt on Lemon Bread (Yellow)]
[Tier 1: Vegetable Quiche]
[Tier 1: Olive Scone and Plain (Gluten-Free) Scone]
I was extremely satisfied with Tier 1! The sandwiches were really quite lovely. The bread was very fresh, as were ingredients and they weren't stodgy or too dense. Very delicious and nicely presented. The quiche was excellent. It was just the right amount of eggy and wasn't overpowered by the mixed vegetables. The crust was nice and flaky and by no means soggy at its base. The scones were truly a surprise.
Naturally, I was a bit iffy about trying the olive scone but wow. I'm so glad I did. It was really quite exquisite. It tasted much like bread soaked in olive oil, but without being too oily or too rich. It paired all too perfectly with the herb butter. I don't know how they did it, but it was actually a decently crumbly scone which I wouldn't expect from something containing olives (which were unnoticeable in the best possible way).
As for the gluten-free scone? Fantastic! No disappointments there. I really couldn't tell the difference between this and a regular scone and it tasted wonderful. It was flaky and crumbly and absolutely spectacular even on its own.
[Tier 2: "Drink Me" Potion]
[Tier 2: Tick Tock - Traditional Victoria Sponge]
[Tier 2: Matcha Green Tea and White Chocolate Mousse Served in Chocolate Tea Cup]
[Tier 2: Melting Mango Cheesecake]
Tier 2 was really full of surprises. Let's kick off with the "Drink Me" Potion.
It wasn't what I expected...but in the best possible way. It was absolutely delicious. The waitress told us to drink it slowly because it was layered with passionfruit, coconut and something else that I like but can't recall, and the combination of the drink was absolutely amazing. I can't describe how lovely it was with the tart passionfruit mixing with the creamy, thick coconut. It was quite a concoction. I want more!
The victoria sponge (Tick Tock) was tasty but really quite sweet so I had half of it which was more than enough. I found it absolutely adorable that they iced a clock face on it. So pretty!
I didn't actually eat the Mango Cheesecake because I am neither a fan of mango nor cheesecake, but the presentation was very good and I'm sure it would have tasted wonderful to anyone who liked either or both of those components.
I'm also not a fan of matcha flavoured stuff so I wasn't going to try the Chocolate Teacup, but I was swayed by one of my dining companion's reaction to the dessert. She was eating it quite happily when she suddenly got a very weird look on her face. She thought she was going a little mad because she could feel sparks in her mouth and her throat. Then it dawned on her that there may have been "pop rocks" in the dessert! So we all tried it and yes, there were! It was absolutely fascinating and completely unexpected. The dessert itself was quite tasty and very smooth with a kick at the end from the mini chemical reactions that occur around your mouth and down your throat. It was quite something!
[Tier 3: "Strawberries and Cream" Homemade Marshmallow Mushrooms]
[Tier 3: Carrot Meringue Served on a Bed of Pea Shoots]
The presentation of this tier was simply stunning. Everything (except the teacup) was edible! The waitress referred to the marshmallows as "magic mushrooms" which I love because it absolutely represents the caterpillar in the cartoon. They were so adorable and simply marshmallow-y.
I didn't try the meringue, but apparently it just tasted like meringue and was filled with some random jam which none of us could decipher. I think I maybe have appreciated it more as a macaron since it technically could have been one. Perhaps orange with chocolate ganache?
I did, however, eat the pea shoots. They were actually really tasty. They basically tasted like peas but a little earthier. It was a good way to cut the excessive sweetness down.
The jellies were self-service but we were too full and definitely filled to the brim with a sugar overdose to even contemplate it.
All in all, I have no regrets about this. It was completely gorgeous and there wasn't really a compromise on flavour, except maybe a little too much sugar in the sweets. Perhaps this is just my preference for subtle sweetness.
From the setting, to the really fantastic waitress to the Afternoon Tea itself, I would do this again.
On a side note, tea is topped up freely, and they do options like coffee and hot chocolates to replace tea if that is not your thing, which I found to be a really good set of options. They also readily provide extra scones, we were informed, which is lovely of them.
The Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea runs for £35 per person as stated, but will run you £40+ per person after VAT.
50 Berners Street, London W1T 3NG