London afternoon tea: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style

So it seems I shamefully haven’t posted anything on this blog for 4 months. Oops… I’ll put it down to an unsuccessful juggling act: starting a degree, Cantonese classes and slotting into my new job, all at once! It was also my birthday last month (too many belated celebrations also kept me busy), which brings me nicely on to the subject of this post.

To belatedly celebrate with my good friend Beth, we went for afternoon tea at One Aldwych near Covent Garden. I confess I did also go there last year for my 21st birthday but clearly it was so good I had to go back! But this is the only UK place I’ve been for afternoon tea so I don’t have any other London ones to compare to. (And let me tell you, classic afternoon tea at the Peninsula in Hong Kong and Raffles in Singapore will always take some beating but this did come close).

chocolate, cheesecake and milkshake

And I can’t lie, the sole reason I did pick One Aldwych was because of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme, which delighted my inner child. To start with, look at these great menu illustrations. I did sheepishly ask our waitress if I could take the menus home with me because they looked so good. She said I could, but maybe that was only because it was my birthday!

 

As usual with afternoon tea, we got a platter of savoury and a platter of sweets. You can also choose one of two different refreshment options. For £34.50 per person (now £37.50), you have a pot of freshly brewed (four varieties available) with your nibbles or for £45.00 per person (now £48.00) you can have their ‘Cocktail Charlie’ instead of tea. The first time I went, were curious about what the Cocktail Charlie would look like, so we ordered just the one between four of us. It was definitely more of a novelty than anything else but it was good fun watching the ‘smoke’ billow about the table.

smoking red cocktail
Cocktail Charlie

The Cocktail Charlie consists of Dalmore whisky mixed with Grand Marnier Cherry, chocolate bitters, grapefruit juice and cherry syrup, all topped with Champagne. I did also order one of their beautiful teas. Between the four of us, we sampled them all:

  • Jewelled Apple
  • Smooth Caramel
  • Queen of Berries
  • Organic Lavender Grey

You get your own personal teapot, a strainer and free refills when you need them. The second time I went, they had slightly changed their tea selection to:

  • Mango Noir
  • Chocolate Tea
  • Earl Grey Lavender
  • Sugarcane Black

After choosing your tea, the eating commences. Spotlessly presented are the savouries. These don’t tie actually tie into the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme, but nonetheless are really tasty. I can’t fault any of the selection. Both times I went, the sandwiches and savoury consisted of:

  • Smoked salmon and herb crème fraîche
  • Egg mayonnaise with watercress
  • Roast beef and grain mustard mayonnaise
  • Heritage tomato tart
  • Leek and Stilton quiche

sandwiches

The second time I went, we were both cheeky enough to ask for a second platter of sandwiches and savouries. I heard afternoon tea etiquette allows you to do this, at no additional cost, so thought I’d try it out and get our money’s worth! The exact same tower of nibbles arrived again and they were just as good as the first time.

The selection of sweets is arguably the main event. They’re presented on a beautiful wooden pyramid-shaped tower and do remind you more of the Charlie and Chocolate Factory. These were ever so slightly different the second time I went but they impressed on both occasions. (And because we told them in advance it was my birthday, the first time I even got a birthday cake!)

birthday cake and candle
21st birthday last year!

A game the staff like to play is to ask you to guess the candy floss flavour! The first time, it was rhubarb and apple, and the second time I think it was salted caramel. Great fun and it will really keep you guessing! I also like how they seem to change the flavour. The full selection of sweets were:

  • Golden chocolate egg filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango
  • Raspberry trifle/Eton mess
  • Homemade candy floss
  • Rhubarb and vanilla doughnut/Lime, coconut and white chocolate pop
  • Cocoa bean financier
  • Blueberry brioche
chocolate, cakes and pastries
Sweets selection (2015’s menu)

You also get an accompaniment of scones, summer berry jam, apple and meadowsweet compote and Devonshire clotted cream. Again, we were pretty cheeky (and greedy…) and asked for a second round of sweets!

After two and a half hours of happy munching and chatting, we were completely stuffed. The waiter then sheepishly came over and pointed out that as they are very busy, afternoon tea is only meant to be a two-hour sitting. Whoops. Clearly we were having too much fun. We took the hint and asked for the bill. Boy did we get our money’s worth! We rolled ourselves home, Violet Beauregarde style, very happy indeed.

chocolate, sweets and pastries
Sweets selection (2014’s menu)

Overall, I would definitely recommend going to One Aldwych for afternoon tea. It’s a unique experience, the staff are really attentive and accommodating and it’s a beautiful setting for tea. The only thing I would suggest is getting a second platter of each course – if your stomach has room! For £37.50, it might seem a little expensive for just the small initial selection they give you. But honestly, it should always come down to taste, not quantity, and on the taste front, One Aldwych definitely triumphs.

If you’re interested in going, check out their website. I definitely advise you to book well in advance by least two or three months, especially if you plan to go on a Saturday! They’re even doing festive afternoon tea now until 3rd January so get in quick!

Let me know if the comments below what your favourite place in the world for afternoon tea is! Have you been to any themed ones? Which afternoon tea sittings have you got your eye on?


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