I had been counting down the days until Saturday for a long time. 'Afternoon Tea' was written in my planner and shone out at me, with glittery promise, throughout the dark, busy days preceding it. (Honestly, I changed departments at work this week so things have been more than a little stressful.)
Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea
The glorious opportunity to spend a whole afternoon drinking tea and eating cake was in celebration of a good friend's birthday (Happy Birthday for Tuesday, LT!) and I was also quite curious to see inside the ME Hotel, which has quite a prominent position on The Strand, close to Covent Garden and Waterloo Bridge.
My friend found a deal for champagne afternoon tea at £25 per person, which is quite reasonable for London, and we were allotted a quiet corner in the Marconi Lounge, with plenty of room to chat and enjoy the experience. The hotel itself was a little cold and modern for my taste - I prefer a little quirk and tradition - and more than one of us almost wandered into one of the shiny black bathroom walls (not because of the champagne, I hasten to add!)
I chose the Palace Brew tea, which according to the tea booklet is, "a full-bodied and spicy blend of Assam, Nilgiri and Kenyan teas." I do like quite a strong tea, which I can then adjust to taste with milk, and this really didn't disappoint. The second pot was very gratefully received!
As a coeliac, I of course had the gluten free option and, for the most part, it was very delicious. The sandwiches disappeared far too quickly, with the salt beef and pickle sandwich and the smoked salmon and cream cheese being particularly good. Some forward planning on my part meant I had saved these options until last (does anyone else do that with the items they're particularly looking forward to?!) and they were truly lovely.
The scones were also wonderful - light and not too crumbly, which can be an issue with the gluten free version. The small pots of jam were just enough for the two scones, with a lavish amount of clotted cream. I always spread my jam first, then dollop the cream on top - it just seems to work better that way!
My only criticism would be with the top layer because, as you can see, there were no cakes! I was given a small cylinder of vanilla custard with raspberries on top, which is lurking in the back of the photo, and some fruit flavoured gummy lollipops and strange marshmallow creations, which were stuck in pink sugar. They were very pretty but incredibly disappointing and, considering how easy it is to make gluten free cakes (and good ones at that!), a bit of a let down.
The staff were all very friendly and attentive, without being overbearing. They started clearing away the bottom tiers of plates as soon as we'd finished them, which I found a little unnerving, but we didn't feel at all rushed other than that and we were able to sit and chat for a while after finishing. I find that very important after eating a lot of sweet treats - having to dash off would be disastrous! One difference to other places I've been for afternoon tea is that they didn't offer us additional sandwiches etc. afterwards. Going for afternoon tea is such a treat and often quite expensive, so it would have been nice to have been offered the chance for more of certain options.
(non-GF) Afternoon Tea
So, all in all, I'd give it a grand 3.5 stars out of 5 - lovely attentive service, delicious scones and sandwiches, but lacking an important element (in my case) for an afternoon tea. Coeliacs need cake too, you know!
I didn't hear any complaints from the others though and their cakes looked wonderful, so I've included a picture of the gluten-filled afternoon tea too for your visual delectation.
Hope you all have a lovely week-ahead - have some cake for me!