Having now spread around the world, you can have an afternoon tea in Fortnum & Mason in either London or Dubai. They have the same basic design, with a few small differences. However, the location of its second store in Dubai tells you everything you need to know; its luxury.
We’ve visited Fortnum & Mason’s perfect afternoon tea before, so let us take you on the journey too.
You start in the reverse of a Disney ride, by going through the ‘gift shop’ of Fortnum & Mason. The fourth floor if your stop, before you have to walk up the remaining flight of stairs (there is a separate lift for those not able to take the stairs). You’re greeted by a grand piano playing, with a small desk in front. You’ll be shown to your table where you’ll afternoon tea. This however is the draw of Fortnum & Mason to me; there are different areas. Each time we’ve requested a different area, meaning we’ve now gone ‘full circle’ and gone to each. There is a large open well lit area which most are taken to, which feels airy and light, featuring a large window fronted area, which if you’re lucky enough to be sat by you can people watch to your hearts content. There’s also the tea tasting room, seating 8, hidden away and much quieter, this area can be booked out by a party. Finally, there is the tea bar, as pictured below, it’s the area teas are made, in a small but very well lit room, dripping with class (this is where the famous people go).
Finally, you see the tables, all laid out in white, with white and blue porcelain, making an icon image. The class and sophistication coming from their table setting is breath taking. When they bring out the teas you get specific tea strainers, tea spoon holders and pots, making you feel special. The golden lines on the edges; remind you that it’s a pure luxury to be here.
Tea is where Fortnum & Mason really shines. Long ago, the tea importer supplied a series of teas for the Royal family, and they haven’t stopped since then. As a result, when you tea at Fortnum & Mason you get the best tea experience you will find in London. With 55 teas, from all over the globe and flavours to please any palate, it’s a perfect list to read. They know their tea, they talk you through them, if you’re unsure about which tea they can make up small pots to try. Simply put, if you love tea, then afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason is the best place to go. We tried countless teas, with and without milk, and got jolly tea drunk in the process.
However, to end there wouldn’t be appropriate. You see, Fortnum & Mason have a secret menu. Ask to see the rare teas list and you’ll be presented with a series of truly remarkable teas, with remarkable costs, which you can also sip to your hearts content. Charged by the pot, these teas are only for the true connoisseur.
Unlike many afternoon teas, you have a large choice about your style of tea; you can have a simple afternoon tea, a savoury afternoon tea (without scones, but with savoury tarts), or a high tea. My personal experience is the high tea is best. You start with a main dish, a meal, all of which are made in the Michelin star kitchen, which on its own is probably enough. Then the cakes, pastries, sandwiches and desserts come out. However the pacing of the high tea is perfect, they let you sit back and the food go down whilst they talk through teas, by the time the sandwiches come out, you feel peckish again.
The menu is constantly changing, so much so they don’t even print it, it can change day by day, to make sure the best ingredients are used. In addition the pastry chefs are let loose to do as they please, making fantastic combinations which are always different.
The plates themselves though look small, they don’t hold much, edging you to finish. Then they ask if you want more; say yes and you get a different set of tasty treats.
White gloved servers, knowing their menus inside out, moving around almost on air; service at Fortnum & Mason is best described as happening without you noticing. They spend time with you, but you don’t feel like they’re on top of you, they’re aware of you’ve gone through most of the food, and will offer more in a polite way, when conversation between your guests pauses. Perfect.
Depending on your choice of menu, it can vary from £44 to £50, with additional cost of champagnes, or extra drinks on top. This almost perfectly matches that of The Ritz, and in my opinion is better on many levels, such as tea choice, food choice and atmosphere.
Fortnum & Mason has one difference over most of the other afternoon teas in London; there’s a shop downstairs. In the shop you can get all of the blends (and a few more), along with more cakes, sweets, biscuits, etc. Going to the shop is an experience in itself, decorated in a palatial style, and full of sumptuous treats.
The Fortnum & Mason experience is by far the most decadent of the afternoon teas in London, with the best tea selection. Its ability to charm time after time with a changing season menu and different seating areas makes it a perfect mix of charm and confidence.