The British tradition of afternoon tea was pioneered in the 19th century, by the 7th Duchess of Bedford. She dreamt it up as a stopgap between breakfast and dinner, when only two meals were eaten a day; and it became an excuse for society ‘ladies’ to get together in the afternoon, over tea, sandwiches and cake.
My daughter and I had a (scrummy) taste of this tradition last week, when we were asked by Gretta of Mums do Travel to join her in taking up an invitation by the Reform Social & Grill, to sample their selection of afternoon teas. We were also joined by Jen of Jenography and Afra of Mad Mum of 7.
The Reform has developed three versions of the classic afternoon tea. The Vintage is based around ladies’ tea parties of the 1940s and 50s, including a selection of fancies like somerset apple cake , battenburg and black forest roll; a cream tea, with scones and jam; four different types of sandwiches; a choice of seasonal bellini (peach or apple at the moment) and a long list of teas. There’s a Gentleman’s version, which is an innovation of the Reform (it is styled like a gentleman’s club, after all). I didn’t opt for this, but I wish I had; it includes all the fancies, teas and bellini but instead of the sandwiches you get a sausage roll, fish finger with mushy peas, and (the best bit, in my view) a steak sandwich with snails.
And then, there’s the Mini afternoon tea. My three-year-old daughter was the only child to come along, so she became chief taster for the youngster’s menu.
The mini afternoon tea was substantial; I’d say it would even be enough to feed a teenager, and what Gwen didn’t eat we were able to take away with us. The savoury part of the meal consisted of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, as well as a fishfinger with ketchup, and BBQ chicken, both of which came in brioche rolls.
The fishfingers were made from good quality, proper chunks of fish. Even though the BBQ sauce in the chicken sandwich was a little too piquant for my fussy little eater, I enjoyed the nibble I stole. Gwen’s favourite part of the meal, though, was the strawberry milk shake, which (when she passed it over to me to try) tasted as though it was made with fresh berries. Not too sugary, but just sweet enough to keep our little Miss happy. It was the first thing she told her Daddy and (rather envious) older brother about, when we chatted about the excursion that evening.
And then, there was the sweet part of the tea. This came in a cute tin lunchbox, and included a gingerbread man for dipping in the milkshake; a couple of biscuits; a fruit and chocolate chip scone with jam; a jelly and custard pot; and a bowl of chocolate and mini-marshmallows, all mixed together (this tasted a load more appetising than it looked).The one item (apart from the milkshake) that Gwen finished, down to the last drop, was the jelly and custard pot, so I’d say that was the thing she liked the most. If it was anything like the summer fruit custard pot included with the grown-ups’ fancies, I’m not surprised. Ours was light and even (dare I say this of a dessert?) lemony enough to be palate-cleansing in amongst the rich selection of cakes.
I was pleased the Reform hadn’t gone overboard with super-sweet cakes in their mini afternoon tea; although I did feel a bit guilty later when Gwen spotted a picture of my pink battenburg, which she said she’d have liked to try. So I used that as an excuse to promise her a return visit some time, along with her brother. The Reform has brought out a Festive version of their vintage afternoon tea, so perhaps we’ll take a pitstop while Christmas shopping (the Mandeville Hotel is located very close to Bond Street station and Oxford Street).
I’d like to thank the Reform for a delightful treat, as well as fellow tea ladies Gretta, Jen and Afra for their company. Gretta and Afra have written about their experience of the afternoon tea on their own blogs; those posts go into more detail about the Vintage and Gentleman’s teas, so do take a look if you’re interested in going along some time.
Gwen and I were guests of the Reform Social and Grill. All views are my own.
Mini afternoon tea is served all week, from 15.00 to 17.30 on weedays, and from 12.00 to 17.00/17.30 on Saturday/Sunday. Mini afternoon tea is £12.50. For the Vintage and Gentleman’s teas, a charge of £26.50 applies, or £32.50/£36.50 for free-flowing bubbles/champagne.
Which do you think is the best afternoon tea in London? We haven’t sampled enough of them to make an informed decision. We have tried some great teas, though. As well as the Cutty Sark afternoon tea, we also enjoyed: