‘The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!”
I spotted this quote, from the famously harassed White Rabbit from Caroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, just the other day. It seemed to sum up life at the moment: an endless race to get things done, whilst simultaneously managing to fall behind on nearly everything. Constantly checking my own version of Rabbit’s pocket watch (in my case, my Outlook calendar), the more effort I seemed to put into things, the more that work seemed to multiply.
Curious and curiouser.
By the time that last Thursday rolled around, I was therefore ready to ditch the calendar and to jump down a rabbit hole of my very own: forgetting work, deadlines, emails, and my soon-to-expire car insurance. Luckily for me, my rabbit hole was already sorted: the ever-decadent Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Suites and Residences. And once down it? I’d discover a Mad Hatter’s tea party of my very own.
After meeting my partner in crime for the afternoon, the beautiful Chloe, we made our short (yet blustery) walk from Victoria Station to the hotel. Hidden away next to Buckingham Palace, the hotel is every inch as beautiful as you’d imagine for one sharing its postcode with a palace. Having been built in 1902, the hotel was deemed one of the finest in the capital, with beautiful architecture and courtyard gardens. Now owned by Taj Hotels, a chain known for its flair for reinventing tradition, the hotel remains just as beautiful, with hints of its Indian owners throughout (we spotted two beautifully patterned elephant sculptures on our way in!) The Alice in Wonderland themed tea is part of this general ethos, offering up a new version of the very British institution of afternoon tea. Forget a dry scone and dated tearoom, these teas are as eclectic as the fairy tales and stories that have inspired them.
Passing through the colourful courtyard gardens, filled with fountains and walls of flowers, we made our way into the dining room, ready for our afternoon of treats (a word of warning, this hotel is enormous, so set aside some time for inevitably getting lost!) Once safely inside, we were immediately seated at the prettiest table you ever did see. Filled with bright, floral-patterned bone china; pink flowers; pearls and giant playing cards; it was clear that Taj are sticklers for detail, offering their guests a memorable experience, rather than a quick cup of tea and a piece of cake.
Having browsed their enormous tea menu (who knew you could get tea with crushed blue cornflowers in it?), we began our sugar-fuelled afternoon. First up were the delicate finger sandwiches. Rather than the usual egg-mayonnaise combination offered up at these sorts of events, these sandwiches – the ‘Alice’, the ‘Bird in Tree’ and the ‘Lory’ – were an exotic mix of beetroot breads, carrot breads, ratatouille and redcurrant jelly. Not an egg mayo sandwich in sight!
Next up: cakes and scones. First thing’s first: these delicate little cakes and pastries were beautiful. When it comes to photographing things, I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t quite bring myself to go all out blogger: climbing onto furniture and standing over food, in an attempt to get that perfect photo of my morning acai bowel and berries (or in reality, my cup of tea and banana). However, for these little cakes I would have done that. I’d have stood on that table.
After roping poor Chloe in to help me get photographs of these perfect little creations, we finally tucked into Alice’s treats. With plain, chocolate chip and golden sultana scones; clotted cream and strawberry jam; bubble gum macaroons shaped like pocket watches; a Queen of Heart’s mango tart (complete with sparkly golden crown); raspberry marshmallows shaped like the Caterpillar’s mushroom; tea cups filled with white chocolate mousse; little pink ‘drink me’ potions and finally, a beautiful little blue and silver Alice sponge cake, this was one of the best afternoon teas I’ve had.
The attention to detail was incredible, with each little cake having been individually decorated and the flavours of each carefully considered. There was glitter, bright colours, vibrant flavours and delicate decorations on each. Compared to the last afternoon tea I had at a stuffy tearoom in my local town, I can testify to Taj’s talent for reinvigorating the traditional!
Somehow, four hours passed (something to do with a lot of chatting, eating and Taj’s cocktail list!) and it was time to leave; running back to Victoria to catch the train home. Clutching my takeaway box of pastries, I joined the other busy commuters on their way home, sitting on the floor of the train amongst warm feet and muddy bikes. I was returning to the real world after finding my way out of the rabbit hole, and I knew how poor Alice must have felt. A little sad.
For anyone considering afternoon tea in London this summer, then please do consider this tasty, glitter explosion of a tea at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Suites and Residences. And remember: don’t be late!
Thank you to Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Suites and Residences, for having us!