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ENCORE AND BRAVO – A magical afternoon tea devoured by its patrons!
Guest Feature by Sarah Laycock:
Once upon a time…a themed afternoon tea evoked strong scenes of A Midsummer’s Night Dream leaving a theatrical deliciousness on my palate! I was delighted to accept the invite to the launch of A Midsummer Night’s Dream afternoon tea held at the Swan, Globe Theatre aptly coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (23 April). The inspiration behind the customised tea is evident from a first glance at the bespoke crockery. The renowned and very talented illustrator Annika Wester (Previous commissions include Nike and Lacoste) succeeds in plunging the clientele straight into the heart of the play with beloved and fondly remembered characters alongside their quotes adorning the plates and tea cups. It has an enchanting, comical and surreal effect even before the succulent offerings make their appearance. Situated on Bankside overlooking the River Thames, Swan provides stunning and unrivalled views across St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London, perfect for winding down from a busy schedule.
Enter the lead characters! An eclectic menu designed with obvious forethought to suit a diversity of palates and satisfy both sweet and savoury expectations. Mulberries, Pea Flower and Apricots all deftly make an appearance that rather cleverly coincide with the context of various scenes in the actual play. I would advise any takers not to have imbibed or taken a heavy lunch beforehand as the generous portions and volume on offer will satisfy the hungriest (or indeed greediest!) appetite.
Working from bottom to top seemed to me the logical way to tackle such delights with the sweetest offerings leaving a very pleasant lingering aftertaste. With relish I tucked into herb fed lemon chicken sandwiches with pea flower, Duck Egg Mayonnaise sandwiches with asparagus (my particular favourite as the creaminess offset by the asparagus was mouth-wateringly delicious), Smoked Salmon with grape mustard and a dill pancake before managing to find room for a very appetising Wild Mushroom and Whipped Goats Cheese Tart. The symmetry and presentation of all dishes were perfect and allowed plenty of opportunity for ample sampling. Believe me, you will want to get a nibble of everything – all this food should be labelled EAT ME (reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland in addition to Shakespeare’s magnificent A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
It would have been rude not to ascend the cake stand tier and reach out for a fruitfully exquisite Mulberry Scone with fresh clotted cream and jam. A colourful conversation ensued around the age old topic of jam or cream first but suffice to say the texture and taste of the scones guaranteed a no crumbs outcome for all participating. At this point, the sampling was starting to strain my appetite but not enough to prevent me opting for the top tier Strawberry Delice with elderflower meringue – a real melt in the mouth moment with the Strawberry and Elderflower notes perfectly synchronised. Berry Berry nice if you will pardon the pun! The other offerings of Lemon and Rose Cake, Chocolate and Violet Choquettes not forgetting a colourful Hibiscus and Apricot Dessert Shot drew gasps of admiration from the surrounding diners.
I have purposely left out the drink options to accord them the merit they duly deserve. An optional extra that I would highly recommend is The Love Potion, an enchanting concoction of Earl Grey Infused Gin, Honey from the London Honey Company, blackberry puree and prosecco topped with fresh blackberries. The potion itself resides in a beautiful small glass bottle sitting alongside a half glass of prosecco so that guests can mix and control the strength of taste according to personal preferences. Hats off and all credit to mixologist Charles Gaboreau who has created such a delectable and refreshing summery taste with Earl Grey notes bursting through with every mouthful. This really complements the ethos and themed feel that is prevalent across all aspects of the afternoon tea. Accompanying the standard tea is a whole host of delicious tea offerings ranging from Black Teas through to Green/White Teas or Herbal Teas. I chose a White Pear and Ginger Tea with the key flavour notes resplendent in every sip. My only quibble, a minor criticism, is that the tea strainer perforations were too large resulting in some residue of leaves left at the bottom of my cup.
A splendidly theatrical tea that left a smile on my plate literally! This tea would be perfect as a stand alone or a wonderful post accompaniment to a matinee performance of A Midsummer’s Night Dream at The Globe. It represents excellent value for money with the standard version (food only) available at a hugely reasonable £24.50 or for those who want to imbibe and enhance the magical setting £29.50 with a glass of prosecco, £32.50 with a glass of champagne, £33 with a love potion cocktail (as per review) and finally a very tempting £39.50 with 90 minutes of unlimited prosecco!
My sincere thanks to all those involved in the arrangement, serving and creation of such an enchanting afternoon.
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Disclaimer: I was a guest of The Swan at the Globe
21 New Globe Walk,
London SE1 9DT