Afternoon tea for three.
When I decided to visit my aunt in England last week, I emphasized that I wasn’t there to sightsee, nor to be a tourist.
I was there to eat.
And eat, we did.
As my first afternoon tea experience, we decided to go to Villandry, an upscale London restaurant with weekend tea for £18/pp between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Villandry’s weekend tea menu includes finger sandwiches, a huge scone with clotted cream & jam, mini-tarts, cakes, champagne, and a choice of coffee or a pot of tea.
We made a reservation online, about an hour and a half before, and rushed over after our tour of Selfridges London flagship store.
Upon arrival (and after entering the wrong part of the restaurant), we were ushered into their red tea room and quickly seated. One of the managers came over and asked if we had made a reservation (which we had) and informed us that we were supposed to make a reservation at least a day in advance. However, the site did not say anything about this when we booked, and we were able to book without problem.
We pointed this issue out to the manager and he was quick to accommodate, saying it would take a bit of extra time, but they would manage. Serving us each a flute of champagne (though it tasted more like prosecco), we anxiously waited for our afternoon tea to arrive.
When our tea arrived, we were floored. There was so much food and not enough room in our stomachs.
But we were going to at least try to finish everything.
A proper British afternoon tea is served on a three-tiered stand, starting with heavier sandwiches and sometimes salad at the bottom, a scone, clotted cream and jam in the middle, and sweets (typically cakes or tarts) at the top. You are supposed to work your way from the bottom to the top.
So let’s start at the bottom.
The bottom tier had two types of sandwiches: smoked salmon and cream cheese finger sandwiches on white bread and ham and cheese sandwiches on granary bread. It was served with a small spring salad and a lemon half.
The second tier had a huge scone (similar to an American biscuit but slightly sweeter), clotted cream (a byproduct of butter) and strawberry preserves. This combination immediately became my favorite pairing with tea as it had the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and carby.
The top of the tier had a selection of tarts and cakes. There was a too-sweet toffee tart topped with clotted cream and caramel, a slice of tasteless cheesecake topped with am, a dense fudge-like brownie, a yummy lemon bar topped with clotted cream and powdered sugar, and a decent meringue topped with clotted cream and a strawberry.
At the end of the meal, we managed to polish off all the sandwiches, most of our scones, some of the tarts and cakes, and none of the salad. The waitstaff was accommodating enough to allow us to box up the rest of our meals, and was more than attentive throughout the entire meal.
Villandry provided an excellent introduction to the amazing and fantastic idea that is British afternoon tea, and I am dying to come back. Afternoon tea has officially become a part of me.
Now I’m craving (read: dying) for the laid back, relaxed afternoon teas of England with warm scones, fresh clotted cream, and homemade strawberry preserves.
Someone airdrop me some ASAP!
Have a favorite afternoon tea place in England or in New York? Share below, I’d love to hear all about it!