Fortnum & Mason is an institution in London. This iconic department store was established way back in 1707 by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason who had connections with the royal family and over the years, this store has become a London landmark. It also helps that the store sells some of the finest goods in the city or perhaps even the country but what is truly iconic about Fortnum & Mason is their Afternoon Tea.
Fortnums Afternoon Tea again has a long history. It was started in 1926 at the elegant Tea Salon now named the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon in honour of the Queen’s visit in 2012, when she formally opened the room, in the company of the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge.
The thing with the Afternoon Tea is that it is so popular you need to book way in advance to secure a table. I tried going there once in summer with my friend on a weekend and we were politely refused because we did not have a reservation but most importantly, they did not have any place for the next one month. Yes, it is that busy. Also, you cannot sit there forever. There is a time limit of 1.5 hours which means that for 90 minutes that start from the time you are seated, you can order as much food and refills as you want to from your choice of the menu. If you want to go there, you better go with an empty tummy.
Fortnum & Mason Afternoon Tea
There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea
— Henry James
So what is about Fortnums Afternoon Tea that makes it so popular? Well, firstly, the location is really fancy so you feel rather fancy yourself. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is an extremely elegant and refined setting for the tea. As soon as the elevator door opens to the salon, it becomes clear that you are in for a delightful experience. Because of the festive season, the salon is now decorated beautifully. There is a big Christmas tree in the waiting area and a pianist playing a grand piano.
There are two areas where you can be seated – the Drawing Room, lined with hand-painted silk wallpaper or the North and South Salons oozing charm and sophistication. The colours of Fortnum, pale green and white are everywhere, from the decor to the china and cutlery.
The Afternoon Tea is not just limited to the afternoon. It is available the entire day from 11.30 a.m to 7.30 p.m on weekdays and 11.00 a.m to 7.00 pm on Saturdays and you can choose from four options – Afternoon Tea, Savoury Afternoon Tea, High Tea and Vegetarian Afternoon Tea.
We were a group of four who went for the Tea experience at 11 a.m on a Saturday morning and after much deliberation, two of us decided to go for the Afternoon Tea and the remaining two went for the Savoury Tea. In my opinion, go for the regular Afternoon Tea instead of the Savoury version because you get a good mix of both sweet and savoury items in the former. My friend I think regretted his choice a bit because he was constantly eating out of our share and asking me to order for more. This is perfectly acceptable because you can order as much as you want to for a duration of 1.5 hours.
Fortnum & Mason Afternoon Tea Menu
What is in the menu? You get a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream (savoury scones in the Savoury Tea menu), strawberry preserve and lemon curd and a selection of tea cakes and cakes from the cake carriage (tea savouries in the Savoury version) along with your choice of tea. For an extra £13 per glass, you can also order champagne.
Afternoon tea has always been a rather elaborate affair in England and I got to know that there are rules associated with it. I’ve never been one to care for rules but these are rather fascinating. For starters, milk is always supposed to be added last to the tea, the correct way to hold the fine china is by making your thumb and index finger meet in the handle, tea should be stirred only with a back and forth motion, finger sandwiches must always be eaten with the hands, not cutlery, scones are pronounced as ‘skon’ and never ‘skone’, scones are always broken, not cut and they are never to be sandwiched back together . I might not have followed all these rules to the T at Fortnums but who really cares? Right? 🙂
Coming back to the menu, the star for me was definitely the sandwiches especially the Smoked Salmon with Tartare dressing and the Suffolf Ham with English Mustard. Incredibly soft and light, these were heavenly. The scones were undoubtedly the best I’ve ever had. I am not particularly fond of lemon curd but I do love my scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve and I might have had one too many. The good thing is that you can even take back the jars of preserve and lemon curd if you are unable to finish at the table. In fact you can take back anything from the menu that you are not able to finish. The servers will gladly pack the leftovers in a fancy F&M box and hand it over before you leave.
From the tea cake selection, my favourite was definitely the Black Forest cake and a light as air cake with sugar rose petals on top. I was told that it is the Queen’s favourite as well. Not wanting to miss out on anything despite struggling to eat another morsel, I tried the Victorian Sponge cake, Battenberg cake and the Chocolate cake from the Cake Carriage. The Battenberg cake has been served with the Afternoon Tea since 1926 and is said to be created to celebrate the marriage of Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. This colourful cake with iced marzipan was a bit too sweet for my taste but everyone else loved it. Throughout my 1.5 hrs, I made sure to try as many varieties of tea as I could and ended up drinking chocolate violet, peach, vanilla and strawberry with the latter being the best of them all.
Overall, I loved the experience and I cannot thank the person who invited me there enough. Savouring the famous Fortnum & Mason Afternoon Tea was on my wish list for a long time and it certainly did not disappoint. The service was impeccable, the food was beyond amazing and the staff, super friendly and helpful. I will certainly go back if I am in London again and I will click much better photographs 🙂
Fortnum’s Afternoon Tea
Have you been to Fortnum & Mason? What did you think of the Afternoon Tea?