Afternoon tea is my favourite meal. The fact that tea is central enough to be included in the title is enough. I am part woman, part tea. If something is wrong it’s usually because I need a cuppa and I firmly believe most things can be sorted out over one. I own several teapots and send official Sarah Powell teabags out to everyone on my mailing list (why yes you can sign up right here)
The Powells are a Tetley household. We have always had Tetley tea unless there was a very good offer on another brand that my mother June was swayed by. In the morning June will say “don’t speak to me I haven’t had tea yet” and never goes abroad without several sandwich bags packed full of Tetley. One year she also took Rich Tea biscuits but it turns out they don’t travel well.
The only other thing I love more than tea is tiny little sandwiches. The sort you can eat in two bites. Meaning you can eat 84 of them. Add to this, cakes, scones, cream, jam and the occasional scotch egg and you have the greatest spread on earth. As if this weren’t quite enough, there is also the option to add cocktails and fizz. I believe firmly in adding booze to things. Booze and cheese. Here there is the option for add both.
I have had a lot of afternoon teas. Mine is a body built on clotted cream. I have taken afternoon tea in fancy hotels, by the seaside, at craft afternoons, summer fetes and in the ballroom of a cruise ship. I am delighted by crumpets, squeal for macarons and will always, always have a second scone. Taking tea with someone you love, chatting the afternoon away then going for a lie down is quite simply heaven.
The Sanderson Hotel is a retro 1950’s building outside but inside it’s clever and almost cheeky. I plonked myself down on a red lips sofa in the foyer and honestly didn’t think I’d get up again. To my left was a row of barstools with a giant eye staring out of the back of each of them and to my right twirled a dangling 60s orb seat. How anyone could get in or out of that when full of scone, I will never know.
The Sanderson Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea is centered around their outdoor terrace, a square courtyard with a good breeze but covered enough to stay dry. The first thing to say is there is no fancy dress. Not even if you wanted to. There are no top hats, no bunny ears and no one in a Cheshire Cat purple body stocking. The first thing is to choose from five Alice- inspired teas. Don’t be alarmed by a lack of English Breakfast. I’m someone who only drinks builder’s tea but Alice’s bergamot and vanilla is sweet nectar. In fact it’s so gorgeous they sell it on the way out to take home. Tea is served in bucket sized amounts from fat, stout tea pots guarded by the Queen of Hearts and too heavy not to use both hands. The sugar is found in a ballerina jewellry box which sings when you open it and the menu is bound into a vintage book, the sort of thing Alice would read.
Then comes the towering glory of it all. A skyscraper of delights. The three tiered cakestand of joy. I almost rugby tackled it from the lady bringing it over. Cucumber sandwiches and crab buns at the bottom, pocket watch macaroons in the middle and caterpillar marshmallows at the top. I am now in love with the Queen of Heart biscuits full of jam and cream and I could have eloped with Tweedle Dee’s lemon curd financier. A tiny plant pot of caramel ice cream covered in chocolate soil and honeycombe, arrived as a surprise, the very best sort of surprise. Finally let’s please talk about the darling little bottle of cinnamon, apple and peach “Drink Me” potion, which have daydreamed about at the busstop since. Obviously just in case we weren’t ready to roll home perfect scones, jam came with cream you could have stood up in.
Now look, I must tell you this because the people next to us didn’t realise until it was too late, but you can reorder anything you like. This is quite standard at any afternoon tea so always make enquiries. You want more croque monsieur? You have them. Another mocha chessboard gateau? Go for it. We had six smoked salmon scotch eggs.
Usually I am someone who demands colour to really enjoy a thing and the only thing that is bright orange is the mini macarons nestled in grass. I have to concede, the tea set is perfect in monochrome covered in prancing horses and the stripes of the White Rabbit’s waistcoat. It’s made by Luna and Curious and you can buy the lot if you’re feeling flash or a teacup and saucer to be chic at home.
As I write this, the time is now 3.15pm. Which I think we can all agree is the perfect time for tea.