Afternoon Tea | July 11, 2016 | Food
Plate expectations: Secrets of Chatsworth’s new Wedgwood afternoon tea
When Chatsworth House and Wedgwood teamed up to create a new afternoon tea concept, it brought together two English icons that few can rival for long history.
It’s easy to see why the pair are a match: they each have a heritage of excellence, luxury and royal connections – and geographically they’re less than 40 miles apart.
It made sense, then, for the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to turn to Wedgwood to provide not just the teaware but also the tea for its new venue Flying Childers.
But how do you go about expressing such a partnership in tea, tableware and food? We took a peek behind the well-manicured scenes and spoke to Wedgwood marketing manager Antony Robson and Flying Childers head patisserie chef Vicki Wilson about how the project was developed.
Antony told us, “When Chatsworth approached us – just as they were opening the Flying Childers tea room – we didn’t hesitate.
“The brands are a such a good fit, they’re our near neighbour and the current Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Cavendish, is a huge collector and supporter of ceramics.”
But which designs to choose from Wedgwood’s many and varied collections? The project team started by thinking about the decor of the new restaurant itself.
Adapted from an old stable (find out more about the history – and the origins of that unusual name – here), Flying Childers’ historical but austere stone and glass construction meant a softening touch was called for.
“We took three or four patterns up to Chatsworth and the duchess chose the ones she liked most,” explained Antony.
“These collections are all modern reinventions of patterns and motifs we hold in the Wedgwood archives,” said Antony, “So they’re the perfect blend of old and new. They really bring an eclectic mix to Flying Childers – just the right level of English eccentricity.”
Meanwhile, head patisserie chef for the new venue Vicki was also starting her creative journey by delving into that 250 year Wedgwood history.
A trip to the Wedgwood museum and factory in Barlaston, saw her indulging in the brand’s own afternoon tea offerings and immersing herself in the idea of tableware as inspiration.
“The blue jasperware is quite iconic and I knew instantly that I wanted one of the pastries to have that effect,” she told us.
“Wedgwood actually had a macaron in their recipe archives and shared that with us.”
The decision to use jasperware as an inspiration has worked beautifully. Josiah Wedgwood invented the technique in the 1770s and although the unglazed stoneware was created in numerous colours, the pale blue became so synonymous with Wedgwood that it’s known as Wedgwood Blue.
Vicki’s Earl Grey macaron is the perfect shade – with white highlights of hand-brushed royal icing, to mimic the artisan skills of Wedgwood’s craftsmen and women.
Elsewhere in the menu, Vicki took inspiration from local ingredients – or ingredients with local connections. A palate cleanser of passionfruit posset includes caramelised banana – naturally, she chose the Cavendish banana, named for the Devonshire family name.
There’s also a Bakewell cheesecake, inspired by the nearby market town and, of course, home to the eponymous jam and frangipane tart.
She stuck to tradition with her sandwich fillings: smoked salmon and dill mayonnaise, roasted ham and tomato chutney, free range egg mayonnaise and cress, cucumber and cream cheese.
When it comes to scones, there’s a classic fruit version but Vicki added, “I’ve also included a stilton and walnut scone, which bridges the gap between savoury and sweet, while still celebrating British flavours.”
On the sweet side, Vicki and team have created a strawberry saverin, a rumbaba with mint syrup crème chantilly and a florentine with pistachio and cranberry. A spiced chocolate mousse adds punch with star anise and cinnamon notes.
For the tea itself, there was plenty of choice; it might be best-known for tableware but Wedgwood actually sells more than 50 proprietary blends of tea.
Antony said: “We recommended a few of our best-sellers but because many people go to Chatsworth for a special experience, we thought it was important to include some more unusual blends. The result is there’s an English afternoon tea and our Earl Grey but they’ve also got blends such as Gunpowder, which is much more unusual.”
But the collaboration doesn’t stop there. Vicki is already planning to switch the flavour profile: “We’re starting to look now at autumn/winter flavours, which is lovely. We’ll probably be looking at very autumnal ingredients like apple, pear and coffee.
“It’s been exciting to dream up the menu and we’ve all enjoyed the process. I’m looking forward to the next season.”
Meanwhile, click here to find out more about the Chatsworth tea – and to book your table.