Behind The Blue Door

Afternoon Tea | November 13, 2015 | ,

Sketching out a fresh vision of afternoon tea

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It’’s difficult to find a new way to describe sketch (the PR insists on the lower case ‘s’). Not because it’’s not exciting or innovative, but when the Guardian’’s Marina O’’Loughlin has commented, ‘’If Mae West and Barbara Cartland set up a restaurant consultancy, they couldn’’t come up with anything more camply outré’’, it appears to have been pretty neatly encapsulated.

Specifically here, we’re talking about The Gallery at sketch. It’’s just one of the rooms at Mourad ‘Momo’ Mazouz’’s converted 18th century building in Conduit Street, Mayfair, London.

There are a number of venues within venues in this sprawling house, but The Gallery is the one to go to for the full-on afternoon tea experience.

Recently reimagined and refurbished by British artist David Shrigley and Paris-based designer India Mahdavi, the first word that springs to mind about the Gallery is ‘pink’. Bubblegum, candyfloss, Turkish Delight, powder, unapologetic pink.

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The room is lined with Shrigley’’s art and he’’s even designed the place settings, in typically quirky fashion. The plates reference sketch’’s location and the teapot is mysteriously labelled ‘‘ghosts’’, while the milk jug claims to contain ‘dreams’.

At £41 per person, the afternoon tea menu isn’’t cheap, but it’’s luxe and resolutely on-brand, with sandwiches including egg and mayonnaise with quail egg and caviar, or mozzarella and pesto panini. Cakes clock up a pistachio choux, tangy citrus meringue and a malabar marshmallow, among others.

When it comes to the tea itself, the menu is extensive, with a choice of black, white, green, oolong and puerh teas, as well as herbal infusions, including whole rosebuds and whole chamomile flowers.

A glimpse at the à la carte menu betrays even more quirky culinary adventures, including carabineros prawns with ginger, thinly-sliced mortadella with beetroot, tomato and tamarillo jam or perhaps you’’d prefer roasted milk-fed veal scented with lime and oregano, orange and angostura paste, grilled baby leeks, sweetbreads and mashed potato.

This playful, experimental thread runs through all sketch’’s communications. The website is just as idiosyncratic, lightly detailing the men behind the venture: French chef Pierre Gagnaire (whose eponymous Paris restaurant enjoys three Michelin stars) and restaurateur Mazouz, who first attracted Londoners’’ attention when he opened Momo in 1997.

It’’s wowing the TripAdvisor reviewers too, with comments including ‘’the fabulous Gallery at sketch is a culinary art gallery for surrealism lovers, food lovers and classy people in general’’, ‘‘it must be experienced at least once’’, ‘‘I honestly can’’t think of anything critical to say’’ and ‘’feels like a happy, drug-induced dream’’.

Tea with a twist

Outside London, make a beeline for these innovative restaurants serving afternoon tea with a difference.

Richmond Tea Rooms

Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3HZ

Deliciously over the top. You may even be seated in the indoor greenhouse.

richmondtearooms

Image source: Timeout/Website

Julien Plumart Boutique Salon du Thé

27 Duke Street, Brighton, BN1 1AG

If you want a glass of champagne with your tea, Brighton’’s favourite French pâtisserie is a ‘bring your own’ affair. Visit for the rainbow of macarons, some created using tea as an ingredient.

julienplumart

Image source: JulienPlumart/Facebook

Grand Café, Southampton

South Western House, Southampton, SO14 3AS

Bright accents, zebra chairs and witty cushions now feature in what was once Southampton’’s most high-end hotel and ballroom, used by first class passengers of the Titanic.

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Image source: GrandCafe/Website

Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian, Edinburgh

Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB

Upmarket tea surrounded by Scottish luxe decor in Peacock Alley, the former railway station and concourse. The ultimate example of bringing the outdoors in.

waldorf astoria

Image source: WaldorfAstoriaEdinburgh/Facebook

After more afternoon tea spots? Chatsworth House and The Langham are among our favourites.

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