Welcome to our blog....here we will share all our afternoon tea adventures with you...the good, the bad and the wonderful!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Time for Tea.....BB Bakery County Hall

Hello there,

Welcome back to another afternoon tea post from Tea With Me and Friends....today we have a wonderful guest post for you written by my Twitter friend Alex who indulged in a spot of tea at BB Bakery County Hall.

Take a peek at her experience......

"I fancied afternoon tea with somewhere close by where we could walk off the calories afterwards. After much Internet perusing I found the website for BB Bakery County Hall. Situated right on the Southbank and just £26 for an afternoon tea, it seemed too good to be true.

Let me tell you, it was everything and more.

Such delights await you inside these doors!

When booking our reservation we requested a vegetarian tea and one normal tea, we also told them that we would have a baby with us.

The bakery was big and quirky chic with pictures and vintage tea decorations everywhere. There were lots of sweets in jars, and cakes on display that had you ready to dive in! Upon arrival they were friendly and welcoming and had reserved us an area with a sofa so the baby could lie on it if needed (we thought this was very thoughtful).

Such pretty displays!

Wouldn't you love this in your living room??

When asking us what we would like to drink, both of us said we were not huge tea drinkers to which we were informed we could have as many soft drinks we liked. The savoury part of tea was served on two different plates, so the vegetarian bits were separate. Then a plate of sweet treats was on top.

Afternoon tea at BB Bakery County Hall
The waitress informed us to ask when we were ready for scones as they serve fresh from the oven! You can imagine at this point I was thankful for the stretchy dress I had worn!

The sandwiches were fresh, tasty and with a mixture of fillings such as pesto and mozzarella and ham and Edam. We also had a miniature quiche which was light and well seasoned.

Then came the sweets..... 

Cake anyone??

Well they were good, a little too good! We had macaroons, chocolate brownies, cupcakes, lemon meringues and raspberry tartlets. Each one was so beautifully made and perfectly sized.

But the scones, the scones were the icing on the huge giant iced afternoon tea cake. Hot and fresh, the jam was home made and the clotted cream was light and delicious. All together we oohed and ahhed.

After Alex's description I think I need to try one of these scones!

Every mouthful of this tea was just wonderful and we felt so relaxed and welcomed. We even got goody boxes to take our leftovers home in. Yes we had leftovers!!!"

Well, I don't know about you....but I might be drooling just a little bit after reading that! It sounds like Alex had such a lovely tea, I had heard good things about this afternoon tea so I am glad it lived up to other people's experiences. At £26.00 each (or £33.00 each with a glass of bubbles) I think this is a great value tea, offering lovely service and a fab selection of goodies - definitely one for my wish list!

BB Bakery County Hall offers so many different sweet and savoury treats, take a peek at their menu here. If you fancy trying afternoon tea for yourself you need to give them at least 24 hours notice.

Thank you Alex for sharing your experience with us....and for taking so many lovely photos! 

If you've enjoyed afternoon tea anywhere recently, why not drop us a line and let us know about it. We'd love to see your photos too!

Thank you for popping by today,
Square Meal

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Time for Tea....St Martins Lane

Hello there!

I hope you're having a tea-riffic day!

Yesterday Lorna and I indulged in an afternoon tea with a difference at St Martins Lane hotel, London. We were there to try the Cafecito afternoon tea at Asia de Cuba, a sweet and savoury feast with both Asian and Cuban influences.

In the modern surroundings of Asia de Cuba, with Cuban music playing in the background, our tea was served on wonderfully quirky bespoke china. 

Quirky china at Asia di Cuba's afternoon tea
 As you arrive each diner is presented with a cigar box full of the utensils required for your tea, and you are told that you will need to make just four choices during your whole experience....and all of these are drink related!

Inside the box is your knife and fork, a beautiful tea strainer and your menu.....

Inside the cigar box......
Afternoon tea is served in two parts, with the savoury items being served first and the sweet only served when you are finished with the savoury. Each "course" comes with a different tea.

Our first decision of the afternoon was whether or not we wanted a cocktail to begin our experience. There were three different cocktails on offer, and our waiter gave a recommendation of which one he liked best. 

Of course we decided it would be rude not to try a beautifully crafted cocktail to compliment our afternoon tea! I opted for the fruity "Passionate About Tea" (a rum based cocktail) and Lorna went with the recommendation of the waiter and enjoyed an "Old Cuban Martini". Both were very tasty!

We also had to decide which of three teas to enjoy with our savoury course. There was an Iron Buddha, a Dragon Well and a smokey Lapsang. Lorna went with the Dragon Well and I tried the Lapsang. The teas were served in modern, glass teapots.

A fruity cocktail and a pot of smokey tea!
The first course was then served....a fruity smoothie to begin and then a wonderful selection of savoury items all served on a very quirky stand.......

The first course at Asia de Cuba
- the savoury selection!

As regular readers will know, both Lorna and I have quite sweet teeth and so you might be surprised to know how much we enjoyed this first course. Among the delicious items were a BBQ pulled pork and Swiss cheese pressed sandwich, a chicken and avocado spring roll and savoury scones served with Mojito butter.

A closer look at some of those savoury afternoon tea items!

The flavours were all rather delicious, and there was a great selection of items. It was also rather nice to enjoy the smokey tea with these savoury items.

The scones that we were served may have looked small, but they were light inside and full of flavour. One was flavoured with onion and the other with herbs. Both went very well with the Mojito butter.

Once we had finished the savoury items, the china was cleared and we were asked to pick the next tea to go with our sweet treats. This time the teas were lighter and included a caramel Oolong, a Lychee Red and a Vanilla Black tea.

The sweet selection was then brought out on a cute little platter......

The sweet treats!

The platter included the most amazing Mexican doughnuts which were filled with a butterscotch sauce. They were served warm, and melted in your mouth - completely scrummy! We also enjoyed a mini key lime pie topped with a light meringue, warm banana spring rolls and a delicious chili chocolate cream (the waiter recommended dipping the banana into the chocolate cream and I can confirm that this was a wonderful combination!).

Although there was only a small selection of sweet treats, everything was perfectly proportioned and you weren't left feeling hungry.

I had originally made this reservation for myself, Lorna and a friend as we were celebrating our friend's Birthday. The Birthday girl had to cancel, but rather embarrassingly I forgot to tell the restaurant and we were presented with two more scrummy doughnuts and a Birthday message! 

Wonderful service at Asia de Cuba
afternoon tea

We owned up straight away, and luckily the waiter found it quite funny! Secretly we were quite pleased to be able to indulge in another one of those doughnuts each!

You finally end your afternoon tea experience with one last decision as you are offered either a sweet espresso shot or one of two fruity palate cleaners.

This afternoon tea experience costs £25.00 per person, or if like us you fancy a cocktail too, it will cost you £35.00 each. I think this is great value for the selection of food and drink on offer.

The waiting staff were all very friendly, and knowledgeable - offering advice where appropriate. The surroundings were modern, but comfortable. 

All in all this was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and we really enjoyed this afternoon tea.

Have you tried an afternoon tea with a difference? If so we'd love to hear about!

Thanks for popping by today,
Square Meal

Friday, 24 January 2014

Lot's of teas to come!

Hello there!

Sorry we haven't posted much this week, its been a bit of a hectic week!

If you've popped by the blog much this month, you'll have noticed that I haven't eaten many teas myself! Luckily I've had lots of lovely guest posts to share with you.....but I have definitely been missing out on the sweet feasts!

Do not fear though....I've been busy booking afternoon teas and liaising with hotels to bring you lots more scrummy photos in 2014! There will be more afternoon teas to drool over and more Pastry Chef interviews to enjoy.

Afternoon tea with Tea With Me and Friends!

In the next couple of months we will be enjoying afternoon tea with a difference at Asia de Cuba at St Martins Lane hotel in London where Asian and Cuban delights are fused together. I will also be taking a peek at the new Rosewood Hotel and enjoying a Valentine's tea at Royal Horse Guards. Not forgetting a visit to One Aldwych for their afternoon tea masterclass and a "Confessions of a Chocoholic" afternoon tea at Podium in the Hilton Park Lane Hotel.

Afternoon tea at Podium -
photo from their website

I will also be taking a peek at the brand new afternoon tea experience on offer at The Reform Social and Grill, and enjoying tea at The Cumberland. Lorna and I will be celebrating my Birthday with a visit to The Dorchester.

New Vintage afternoon tea experience
from Reform Social & Grill (photo from their website)

Phew! I'm feeling my jeans get tighter just reading that list! Don't worry....I will also be exercising...a lot!!

I am very excited about our plans so far for 2014....but there will be a lot more to follow. Don't forget...if you've enjoyed an afternoon tea somewhere we'd love to hear from you! Please get in touch!

Also...don't forget about our sandwich filling poll....there are still eight days left to vote!

Thanks for popping by today, 
we hope to see you again soon.

Rachel and Lorna

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Time for Tea......Intercontinental Westminster

Hello there,

Our lovely friend Becca has been indulging in a spot of afternoon tea....without us (yes, we were very sad)....but luckily she took some photos for us to drool over and told us all about her lovely afternoon.

Becca went to the Intercontinental Westminster, which Lorna and I first discovered last summer, to enjoy their unlimited champagne afternoon tea. Take a look at the scrummy treats that Becca and her friend enjoyed.....

Afternoon tea at
Intercontinental Westminster

The tea selection at the Intercontinental Westminster is rather good, and includes black, white and green teas. As well as scented, flowering, Oolong and herbal teas. In fact there are 14 different teas to choose from on the standard menu, plus three premium teas that you can try for an additional charge.

Becca has a bit of a savoury tooth, and she nearly always prefers the sandwiches and savoury treats to the sweet cakes and pastries. She was pleased to report back that the sandwiches were all very tasty and as you can see from her photo above they were appropriately cut without any crusts!

Intercontinental Westminster Afternoon Tea Sandwiches
Photo from hotel website

Becca also commented that the scones were very tasty! They were served warm with jam and rather scrummy lemon curd.

There was one sweet treat in particular that Becca really enjoyed from the cake stand.....

Sweet treats at the Intercontinental Westminster!

This cake was described by Becca as "peanut butter deliciousness"! High praise indeed from our savoury toothed friend!

Becca and her friend cleared their plates, and were asked whether they wanted anymore food. The champagne also flowed freely during their time at the hotel. The waiters were very friendly and helpful, confirming whether there were any dietary requirements before ordering the tea. 

Always a good sign at the end of a tea - empty plates!

Becca commented that it was so relaxed and enjoyable that they wanted to stay there all day!

During afternoon tea a harp is played to entertain the guests, he plays a mix of modern and classic songs. Becca and her friend enjoyed playing "guess the song" as they enjoyed their tea.

This afternoon tea experience is £30.00 per person, which is brilliant value as the food is replenished and the champagne flutes are never left empty. However, this is a special offer in January 2014...take a peek at their website to see what tea the hotel is currently offering.

Thank you Becca for sharing your lovely experience with us. If you've enjoyed a spot of afternoon tea recently and would like to share your photos with us please get in touch! 

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel and Lorna

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What's your favourite sandwich filling?

Hello there and welcome back to Tea With Me and Friends!

We have recently started looking at the humble sandwich, and what part it plays in the afternoon tea feast. In our last article we looked at all the different types of sandwich you can now find within an afternoon tea....they have definitely evolved from the dainty finger sandwich traditionally served with tea.

Afternoon tea sandwiches

We currently have a poll running on our side bar...we're interested in knowing what your favourite sandwich filling is. If you have voted yet we'd love to hear from you!

Egg mayonnaise sandwiches are always extremely popular at the afternoon teas that Lorna and I create for our friends. We have one friend in particular who is a really big fan....I'm not sure what she'd do if we served tea without them!

Are there any egg sandwiches in there?

I'm quite partial to coronation chicken sandwiches at tea....a filling that I do not usually have in my sandwiches, so its a lovely treat.

Today's sandwich menu at tea can be so diverse, with venues moving away from the more traditional fillings like egg mayonnaise, cucumber or salmon. Whats the most unusual sandwich filling you've come across? Leave us a comment and let us know!

And don't forget to vote!

Thanks for popping by today,

Monday, 13 January 2014

Meet the Pastry Chef.....Ji Sun Shin

Welcome to a new type of post from Tea With Me and Friends, where we meet the people behind the wonderful afternoon teas that we enjoy and ask them the all important question....are you a jam first or cream first kinda person?

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Ji Sun Shin, the pastry chef behind the wonderful afternoon teas at The Ampersand hotel in South Kensington. Ji Sun didn't dream of being a pastry chef when she was little, in fact she hadn't even thought of it when she was growing up in Korea. Ji Sun wanted to be an artist and study for an art degree. When she came to London, she decided to get creative in the kitchen instead.

Ji Sun Shin - The Ampersand

Ji Sun started her career by spending three years at Marco Pierre White's Mirabelle, before going on to spend five years at Nobu Park Lane before joining Head Chef Chris Golding at The Ampersand Hotel. Prior to working at The Ampersand Ji Sun hadn't created any afternoon teas....but looking at her recent creations you couldn't tell!

There are two different afternoon teas on offer at The Ampersand - the classic afternoon tea, offering traditional sandwiches and cakes. And the Albertopolis afternoon tea....the chef's special, which changes regularly throughout the year and all look rather spectacular....

A spooky afternoon tea at Halloween, complete with pumpkins and dry-ice....

Halloween afternoon tea at
The Ampersand Hotel

Christmas got cute, with mini reindeer and snowmen.....

Christmas afternoon tea at
The Ampersand Hotel

 Ji Sun's favourite afternoon tea for 2013 was her London Fashion Week afternoon tea....

Afternoon tea dedicated to London Fashion Week at
The Ampersand Hotel

After chatting about Ji Sun's background for a while, I asked her some burning questions about life as a pastry chef....

What is the best bit about being a pastry chef?
When everything comes together - its important that an afternoon tea looks pretty, but it must taste good too.

Are there any bad bits?
The long and unsociable hours can be tiring.

What are your favourite kitchen tools?
My kitchen-aid and the Thermomix (I had to be educated about the Thermomix but apparently its a blender and processor that also weighs and cooks! Maybe the next big kitchen appliance?)

What are your favourite ingredients to use?
I love the texture and flavour of nuts and like to try to incorporate them

Do you bake at home when you're not working?
Not often, I do bake for special occasions though. 

Where do you get inspiration for your afternoon teas?
From everywhere and anything - it could be from a painting, or a colour. I research a lot.

How long does it take to create a new afternoon tea?
It depends really - I started creating the Valentines afternoon tea just after Christmas! 

From your own afternoon tea menu, what is your favourite sandwich filling?
The salmon and cream cheese - very English!

What is your favourite part of afternoon tea?
Definitely the scones! Either plain or fruit.

FACT - On an average weekend Ji Sun makes approximately 100 scones each day - that's a lot of rolling and baking!

If you could invite any guest to afternoon tea with you, who would it be?
Mary Berry

Finally the most important question.....on a scone do you spread cream or jam first?
Definitely cream first, as it acts a layer underneath the jam. If you do it the other way it makes a mess!

Ji Sun's next afternoon tea creation is her beautiful Valentine's afternoon tea, complete with heart shaped scones and macaroons. Take a peek at how wonderful it looks.....

Valentines Afternoon Tea at
The Ampersand Hotel

Doesn't that look scrummy? Shall we take a closer peek?

Heart shaped scones and macaroons at
The Ampersand Hotel

Are you drooling yet? Lets take a closer look.....

Sweet treats on offer at the Ampersand Hotel's
Valentines afternoon tea

If you'd like to indulge in this Valentine's Afternoon Tea, take a look at The Ampersand website for more information about booking....but be quick...the tea is only available from Friday 7th - Sunday 16th February 2014! 

It was a pleasure to spend time with Ji Sun, a very creative pastry chef who is also very humble about her beautiful creations. I am looking forward to seeing what other afternoon teas she creates this year at The Ampersand.

I hope you've enjoyed this post from Tea With Me and Friends, we will be meeting more pastry chefs during our afternoon tea adventures...asking them all sorts of important questions about tea!

Thanks for popping by today,

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Time for Tea....Firmdale Covent Garden

Hello there,

We hope you've had a good week.

We love it when our friends on Facebook and Twitter contact us with photos of afternoon teas that they have enjoyed - its always great to hear about other people's afternoon tea experiences.

This week I received a message on Facebook from Jude, who had enjoyed afternoon tea with her family at Firmdale Covent Garden Hotel. Now I've been inside this beautiful hotel, and loved the interior but I have never had their afternoon tea so I was keen to hear more about Jude's experience.

Jude and family enjoying afternoon tea

 There are several different afternoon teas that you can enjoy at the hotel, the Covent Garden afternoon tea with bespoke cakes and sandwiches, or there is a more traditional afternoon tea, both of which can be enjoyed with a glass of bubbles. Alternatively if you prefer a more savoury tea time treat you could opt for the Gentleman's afternoon tea. Guests are spoilt for choice from the moment they arrive!

Afternoon Tea - photo from Firmdale website

There is a good selection of teas on offer, Jude particularly enjoyed the Lapsang Suchong. There is also a bespoke English Breakfast tea and a Rare Earl Grey to name just a few.

Jude and her family opted for one of the traditional afternoon teas and one of the Covent Garden afternoon tea....and couldn't wait to tuck in when the feast arrived at the table....

They couldn't wait to get stuck into the feast!

The traditional afternoon tea includes a selection of traditional afternoon tea sandwiches and cakes.

Included in the Covent Garden afternoon tea is a slightly more unusual selection of afternoon tea sandwiches including lemon roasted chicken, Cheddar cheese and pickle and a smoked salmon, prawn and avocado wrap.

The sweet treats in the Covent Garden afternoon tea include a chocolate and blackberry slice, an orange an chocolate mousse and a coffee, chestnut and hazelnut praline cake. Don't they all sound scrummy?

Jude commented on how wonderful the scones were, very light and scrummy. There is the choice of plain or fruit scones, and they are served with preserves and clotted cream.

The scones were popular!

Jude also liked the china that the hotel uses, which was very quaint and delicate. I do like it when a hotel uses special china for their afternoon tea, I think it makes the whole experience a little bit more special. I also think that the service you receive during your afternoon tea is also very important. Jude commented that the waitresses who served her were very friendly.

Jude loved the delicate china

Both sweet afternoon teas cost £26.00 per person, or if you wish to add a glass of bubbles it costs £34 per person. Considering the location of this hotel, within a short walking distance of both the Royal Opera House and the National Gallery, I think this is a really reasonably priced afternoon tea.

If you opt for the gentleman's tea you will be treated to a feast of savoury items including fish goujons, steak sandwiches and scotch eggs, all followed by a piece of cake. This tea also costs £26.00 per person, if you would like to enjoy a glass of pale ale with your savoury feast it will cost £31.50 per person.

Afternoon tea - photo from Firmdale website

Thank you Jude for sharing your experience and photos with us, this looks like a wonderful afternoon tea....one we must add to our afternoon tea wish list!

If you've enjoyed an afternoon tea recently we'd love to hear from you. You can either contact us via Twitter or Facebook, send an email or leave a comment on the blog.

Thank you for popping by today,
Square Meal

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Let's talk sandwiches.....

Hello there!

Afternoon tea often divides people...there are some people out there who believe its all about the cakes and pastries...they're not sure why the sandwiches are there getting in the way. For others they don't mind what they are eating as long as there is lots of tea to be drunk and some (like our friend Becca) are real fans of the savoury items and shy away from the sweet treats!

For me a good afternoon tea offers a tasty combination of all three elements...tea is a must...and there should be a good selection on offer. It goes without saying that I enjoy the sweet selection....but as I've discovered over the last year I really enjoy the savoury items too and its a fine balance to make sure I don't fill up too much on the sandwiches before I start on the cakes and pastries!

Afternoon tea - a fine balancing act!

So this month we decided to dedicate some posts to the savoury items included with an afternoon tea - give them the exposure they deserve! Lets begin with a little history lesson...as I don't want you confusing a traditional Afternoon Tea with its savoury cousin the High Tea! Served later in the evening, High Tea included tea and savoury items (rather than cakes and pastries) and this was a preserve of the lower working classes.

Originally, Afternoon Tea was only enjoyed by the upper classes as tea was very expensive and the working class could not afford to waste it on meals that weren't necessary. Instead they drank it after the working day with bread, cheese, vegetables and meat...thus the High Tea was born!

Traditional afternoon tea sandwiches

Traditionally afternoon tea sandwiches were very dainty creations....brown or white bread was served without crusts, cut into small fingers...easily eaten by ladies enjoying a natter and a cup of tea! The sandwiches served with afternoon tea have evolved as the pass time of afternoon tea has developed and today you will find all kinds of sandwiches on offer....however one thing that Lorna and I are sure of is that the bread must definitely be crustless, avoiding a controversial hint of crust!

Just look at this sandwich that Lorna found on her tea plate.....

At Tea With Me and Friends we believe
that sandwiches should be crust free!

So just how have sandwiches evolved? Well today they can be found in all shapes and sizes, I myself have experimented with shaped sandwiches at our themed afternoon teas....

Tombstone sandwiches and rolled "snail" wraps at our Halloween tea!

One Aldwych offers a wonderful selection of savoury items with their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea...

Fingers, triangles, open - all sorts of sandwiches at One Aldwych!

At W Hotel recently we were presented with triple decker sandwiches....most definitely not ladylike!....

Not particularly ladylike, but very tasty!

The Ampersand take it a step further with their filled Gougeres....

(savoury choux to you and me!)

However the sandwiches appear within the tea, they must be fresh.....hard tops and soggy bottoms where they have been hanging around all morning is a big no in our books! Fresh, soft bread and lots of tasty fillings...that's the way to our hearts in the savoury part of afternoon tea.

Later this month we will be looking at other savoury items on the afternoon tea menu....did you know that Lorna once ate snail at the gentleman's afternoon tea! We will also be looking at sandwich fillings....do you have a favourite? If you do we'd love to hear from you....why not leave us a comment or take part in our poll on the side-bar!

Thanks for popping by today,
Rachel and Lorna

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Time for Tea.....The French Tarte

Hello there,

I hope you are keeping well.

At the end of last year Lorna was treated to a lovely afternoon tea for her Birthday at The French Tarte in Surbiton. Now you may be wondering why we didn't share this post with you in December when Lorna, her hubby Jim and both their mums enjoyed this tea. Well, we have a very good reason......they liked the look of their afternoon feast so much when it arrived at the table that they forgot to take any photos until it was too late!

The French Tarte is located on Maple Road in Surbiton, Surrey and is a small bakery offering baked goods to eat in or take away. I have indulged in some of their treats myself and can vouch for their scrummy cakes, breads and pastries - all baked on site.

French Tarte - photo from website
Afternoon tea is served on the weekends at the French Tarte, and although the tea menu is not that extensive there is something for everyone with black, green, white and herbal teas on offer. I am pleased to report that teas are served in pretty vintage teacups - here is Lorna's teacup......

Afternoon tea served in vintage china
The afternoon tea menu includes a selection of savoury open sandwiches, warm scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam and a selection of mini cakes. According to Lorna everything was rather scrummy....in fact here is the "after" photo.....

Always a good sign at the end of an afternoon tea....
As the French Tarte knew it was Lorna's Birthday, the tea included a personalised Happy Birthday plate....

Although there are no actual photos of the afternoon tea that Lorna enjoyed, she has assured me that it was a very good tea and has suggested that we revisit them so I can take some photos!

At £14.50 per person this is a good value afternoon tea, if you'd like a glass of champagne with your tea it will cost you £22.50 per person.

Have you enjoyed afternoon tea at The French Tarte? Do you have any photos to share with us? If so please get in touch!

Thank you for popping by today,
Rachel & Lorna