Most of us know someone whose birthday happens during that ‘lost’ period between Christmas and New Year. My mum falls into this category, and after years of having gifts wrapped in festive paper and people joining up celebrations with NYE, I decided to make this birthday extra special and go all out. How? By booking Mr Simms Original Sweetshop Afternoon Tea (£75 per person) at The Chesterfield Mayfair.
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of central London, on a quiet side street, this elegant hotel hides a secret, traditional English garden. After strolling through very grand surrounds, think silk-lined walls, historical paintings and ornate chandeliers, the first thing that greets you is a stunning vintage candy cart. Looking like it wouldn’t be out of place in Mary Poppins, it really set the tone for the day. We were escorted to our table within the orangery-like setting, and let me tell you it was a stunner. Think of it as a hidden courtyard: brick walls, lush white flowers and pine-coloured chairs, matched well with tables draped in the finest cloth. Dangling ivy hung from the ceiling and a pastel-coloured water fountain finished it all off in style. Feel even more relaxed? That’ll be the slow jazz tunes playing in the background.
Service is always second to none at Red Carnation hotels, and this trip was no different as our host was so warm and friendly. Even though she misplaced her glasses, it didn’t matter, as she read through the menu off by heart. She knew it that well. The tea selection is massive, so after her recommendations, we opted for Canton Karma and Lapsang Souchong. Like much of London, my mum was recently done in by a cold, so the former was the ideal remedy: cleansing lemongrass with a hit of ginger and peppermint (we were advised to let it sit for a stronger, punchier taste). My blend was like nothing I’d tasted before. Just imagine a smoky, smooth high-quality brew that reminds you of single-malt Scotch whiskey. Cuddling my fine China cup as I melted into the comfy chair, my choice was simply divine.
The welcome drink is as playful as it is theatrical: dramatic dry ice surrounds a cheeky shot of pink lemonade, decorated in a blue penguin sweet. We could hear our fellow diners, a nice mix of families and dates, particularly like this element as pictures were snapped by nearly all of them.
If, like me, you want a touch of luxury, make sure to add on a Champagne upgrade (only £10 more). You have a choice of fizz, but we sipped a glass of Lanson Black Label Reserve which was crisp, balanced and uplifting.
Enter now the three-tiered centrepiece. First of all, you get one each (yes, really) and asking for extra portions is welcomed, so rest assured you won’t be leaving hungry here. If truth be told, we should have been rolled out of the door, as we were so stuffed. Being vegetarian isn’t an issue either, as they have bespoke offerings for a range of dietary requirements, perfect for Veganuary. Starting with sandwiches, we shared the cucumber, dill and cream cheese on onion bread. Beautifully soft but with a refreshing bite, let’s just say we definitely ordered seconds. The free-range egg mayonnaise and watercress on spinach loaf was deliciously herby and generously filled too. Although I’m not a fan of goat’s cheese, I could tell it was well-made, tangy and fruity (that’ll be the sundried tomato with rocket). I loved the Italian combo of grilled aubergine and pesto: the flavours were a great contrast to the rest of the 'wiches and remind us of sunnier times. Carnivores, rejoice, as my mum’s unusually circular roast chicken with grain mustard mayonnaise, dotted with almonds, was a particular highlight.
Up there with my favourites? I adored the homemade and almost brownie-like chocolate chip scones, partnered with the freshly baked, fluffy plain versions, piled high with clotted cream and strawberry jam. But we then moved on to the pièce de résistance, the cornerstone, the big deal: the puds. I could talk for ages about them, from the squidgy, panna cotta-like Coca Cola slice to the decadent rhubarb and custard choux. For those of you who want to evoke childhood memories, go for the Reece’s peanut butter cup. This dainty, dark chocolate-encased cube is sprayed with gold for that VIP edge. But it doesn’t stop there. The Drumstick macron was a vivid yellow showstopper due to the chewy, crumbly texture and we could. not. stop, nibbling. If you wanna unleash your inner kid, take a bite out of the imaginative Love Heart cheesecake and prepare to never put it down. Lastly, the giant Jazzies reminded me of going to the local store before going home after school, so I made sure I kept some for my onward journey.
As we left, we were invited to choose three servings of sweets from the trolley, packed in a cute, yellow-striped party bag. I went for the cherry bon bons, jellybeans (our host is fond of these) and tutti frutti laces. A lovely keepsake from an amazing afternoon.
The DesignMyNight Digest
On a sugar high? Us too. But don’t think this confectionary-themed afternoon tea is just for little-uns, far from it, as adults will also really enjoy this nostalgic adventure. Channelling the charm of yesteryear with nods to a bygone era, but elevating it to a fine-dining level, this is definitely an experience for the more sweet-toothed of folk and we can clearly see why it’s award-winning. Our advice: grab a spot pronto.
💰 The damage: £75 per person (excluding service) with a glass of Champagne.
📍 The location: 35 Charles Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5EB.
👌 Perfect for: A quirky birthday celebration for family.
⭐ Need to know: There is 25% off afternoon tea for Monday through to Thursday in January 2023.