Earlier this month, I noticed that Twitter was abuzz with the announcement of a Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea being offered at the Sanderson Hotel for a limited time, to coincide with the launch of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film. The menu sounded equally eclectic and adorable, with pastries designed to challenge the tastebuds, and I quickly arranged a girls only tea there. One is leaving for Hong Kong soon and what better way for one of many send offs – a surprise send off really and luckily for us, she was definitely surprised and delighted. We certainly don’t treat ourselves to proper afternoon tea often enough!

On Monday afternoon, we traipsed over to the Sanderson Hotel, located just north of Oxford Street, between Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road. I didn’t even know there was a hotel here; according to reports online, GQ reported the Sanderson as being the “hippest hotel in the world” and I can possibly see why. It’s rather bling. We were shown to the covered courtyard where we were told that the heating wasn’t working that day and that they’d be glad to seat us in the restaurant instead if we so desired. But there were a few giggling ladies out there and it was far from a cold day and so courtyard it was. I’m so glad we decided that – there was lots of natural light and a fountain and a little garden and it’s all just so so pretty.

They bring us all little menus but really there’s only one thing on that menu: the Mad Hatter’s Tea. £20 for just the tea or £29.50 with a glass of champagne. And it’s the hotel’s restaurant, Suka, serving expensive contemporary Malaysian food, that’s running the tea. Hmm. Oh well, nothing Malaysian about the teas and tea offerings though.

Flowering Teas

Of the teas on offer, we immediately gravitated towards the flowering jasmine tea, which came presented in a glass goblet. I think they would have been more effective in a large glass teapot as the continued steeping in the glass made it too strong after a while but they were delightful to watch as they opened! The other teas were a bit of a disappointment, just being Clipper teabags in individual pots. I did expect loose teas (Clipper does do loose according to their website) but I guess as afternoon tea is not regularly offered here, they’d have a more limited selection than a dedicated tea hotel/place. You’re welcome to all the tea you can drink and we definitely got our money’s worth with two of the flowering teas apiece plus a pot of regular tea (Earl Grey for me).

After our first teas came our tiered plates of goodies – one for each of us! Ooooh, how decadent! The cake stands themselves are gorgeous, made with vintage crockery (you can even purchase them here).

Tiered Cake Stand

At the bottom were finger sandwiches and scones. The sandwiches were presented on rainbow coloured bread, all coloured with natural ingredients. They’re your standard, extremely dainty, sandwiches but the standout for me was the cucumber with black pepper. I need to recreate these at home.

Sandwiches and Scones

The scones came with beautiful soft strawberry preserves and plenty of clotted cream. These were just beautiful, so buttery and melt in your mouth good and if any more had been offered, I probably would have burst just from these alone.

The second tier was full of pastries. These were mainly ok – a little extra thought going into each of them would have made them much better.

Pastries

The chocolate cup was filled with a strawberry mousse according to the menu but I found it to be more of a stabilised foam of sorts. That was gorgeous but the chocolate cup would have been more successful if it had been made of white chocolate (as originally stated on the menu) instead of the stronger dark chocolate.

Inside the Tea Cake

The hazelnut and passionfruit tart was also topped with dark chocolate, this time in the form of the White Rabbit’s pocket watch. The hazelnut cream was delicious as was the buttery pastry but the passionfruit was only there in the form of a tiny bit of syrup. I’m not yet convinced of this flavour combination but perhaps it would work with more passionfruit or just the removal of that and the addition of caramelised nuts for texture.

Hazelnut and Passionfruit Tart

The chocolate and raspberry crackle cupcake was topped with popping candy, something I always enjoy. Pop pop pop! Digging into the buttercream and down through to the cake, though, I found no evidence of raspberry. It was only when I was almost halfway through the cupcake that the single fresh raspberry emerged, buried under the mountain of buttercream. Not a bad combination but I did have to scrape aside some of that cream as there was much too much of it.

Chocolate and Raspberry Crackle Cupcake

Finally, the little teacup at the top of the cake stand held two intriguing lollipops. The little chocolate one was supposed to explode in our mouths and explode it did as the thin chocolate shell was full of melted mint ice cream! The pineapple one was supposed to make our mouths go hot and cold. There was a little bit of heat in the pineapple candy while the sugary layer did have something that cooled the tongue a bit, in the way that menthol cools. While not a big show stopper, I admire the attempt at kooky!

Top Tier

In all, the tea things were a bit hit and miss (though more mediocre than miss really). But for us, the real treat was just having the chance to relax for a couple hours with plenty of tea and some nice treats to keep us occupied. It was really enough for dinner too – I barely ate anything after that. I really like the idea of the tea and the attempt to keep to the spirit of the Mad Hatter and his tea and do think good on them for giving the idea a go. There’s still time to try it out too – when I first booked almost a month ago, the Mad Hatter’s Tea was only available for the month of March but I just learned that due to the popularity of it, it’s been extended to the end of May. At the very least it’s worth it just to check out the fabulous lobby of the hotel. We even rode up and down in the lift with its 3D depiction of the solar system – and then, of course, we hotfooted it out of there.

Almost Finished


Sanderson Hotel

50 Berners Street
London W1T 3NG

Last Saturday, we found ourselves in Kew and I dragged us over to Newens on Kew Road (just a short walk from the main entrance of Kew Gardens), keen to revisit this quaint little cafe after a long while. It really is quite an adorable little place; the building is only about 120 years old but the business was around for a little longer and then there are the Tudor origins of their most famous treats: maids of honour. The cafe is always packed at lunchtimes on the weekends (I’ve never visited on a weekday) with locals and tourists out west to visit the Gardens but it’s easy to nab a table after 2 or 3pm, just after the rush.

Newens - The Original Maids of Honour

Inside

It’s impossible to visit a place like this and not have tea; we chose a pot of assam and then got to work choosing from the lovely treats on display.

Pot of Tea

After admiring the range of meat and vegetable pies in the display case, we opted for a slice of their chicken and ham pie. Our very patient waitress realised we were sharing and kindly gave us two smaller slices instead of the usual thick one. Big chunks of chicken and ham sit in a mosaic held together by a savoury jelly in a thick shortcrust pastry – a good start to this tea.

Slices of Chicken and Ham Pie

I was awed by the look of the sugar bun, a big choux puff filled with very lightly sweetened coffee cream and topped with coffee icing. I think I ate my cream quota for the year in my half of this bun and it was actually very very good that the cream was hardly sweetened at all. It had the right balance of sweet and creamy and puffiness – a good choice.

A Maid of Honour and a Sugar Bun

Inside the Sugar Bun

Finally, a maid of honour. Actually, make that two. These little sweet tarts are the bakery’s most famous product with even a plaque outside commemorating them. I may be incredibly wrong about this but they appear to have puff pastry bases, a layer of curd and then a final topping of cheese (that’s what the textures feel like). It’s easy to see the Tudor history (or at least influence) of these little treats in the combination of sweet and almost savoury (the cheese is reminiscent of cheddar); they are incredibly moreish and worth the trip there. Their fame is deserved!

Maid of Honour

I couldn’t help myself and also had two hot cross buns and a loaf of fruit cake packed up to take away. The hot cross buns were packed full of fruit (always a win in my book!) and excellent, though a little denser than what I’m used to. The fruit cake was much lighter than we expected and again packed full of fruit and topped with sliced almonds. And it was absolutely beautiful – one of the best fruity cakes (hard to compare it to a traditional fruitcake) I’ve had.

Hot Cross Bun

Fruit Cake

Everything (takeaway things included) came to a total of about £20. Service was fabulous – we were even thrilled to catch a glimpse of the current owner, John Newens, the 5th generation of Newens to run the place. Why didn’t I come back sooner?! I love this place! All their menus are available on their website but you’ll have to visit to see all their cakes.

Newens – The Original Maids of Honour
288 Kew Road
Kew Gardens
Surrey TW9 3DU

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