Saturday, 13 March 2010

Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at Sanderson

2010 is getting curiouser and curiouser by the day. No sooner had I seen in the New Year with an Alice in Wonderland-themed party, complete with giant chess board, flamingo croquet and cocktails in teapots, than Tim Burton followed my lead by releasing a film version of the Lewis Carroll classic starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

In honour of the movie, a host of wonderful Alice-themed events have been popping up around London, including the Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson hotel, which runs throughout March. The pastry chefs have tumbled down the rabbit hole and created a menu filled with curious treats that play tricks on the tastebuds.

Alice in Wonderland provides the perfect springboard for culinary creativity. Carroll's creation is full of unforgettable food scenes, from the drink me potion that makes Alice bigger and smaller, to the over-seasoned soup made by the plate-throwing cook and the jam tarts that become the subject of a ludicrous court case.

Served in the flower-filled courtyard garden of the hotel, the afternoon tea features rainbow-coloured finger sandwiches – smoked salmon and cream cheese is served between bright green spinach bread, while the ham and English mustard comes on canary yellow saffron bread.

Excitement builds as you go up the cake stand. Alongside the rainbow sarnies are a pair of quintessentially English scones with strawberry jam and a scoop of clotted cream. Moving up to the second tier, all manner of curiosities await. The Queen of Hearts tea cake with its white chocolate pink shell, is full of strawberry mousse that melts in the mouth. It's a full-on sugar injection.

The chocolate and raspberry crackle cupcake is sprinkled with popping candy that explodes like a firework in your mouth, bringing back delicious memories of the paper-thin packets sold in the school tuck shop. My favourite of the quirky cakes was the hazelnut and passion fruit tart topped with the White Rabbit's pocket watch set to teatime: 3pm. The passion fruit took a back seat to the smooth, creamy hazelnut, and its pastry base was cooked to perfection.

Moving up to the teacup on the top tier, things became even curiouser. Four lollies stood in a sea of blue chips. Thinking it might be popping candy, I ate a handful. My smile turned sour when I realised it was rock salt. I shoved the mint choc-chip ice cream lolly into my mouth to drown out the flavour. It exploded in a single bite.

The finale came in the form of a double-sided pineapple lollipop that turns your mouth from hot to cold. The most Heston-like of all the culinary creations, one side of the lolly is covered with a sugar coating that turns your tongue cold, but when you flip it to the pineapple side, your mouth warms up again. I was quite taken with the trick and kept flipping the lolly round to make the most of the strange sensation.

With such excitement to be had from the cakes, the tea is something of an afterthought, but they offer the usual suspects in black cast iron teapots. If you're feeling flush, for an extra £6 (the standard tea is £20), you can pimp your tea with a glass of Vueve Cliquot. I left feeling full as a flamingo, sleepy as a dormouse and just that little bit madder.


  1. Oh! You've made me want to try this now! Sounds Scrumptious!

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