Posted by: lifeonislandtime | August 12, 2017

Tea at the Fort

This trip I wanted to do all the "touristy" things we haven't gotten to on other trips. One of these is Afternoon tea. If you google it, you'll find as many recommendations as there are hits, as many lists as there are recommendations.

Nearly all lists, hits, and recommendations have Fortnum and Mason on it somewhere. Begun in 1707 by one of Queen Anne Stuart's footmen. He sold the half used candles from the palace to the public, making a killing. In fact, it was enough for he and his landlord to open small emporium of luxury foodstuffs. The queen promised to visit their store. Naturally, any time the queen or any celebrity visits a business, it causes that business to become popular with the masses. This was no different. By the Victorian era, Queen Victoria was sending blocks of Fortnum and Mason beef broth to Florence Nightengale to feed the convalescents of the Boer War.

When I told Travis I wanted to do tea at Fortnum and Mason, he asked if it was still a military installation. Not knowing the history of the store, he had assumed it was Fort Numb and Mason, a military fort of some kind. Because he has travelled extensively with me, this was actually a better assumption than that I was dragging him along to a posh department store for tea and cakes, a very non-Jen thing to do. After I finished laughing, I explained the history of the store to him. He was not as excited at that point.

Entering the store, you are assaulted by the crowds. Entry level has cookies, tea, candies, and other boxed sundries for sale. They even have cases of marzipan fruit. That stuff is just plain weird. It looks like shiny wax. I'm guessing it tastes about the same.

The next level has candles and Christmas ornaments. Though they were cool, they were also £25, and too fragile to survive the flight back to the states. The basement has a meat shop, a wine shop, and a liquor store. The tomahawk ribeye steak is £45 uncooked. The wine rack has Chateau Yquem 1998 for a cool £145. It's not even locked up, as that space is reserved for the £2300 bottle of Cristal champagne. What floored me the most, however, was the pride of place given to Jack Daniels. It was on its own pedestal with a display and placards of information and recipes. I also find that weird. JD is what you drink in college before you know better.

Going up farther, you get women's wear and perfume, then menswear. Why does women's wear have to smell like a damn gallon of perfume spilled, yet menswear has fun items like a £35 iPhone charger that doesn't stink to high heaven?

Continuing up, you get to the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. It's done in signature "mint green" (just a greener shade of Tiffany Blue. Legend has it Tiffany ripped of Fortnum's color) and cream. There is a live pianist in a several thousand pound bespoke Saville Row suit playing live Muzak on a Steinway grand piano, and lots of people waiting. If you don't have a reservation, good luck getting in.

When they take you to your table, the tea selections come in their own menu and includes the original blend from the 1700s. I didn't have that one. I had the perfectly Victorian Earl Grey. Trav had coffee.

Fortnum and Mason claims to have invented the Scotch Egg: a soft-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, breaded and then fried to crispy perfection. Trav ordered the tea that began with a Scotch Egg. I got "traditional" afternoon tea with finger sandwiches. We both got scones with clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and lemon curd. The Scotch Egg, scones and preserves/lemon curd was awesome. Finger sandwiches were ok.

The top tier was pastries, like a strawberry Napoleon, raspberry mousse and sponge, dark chocolate mousse on a chocolate cookie. They looked beautiful. The real problem was the sugar content. They were so sweet they made your teeth hurt. I've heard that saying before, but didn't understand it until today. The tray is refillable, so we had seconds on sandwiches and scones. We left full.

To make sure you leave full, they bring you the cake cart and have you choose slices to go. We chose pink and yellow Battenburg cake, and raspberry/coconut/lime sponge. You also can take your leftover scones and the preserves and lemon curd.

We left Fortnum and Mason at 5. The sugar high didn't wear off until 9. I'm not sure I need to do Afternoon tea again. At least, not one that fancy. Next time I'll go for one of the savory teas, or "offbeat" teas offered in different places around London.

But my new Fortnum and Mason Thermos sure is pretty…

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