Simple and subtle, hidden tearoom style
Tea is quintessential to the British as stout is to the Irish and having afternoon tea is literally a social event that takes up the better part of a leisurely afternoon with some friends. Over the weekend, four of us up the ante and booked ourselves into an afternoon champagne tea session at Lady Gray's Hidden Tearoom.
For the uninitiated, the 'Hidden' dining concept, recently popularised, essentially involved groups of strangers dining in an undisclosed venue. Payment is usually made via Paypal in advance and the venue will only be made known just prior to the event.
Sounds dubious? Well, it all depends on how you look at it. There's always this thrill about not knowing who you are going to meet during the session or how the host may turn out. And if you think that because of its unlicensed status, such dining places might actually be cheaper, there's where you're mistaken. Lady Gray charges £25 per head for afternoon tea; considering that for just £10 more, you can have your tea with scones (free flow for both) at The Ritz, which comes with all the pomp, there is an obvious premium placed on the novelty factor.
We were greeted at the door after providing the password "It's us, Lady Gray!" by whom I should refer to here as Earl Gray. He led us through what could only be described as a labyrinth and after a series of stairwells, we finally reached our destination.
We were greeted at the door by the Lady and their little adoringly excitable hound, Oliver (its real name). With glasses of champagne, we went up to a good size balcony with a great view while waiting for the arrival of seven other guests. The rest arrived a couple of minutes later and before long we were chatting merrily amongst ourselves about how we discovered the Hidden Tearoom.
At precisely 2.30pm, we were led into the dining room. Tastefully decorated with black and white photos, the dining room was dominated by a long table was lined with white tablecloth and set with cutlery and individually printed menu. I must say that the presentation was better than I had expected.
The session started with a wide selection of tea (presented to us in a separate menu) and we were assured that we could request for a change of tea halfway through. I opted for Lapsang Souchong but was told by the Earl that they have ran out so I went for Oolong instead. After fussing over the tea menu for a couple of minutes, everyone made their choices and we carried on with the conversation while the Lady and the Earl toiled in the adjoining kitchen.
The Earl came in with the courses soon after tea was served. I'm not going to go through the entire list here but you do get a rather wide selection here. Other than the staple salmon, cucumber, cheese, ham sandwiches, there were also piping hot raisin scones (still soft) with cranberries preserves and clotted cream. Next up, we had selections of cakes, shortcakes and soft chocolate biscuits before having a palate cleanser sorbet. The final course was the velvet and butter cupcakes accompanied with chocolate truffles. That was topped up with a pot of jasmine flower tea, which flower literally bloomed in front of our eyes.
If you're looking for picking off your scones from fine china and seated in plump cushions under huge crystal chandeliers, the Hidden Tearoom is probably not your cup of tea. For £25, you will get an experience with a personal touch and the quality of food is way above those served at The Ritz. Towards the end of the session, Lady Gray brought Oliver out to performed some tricks, much to the delight of the guests.
Surely, that beats having Neptune staring down at you menacing with his trident held menacingly over his head while you munch on triangular sandwiches.
Address: Old Street, London EC1V
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (email for more information)
Nearest Tube station: Old Street
Website: The Hidden Tea Room
Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: £25 pp
Service charge: N/A
Suitable for: couples with a sweet tooth, love meeting new people and adore dogs