cream teas – a work of art?

 A Fortnum & Mason Cream Tea

I’ve always loved quintessential English rituals, such as fish and chips at the seaside, strawberries and cream in summer, egg and cress sandwiches, and especially a good cream tea.

I’ve sniffed out and consumed this quaint tradition at posh hotels in London, restaurants, tea rooms in Yorkshire, National Trust cafes, and even country pubs. In fact maybe one day I should write a book. A good cream tea is a work of art.

As I am such a connoisseur of cream teas, my expectations are quite high and I know a quaffable Earl Grey tea and a scoffable cucumber sandwich when I encounter them. Unfortunately, a Fortnum & Mason cream tea (served in the St James restaurant on the 4th floor) is not the best I’ve ever had and ranks far below a local hotel’s version just around the corner from me.

But then these establishments rely on their name to carry them. I’ve been told from a reliable source (my cream-tea-scoffing allies) that The Ritz is not up to much cop either. The service in Fortnums is pleasant though not overly attentive, the tables are attractive, the decoration dull, the clientele likewise, but the view from the window onto Picadilly makes up for this (if you are lucky enough to be seated near the window).

The cream tea itself scores 4 out of 10. You get 4 measly sandwiches each, 2 scones, 2 cakes, a pot of tea and a glass of champagne for just under £40(!). I took a picture of the tea before its inevitable demolition. The best thing about the presentation was the lovely silver teapots and milk jugs with matching tea strainers. The clotted cream was also shaped into a perfect dome, if that’s what pleases you.

If you are thinking of doing something similar,  you’d be better off going to Browns Hotel or the Langham Hotel, London .

3 Comments on cream teas – a work of art?

  1. Roisin
    December 17, 2007 at 10:58 pm (10 years ago)

    Ah what is art…
    If you as an artist say it’s art – is it art?

    An Irish artist Sarah Browne recently had an arts residency in the UK where her project consisted of inviting locals for afternoon tea in the beautiful historic setting of estate gardens and summer house. She created a small artists book from the residency.

    You have great wit and it comes across in your blog well.

  2. Diane
    December 18, 2007 at 10:14 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for your comment.

    I would love to have been invited for the tea. I like cream teas and the rituals associated with them.


  3. Hayley
    January 20, 2008 at 8:09 pm (10 years ago)

    I realise from reading this that I’ve never had a proper Cream Tea with cucumber sandwiches and the works – a new year’s resolution is in order. Although I’m not sure they’re hearty enough for me – I like scones like small loaves, and great chunky teapots. I like your idea of a book on the best cream teas – fun to research too.