Theatricality Dominates To The Detriment Of Experience At This Afternoon Tea
The savoury elements of afternoon tea are things that we don't appreciate until they're not there — then, it turns out, we miss them. We really miss them.
The fair warning is there; Oxo Tower's Not Afternoon Tea is billed as an alternative to afternoon tea. Focus is very much on the sweet treats and the booze, and that goes for the new theatrical version too.
Scones and sandwiches don't feature at all, so we leap right in with a sour cherry and bergamot-filled skull and a goblet of Hamlet’s poison — a pear cider based cocktail. The piquant cherry mousse is the perfect palatte cleanser for whats's to come.
Next, we're served a quartet of cakes, each one pertaining to the theme of a different musical in London. The towering witch's hat (Wicked) is a minty feat of culinary architecture, while the fruity lion's face (Lion King) is almost too cute to cut into. Each cake is tasty, but the chocolate and honey cake which represents Matilda is — although not a looker — by far the most moreish of the lot.
As well as being enjoyable to eat, the presentation is absolutely on point, but by halfway through, this doesn't matter any more. Each cake, you see, is paired with a cocktail which is served alongside it, leaving us seeing double. Creme de menthe, gin, brandy and various other booze-based tipples mix in our inadequately-lined stomachs (scones and sandwiches would have helped here...) until we're begging for the teetotal tea and biscuits course to be brought out.
The biscuits are stashed in our bags for later, and the waiter brings out the final hurrah, a box of chocolates to take home, each individual chocolate themed for another musical. It's a memorable touch to end the experience on, showing the level of thought that has gone into planning it.
We consider ourselves to have the most saccharine of sweet teeth, and even we find this meal too sugary. By the time we're retrieving our coats from the cloakroom, the fancy jars of pork crackling being peddled on the bar for £5 a pop are a thoroughly tempting way to get some salt back in our bloodstream.
The alcohol is also too much. The crux of the problem is that whoever designed the tea got carried away with the theatricality of it all, without stopping to think about the effects on those eating it. Individually, the components work, but all served together, it's overkill.
We're used to leaving afternoon tea servings feeling full, but booze-addled and sugar-soaked is a new one for us, and is proof that you can have too much of a good thing. Good looking it may be — Instagrammers will love it — but this Not Afternoon Tea isn't one for traditionalists, or those who value their teeth or liver.
Theatre Not Afternoon Tea at Oxo Tower Brasserie, £38 per person (£18 for children).
Last Updated 15 June 2018