- Food & Drink
Blaggers’ Banquet auction was afternoon tea at The Hidden Tearoom. The gracious proprietress of The Hidden Tearoom, Lady Gray, was at the Banquet and her descriptions of the cake feast that awaited the lucky winner clearly sent the crowd into a carb frenzy. I can’t remember the exact amount but tea for two definitely went for more than £150.
As it happened, I went to The Hidden Tearoom the day before the Banquet with Leonard, DJ and Leonard’s boyfriend The Enigmatic Mr S. The Tearoom is in Lady Gray’s flat in East London, which is easy to get to but a complete labyrinth inside. When she says: “Wait in the lobby and someone will come and get you,” she isn’t just keen on you enjoying some quality lobby time.
Her Squire found us and led us around identical corridors and past non-sequentially numbered flats. One twosome ignored Lady Gray’s advice and disappeared into the building for 20 minutes before reappearing at the front door and shame-facedly requesting a guide.
The tea kicked off with a glass of champagne. Champagne is brilliant. I don’t often get lifestyle envy but champagne always has me reaching for the lottery tickets. I did my best not to guzzle it and took my seat at the table with 11 other afternoon tea fans.
The one unescapable rule of life is that you have to eat your sandwiches before you eat your cake. At The Hidden Tearoom you also have to eat an American Cheddar biscuit, which contains considerably more Cheddar than biscuit. It was delicious. Then we moved onto finger sandwiches: Wiltshire honey ham with Jarlsberg, Turkey breast with cranberry, Smoked salmon with cream cheese and Marinated cucumber with cream cheese. Sandwiches are sandwiches. You have to be pretty cantankerous to take against them.
There was one more hurdle to leap before we could bury our faces in warm, fluffy scones, jam and cream. We each had a big spoonful of mango and pineapple sorbet as a palate cleanser. It was very fresh, smooth and not too sweet, although it had that faint acidic tang fresh pineapple often has. The kind that makes your tongue go furry after a couple of slices as the enzymes kick in and the pineapple tries to get in first and digest you.
We could smell the scones baking while we spooned up our sorbet. Lady Gray’s Squire brought out pots of clotted cream, blueberry jam and strawberry jam. Knives were poised. Everyone got a plain scone and a fruit scone and we were all very polite in a ruthless kind of way about ensuring we got our fair share. When Lady Gray asked if anyone would like more scones, my hand was first in the air. I may have even shouted: “Meeeeeeeeeee!”
After the scones came tiers of cakes. Squidgy wodges of chocolate brownie, zappy slices of lemon cake and squares of shortbread that I couldn’t touch because I had reached the stage in afternoon tea that aficionados will recognise: carb sweats. It didn’t mean I was going to stop eating, but I had to do some mental lunges and push-ups to make room in my mind and therefore my stomach.
Not eating the shortbread was the surest way to fool myself into thinking I had enough room for the carrot cake and vanilla cupcake with cream cheese frosting. I didn’t, but I ate a carrot cake anyway and risked rupturing my stomach. If anything is worth exploding for, it’s cream cheese frosting.
We’d all had our own pot of tea – I had a delicate white tea – but the arrival of the jasmine tea was treated as the answer to all our digestive prayers. We were rigid with cake and the belief took hold that the jasmine tea would somehow flush it all through and leave us svelte and ready to start again.
But there is only one liquid in the world that can do that and that’s grappa. The jasmine tea was good, however I still looked 4 months pregnant with a wheat baby when I got up to leave. And even though I really, really wasn’t hungry, I still ate the Lady Grey Tea Truffle that came with the tea. I am that greedy.
The whole tea was £25 a head and it is worth every penny. The Hidden Tearoom gets booked up pretty quickly, so if you want to go, sign up for the mailing list and book a slot as soon as one comes free.