I like a good tea, me. I play cricket, so the concept of sitting down to sandwiches, cake and a brew in the middle of the afternoon is not anathema. Plus I've recently been trying desperately to emulate my far more cultured male friends who have got all hot and bothered about the Great British Bake Off and are turning out choux at an entrepreneurial rate.
On the other hand, I'm not really used to dressing up. As a freelance hack and part-time teacher I spend a lot of time in jeans - and when at home, rather a lot more in various versions of pajamas. Of course when I'm eating tea while playing cricket, I'm generally making sure my sweat doesn't drip into the tuna mayo.
So it was a bit of a shock, albeit a pleasant one, when I headed recently to Fortnum & Mason for my first visit to their legendary Jubilee tea salon. Yes, yes, I know it's been going for donkey's years. But I'd been clued in to a new savoury tea they had introduced, with a particular nod to younger male clientele. Posh pies? I was in.
And you know, it was delicious. Not only that, but it was a huge portion. No dainty haute cuisine-style mini plates here. No, there were lashings of sarnies - rare beef with horseradish, smoked salmon, a lovely chicken/tarragon combo, as well as possibly the best eggy ones I've had in a long time.
The mushroom pie with garlic crumb looked brilliant and tasted just as good, while the savoury scones - ham and cheese with English mustard butter sparked a lot of home cooking ideas - were hardy but fell apart when you needed them to.
Our "tea-rista" gave us a nice tasting menu of different blends. I ended up going for the Temple Blend from Prince Charles's own Highgrove estate. For someone who usually floods their mug with milk, this was the rare breakfast-style tea I was able to drink black.
When my wife asked for some tap water, the impeccable maître d presented it with a sweeping gesture and a jokey, "Piccadilly's finest, madam".
Oh - and for those of you who like cake, don't fret. You get a go on the cake carriage. A moreish maple and walnut concoction delivered, although I personally found the chocolate one a little imbalanced in favour of buttercream over sponge.
The hen do next to us and the various older people in the room ensured I remained one of the few young men in the salon. So for those of you who want to impress the in-laws, but don't want to feel too emasculated by chowing down on cucumber with the crusts cut off and fondant fancies, this new menu and this fine 300-year-old institution have got a lot to offer.
You can see further details about menus and so forth here.
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