The skies clouded over and the heavens opened, while the rain gushed upon the population of London without a second thought. But despite the weathers best intentions, two young friend’s spirits could not be dampened, chronicling their way through the big city until they reached their destination at Afternoon Tea Central: The Dandelyan. Floral blooms cascading in voluminous maxi skirts juxtaposed with 50’s pin up polka dots, red and white, green, red and white, two dresses entering The Dandelyan one heel clonk at a time. Suitcases whisked away and jackets taken, we peered in awe at the whimsical ‘submarine toilets’ that reminded us of being at sea. Oh’ how canny! But it was the green and pink lounge that appealed to us the most, where the scones and the sandwiches would dance in unison and the cocktails would slip down our scratchy throats with ease. There would be a marble top bar, smooth and elegant with fancy bar stools plumped for guests arrivals, contrasted against plush green armchairs that transported us into a garden fantasy,with a view of the rain drops making its way into the colourless Thames, with force and reckoning. And in the corner we would people watch, looking at the groups who made their way into the retro ‘Barbie Pink’ leatherette sofas, with a contrasting green and gold gilded wall, had we stepped back in time? Bellies A’rumbling, clocks a’ticking, we waited the arrival of our afternoon tea with undisguised interest, as we spied upon those who had got there first, nursing their cocktails like they had made their very own love child.
As we waited, I sank into a dream while I was still wide awake, remembering the time I was at Christmas In July, surrounded by an assortment of brands that were clamoring for our attention. But then one particular display caught my attention; Buyagift and Red Letter Days had come together as one, under one umbrella they were determined to bring experiences to the public that would spread some sunshine in soulless grey days. There would be theatre trips and three course dinners, with hot air balloon toasts becoming a parallel version of Jack and Dani’s final date on Love Island, oh and what about the trips abroad to magical castles and blooming castles, a once in a lifetime opportunity? And so a cocktail afternoon tea became our first point of protocol, dreaming of the cocktails that would soothe my exhausted throat and the cakes that would fill our bellies with joy. Shaking myself out of my reverie, we plumped for photos, a welcome apertif of the appropriately named ‘Cheers!’ featuring Bacardi, plum and peach, elderflower and of course bubbles that fizzled delightfully on our once frazzled tongues, we were cleansed. Within moments our ‘afternoon tea stand’ had arrived, ‘sarnies’ at the top , scones in the middle and cakes at the bottom, a feast for the senses.
Hungry hands reached for sarnies first, a special selection for me as a vegetarian and meat for Marie; Gimlet Compressed Cucumber with Herbed Goat’s Cheese, Watercress served on a mini Brioche proved to be dry and slightly flavourless,but the other vegetarian options proved more spectacular to taste. A carrot and herb Parmesan crouete was short and sweet but nevertheless packed a punch, crumbling delightfully in the mouth. But it was the red pepper and goats cheese herb roll that stole the savory spot, a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach; if only there was more. It goes without saying that it was the desserts that stole the show, but what about Marie‘s I hear you ask?Pastrami with Ipa relish lain out on Spelt Bread, while the Smoked Salmon was layered with Kümmel & Green Onion Mayonnaise, served on Rye Bread. The savory selection for the ‘meat eaters’ appeared to be more carefully curated than the vegetarian platter, but nevertheless one couldn’t help but notice the extra care servers took to ensure my allergies and dietary requirements were followed down to a T. A coffee for Marie and a caffeine free teapot for me,called Zest, which like its namesake was full of citric flavour. The tea was an antidote to the stormy weather outside, a tea that relaxed you into mystical stupor, you could feeling the muscles un-tighten, it felt like heaven.
A palette cleanser marched down the table next, a martini glass served with Passionfruit and Sea Buckthorn, with a base of Bombay Sapphire, an odd mix that somehow worked. We could taste the sea in our glasses, almost like seaweed in cocktail form but with each sip the taste became a little familiar, aiding digestion between each course. More snapshots were taken, videos and boomerangs, oh what a lark, but our desserts were still waiting to take centre stage. The scones were first, crumbled in our mouth, washed down with Clotted Cream, Grape & Sherry Jam that had that extra pizazz to tickle our fancies once more. We watched the world go by as we ate, people outside wrestling with rebellious umbrellas, people inside roaring with raucous laughter at The Dandelyan, we couldn’t help but join in. In between mouthfuls of scone and cream on our noses, two friends came together for one afternoon only, a meditative retreat in a hotel’s guise. Despite the fancy exteriors, there was no snobbish foolery or pretense, a welcome place for all, no money talk involved. Staff laughing with each other behind the scenes, servers eager to please, food waiting on hungry belly rumbles, drinks waltzing down smooth marble tops.
A pink cocktail to match the playful Barbie-esque exteriors came next, named as Chocolate Farm- a play on words, George Orwell’s Animal Farm? No. Pink, fluffiness, a vegan version with chickpea flour base for me, Chocolate Vermouth with Pink Peppercorn topped with Prosecco, it tasted like a jubilant celebration. We blocked the world outside and all our responsibilities as we drank, didn’t I tell you it was a meditation, but you didn’t listen did you? Now you know of a world that exists outside of our realities, where fantasy and play come together in perfect harmony, colours and textures exploding in our mouths. Is this magic? Only time would tell. Vermouth lined insides, with sparkled frosting, our stomachs awaited the inclusion of sweets, oh sweet naughty treats how we long for you. Three sweets lined up in a circle, a riot of colour, in our mouths they went. Earl Grey Vermouth Custard Tart danced on Mint Choc Scotch Tea Cake while French Martini Blancmange wibble wobbled on our plate. Munch, crunch into the hatchet they went, the custard tart was divine but then again so was the tea cake, who could choose a favourite?
The tea had almost trickled to a still, but this botanical afternoon tea at The Dandelyan had one more trick up its sleeve. One more cocktail dived into the botanic garden of dreams, a McCrop Mojito, how did they know mojitos were my favourite? A caffeine free version for me with Grey Goose, Mango and Citrus and a green tea inclusion for Marie, fragrant, refreshing, the perfect way to end a Wyld cocktail afternoon tea. Our time was running out like quicksand but still we savored the moment, it tasted like a tropical cruise. The Dandelyan was getting ever busier as the afternoon drew into evening but still we paused time, living in the moment, not the future, tomorrow’s responsibilities waiting outside, we kept them waiting a little longer. The time came, we packed up our things, the rain was still out in force, how could we forget. But on the train, as I watched the people go by once more, I peered into my bag and there it was, the little beauty, a red envelope with our afternoon tea slip inside, I held it close to my chest. That night we dreamed a dream where an afternoon tea had commenced once more, cocktails dancing on peripheral vision, was it real? But then we saw the photos and videos, a souvenir from our experience, snapshots in time that reminded us to let go and be present. Green, pink and teal too, those were the colours at The Dandelyan that we were welcomed into.
Have You Ever Been To A Cocktail Afternoon Tea?
Please note this is a collaborative post with Red Letter Days who offer amazing experiences and days out to suit any occasion but all thoughts are my own and are not affected by complimentary services.