When great friends come to visit London, it would be remiss not to take them for gluten free afternoon tea at one of London’s finest tea rooms, in this case Fortnum and Mason.
N and I have been great friends for 15 years. When I graduated from University I moved to Moscow, Russia which was a lot easier and a whole heap more fun than getting a job in recession hit 90s London. N and I used to sit next to each other in my first ‘proper’ job.
Those adventurous days seem a long time ago and none more so than when I smile at how much our lives have changed since then – N’s more than mine, it must be said. She’s been on a real journey which has taken her from Moscow, to the UK, France and now a secondment to New York. Mightily impressive.
When N came to stay for the weekend and said what she’d really like to do the following day was afternoon tea somewhere nice, I knew it was going to be a tall order. On my previous attempts at afternoon tea, I needed to book weeks or months in advance. On top of this I was also going to need a gluten free afternoon tea.
Visiting London and looking for the best gluten free restaurants in London? Head to my coeliac’s guide to gluten free restaurants in London.
Like N, I’m also a determined person and set about ringing around everywhere I knew that did gluten free afternoon tea. Gluten free afternoon tea at Claridges? No availability. What about gluten free afternoon tea at London’s 5 star Brown’s hotel? No. The Langham? Oh wait! The gluten free Mad Hatters afternoon tea at the Sanderson hotel! No…..and on until I called Fortnum & Mason. They had a table!
We were offered the option of taking our gluten free afternoon tea either in the St James restaurant or the St James lounge. We settled on the former, preferring to sit at a table rather than at sofas with low tables.
Having already informed them I needed a gluten free afternoon tea, I was presented with a gluten free menu:
The choice of teas was huge and came in a ring binder folder:
I was brought a gluten free canapé; a flavoursome pea soup and smoked salmon.
My refreshing peppermint tea arrived:
Then the afternoon tea stand was presented:
I started with the lower tray of sandwiches:
These were all on gluten free white bread. This was the only aspect of the Fortnum’s afternoon tea which disappointed me a little. The bread was white and toasted. The fillings were very tasty, and while the bread wasn’t bad at all, I just thought they could have made more on an effort with the gluten free bread and produced a tastier bread. Once the plate of sandwiches was eaten, another was produced.
I then moved on to the scones with jam and a little clotted cream. Blimey, were these scones good! So good, in fact, I made Mr D taste it for me since they didn’t have the usual crumbly texture of a gluten free scone and I was concerned they might have given me the regular ones. He too was impressed with the quality but was sure they weren’t the same taste as his (they were also shaped slightly differently).
By this point I was feeling pretty full. Which was unfortunate since what I didn’t realise was that the last layer contained hidden gems:
A delightfully fresh but seemingly alcoholic champagne jelly, a slice of pure unadulterated, wicked molten chocolate heaven and the lightest fruit mousse. Note to self: Save room for the top shelf!
I really enjoyed gluten free afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason. Maybe the gluten free bread used for the sandwiches wasn’t as good as in other places, maybe the atmosphere of the St James restaurant was lacking a little in comparison with the fabulous Claridges or Brown’s hotels but the scones, cakes and desserts more than made up for it.
But most importantly the company was every bit as fun as the first time N and I met all those years ago in Moscow.
Gluten Free Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason
Location: 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
Cost: Gluten Free Afternoon tea with Classic Blend tea, £34 and with Single Estate Tea, £38
Times: Afternoon Tea is served 12 noon to 6.30 pm Monday to Saturday and 12 noon to 4.30pm on Sundays
Other dietary requirements including vegetarian, dairy free, diabetic, egg allergy and vegan are catered for.