A pianist was tapping away on a grand piano as I pondered which cake to delicately plough my fork into.
If you’re looking for the ultimate afternoon tea in London, then Fortnum & Mason has to be it.
It was a Sunday and I’d ventured to the Royal purveyor – located around a 20 minute walk from Buckingham Palace – with a friend who was visiting from America.
On walking into the place, you’re hit by a waft of old-school charm.
Smartly dressed servers fettling the cake trolley, zany English art hanging from the wall and soft carpet rolling underfoot.
We were booked in for the classic afternoon tea and a tasting with the master tea man.
The table was set out perfectly with cutlery and crockery seemingly angled at exact measurements.
If you have chance, the tea tasting is well worth doing.
Dominico was super knowledgeable about the heritage and origin of all of the brews.
He told me all about lapsang souchong – my favourite tea – and how it gets its smokey taste after the hand-picked tea leaves from China are smoked by pine needles.
Meanwhile, my friend Nick got an insight into jasmine tea, learning how the tea leaves are rolled into neat ‘pearls’ with jasmine blossoms to give it a delicate floral taste.
After working up an appetite over our tea tutorial, we were promptly served up out afternoon tea.
The cake stand – in classic Fortnum & Mason pale turquoise was whisked out – and set down before us.
The porcelain plates sat brimming with a cascade of tantalising treats.
At the bottom there was an assortment of finger sandwiches.
Breaded slices of smoked salmon, cucumber, coronation chicken, ham and egg were juggled between us.
Muffled tasting notes were all that were exchanged as we went.
On the second tier sat four scones, two punctuated with raisins and two plain.
A jar of lemon curd and strawberry jam lay in front of us for plastering purposes.
To round it off, a silver dish containing a glug of clotted cream stayed chilled.
Things got a little messy as I enthusiastically sliced into my scones and spread the sweet spreads to my heart’s content.
Realising there was still another stacker to go, I left half a scone uneaten. A sprinkling of crumbs littered the crisp white cloth before me.
At this point I turned my attention to the intricate cakes teetering at the top.
The colourful pieces of patisserie looked like works of art but my fork was at the ready – a massacre of the masterpieces was about to commence!
Mouthfuls of rose eclair, red velvet cake, rich tea loaf and mini macaroons soon gave way to mild palpitations.
A sip of tea was in order.
The dining room was now packed out. Everyone appeared smartly dressed, with coos of delight constantly sounding as people fawned over their seductive servings of sweets.
Although we were completely stuffed we had to take advantage of the ‘bottomless’ cake trolley.
Yes, that’s right. A cake trolley that just keeps on rolling out baked goods until your trousers bulge.
We plumped on sharing a slice of chocolate ganache.
It was absolutely divine. We could barely speak. Self-induced food comas had hit us.
The cake trolley became increasingly tempting.
‘After all of this, I might just need wheeling out,’ I mused to myself.
I invite you to Fortnum’s bottomless afternoon tea cake challenge. It’s not as easy as you think!
To book an afternoon tea or tea tasting at Fortnum & Mason visit www.fortnumandmason.com