Afternoon Tea at Saatchi Gallery Mess

It is probably cliche and silly, but ever since moving to London I’ve wanted to experience a proper British afternoon tea. Luckily, a visit from the parents (along with C from Brussels) was a good excuse to indulge. After scouring the TimeOut London afternoon tea reviews, I settled on The Gallery Mess for its reasonable prices, solid reviews, and location in the Saatchi Gallery, which would give us an opportunity to see some art as well as enjoy tea.

I’d been to the Saatchi Gallery last year with a friend and loved its simple, well-lit, open layout; I thought my parents would appreciate it, even if some of the contemporary art was a little weird. The Gallery is worth a visit, if only to become hypnotized by this installation piece:

Richard Wilson 20:50 installation (photo courtesy of my dad)

Richard Wilson’s 20:50 installation (photo courtesy of my dad)

After a spin through the Gallery, the five of us were promptly seated in The Gallery Mess for our three o’clock reservation. Since each of us wanted the standard Afternoon Tea, ordering happened fast and then the excitement set in. First, the waiter set out our plates with a napkin and knife carefully positioned on top:

IMG_4735Then, empty teacups (more like mugs — we liked their large size) and glasses with water appeared, again carefully positioned in relation to the plates and each other. The anticipation built…

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Next up: our tea, in pretty clear glass pots with removable inserts filled with each person’s choice of tea:

T had mint tea (foreground), D had jasmine (middle), C had wild berry (background). F and I shared the best Earl Grey tea I've ever had.

T had mint tea (foreground), D had jasmine (middle), C had wild berry (background). F and I shared a delicious, smooth Earl Grey.

Finally, the tea trays arrived! Since there were five of us, two pairs had ordered the tea for two and D got the tea for one (the difference? £1 saved by ordering the tea for two, but the one-person tea came with two scones — lucky D!). The food was beautifully presented in neat little pairs, with one of each offering for each person. Savory bites included classic cucumber sandwiches, mini bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, bread with some kind of mayonnaise spread and a quail egg. Sweet bites included pink macarons, chocolate-covered marshmallow-y things (by far the worst offering), currant scones with butter and jam, and squares of lemon cake with a delicate dollop of cream cheese:

IMG_4742

We polished off everything, satiated but not stuffed; there were just the right amount of nibbles for each person. I liked the combination of sweet and savory; F and I ate ours in reverse, because I like to finish with sweet and he prefers to get that taste out of the way first. My favorites were the lemon cake and the scone with tasty fresh butter.

all gone!

all gone!

I would definitely recommend The Gallery Mess’ afternoon tea. It was just £11.50 per person, which is way cheaper than most afternoon tea services around London. The tea was excellent and the food tasted fresh and delicious, though I found the sweet nibbles moister and tastier than the savory ones, which were a tad dry. And don’t forget to visit the Saatchi Gallery before or after tea!

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7 thoughts on “Afternoon Tea at Saatchi Gallery Mess

  1. Jennie Saia says:

    My grandmother introduced me to afternoon tea. I don’t think there’s anything in the world more simply satisfying. After we ate, she’d always say, “Ahhh. I feel human again!”

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