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