The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Mason serves afternoon tea fit for a queen. One of the most luxurious department stores in London, the venerable store has been serving tea in their upstairs salon since 1926. The salon underwent a renovation in 2012 when it was reopened as the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, dedicated to HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Founded in 1707, Fortnum and Mason is one of London’s oldest department stores and is well known for their variety of luxury goods.
The spacious tearoom covers two sections of the fourth floor and is beautifully decorated with light beige paneling on the walls and plush chairs covered in a turquoise blue fabric.
A grand piano also stands in the foyer of the tea salon, which is played during the tea service.
The salon’s tables are immaculately set with fine white linen tablecloths and cups and saucers in the department store’s famous “St. James” pattern. The white and “eau de nil” jade blue pattern features golden embellishments depicting scenes of the nearby St. James park during the 18th century. This design, called “chinoiserie,” was very popular throughout England during the Georgian era.
The salon serves two different afternoon teas, a traditional “Afternoon Tea,” which includes tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and desserts. The “High Tea” is served with a savory dish and other savory accompaniments in place of the desserts and sweet scones.
I ordered one of each of the teas. For the high tea I was given a choice of several seasonal dishes. I chose the Cornish halibut, which was served with Jerusalem artichoke puree and samphire (known as “sea beans” in the West), drizzled with nasturtium infused oil and topped with caviar. The samphire had a briny flavor that really complemented the fresh caught fish and the dollop of caviar on top really took the dish up a notch, transforming it into something very classy and elegant.
Next up was the savory course, a tiered tray of exquisite savories, including a savory eclair filled with smoked salmon cream; crab salad and cucumber served on multigrain bread; a creamy egg custard called “Eggs Drumkilbo” served in an eggshell with lobster (a favorite of the Queen’s); beetroot and ginger cheesecake and a sweet pea and coconut panna cotta served on a savory oatcake, which had a wonderful flavor of spring peas and a light aftertaste of coconut.
The High Tea was served with two different savory scones and accompanying spreads, including one with spring onions and chives, served with a sweet and savory grape mustard jelly and a goat cheese and a smoked salmon scone that was served with whipped butter and fresh dill.
(Photo 7: High Tea savories & scones at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon)
Both of the afternoon teas included a plate of five different tea sandwiches, including a “rare breed hen’s” egg salad with English watercress; smoked salmon with tartare mayonnaise; cucumber with mint cream cheese; Norfolk cured ham with English mustard and the salon’s specialty, a coronation chicken sandwich with mango chutney, golden raisins and coriander.
I chose three different teas from the salon’s extensive tea list: a citrusy earl grey, a fruity peach black tea and a strawberry infused green tea each one served with the three courses.
A selection of five miniature desserts was served with the traditional afternoon tea, including a lemon tartlet, chocolate torte, white chocolate truffle, red velvet cake with cream cheese buttercream and a choux puff filled with rose flavored pastry cream, topped with an edible rose petal. The desserts were beautiful, arranged on the plate to look like a bouquet of spring flowers.
(Photo 9: Desserts & Scones at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon)
The scones were served last, freshly baked right out of the oven, one plain scone and one with sultanas, which I ate the “Devonshire way,” topped with clotted cream first, followed by strawberry jam. I enjoyed the plain scone topped with the salon’s homemade lemon curd and clotted cream. The combination of the buttery scone, tart lemon curd and velvety clotted cream was heavenly, especially paired with the last pot of strawberry infused green tea.
The whole experience was made even sweeter by my server, who was very kind and knowledgeable about the tea menu. It was an experience steeped in history and tradition, one that would make anyone feel like royalty. I would definitely recommend this afternoon tea to anyone who is visiting London. It is a must-have experience for anyone who has an interest in the tradition of afternoon tea.
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