What better theme for an afternoon tea than Alice in Wonderland, given that there is no tea party more famous than the Mad Hatter’s tea party, featured in the 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Sanderson Hotel in London clearly thought the same and currently hosts an afternoon tea inspired by the very novel.
It was a sunny, warm June day and my friend and I were having a joint birthday tea (her birthday being May and mine July, June is always the best choice for this). We were greeted at the hotel and led through to a beautiful courtyard garden, complete with faux flamingos. Marble tables were set out around the pond and baby pink blankets were over each chair, should a need for them arise. The garden also had a beautiful, floral swing chair, in association with Laurent-Perrier and was getting a lot of attention with girls trying to get the perfect Instagram snap.
I had come dressed in the latest Cath KidstonxDisney collaboration, an Alice in Wonderland shirt dress. I paired this with rose gold Marie Leonie pumps bought in Verona and a matching rose gold handbag from River Island.
The waterfall in the background had a lovely relaxing effect as a waitress brought over the teas to choose from. These were all in small bottles like the drink me potion was in the story and each one was named after a character. The menus were stuck in a novel, crockery featured gymnasts and the serviettes were wrapped with a piece of paper with #I’m a Mad Hatter. When the tea pots came out, they had an illustration of a king on them and a black paper crown. The sugar cubes could be found, where else but in a music box.
When the tea stand was brought over, it was simply wonderful and really embraced the theme as much as possible. The food was one of the best themed offerings I have seen at any afternoon tea. The savoury items were a smoked salmon Scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese, a stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croquet-monsieur, held together by a heart cocktail stick, Cornish crab brioche with spiced avocado and coriander and White Rabbit cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on pesto bread.
Next came the obligatory warm scones with Cornish clotted cream and fruit preserve. These were wrapped in black and white checked napkins as a nod to the chess game in the story. Then came the bit I enjoy the most, the range of sweet treats. There was a Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry Jammy Dodger, mocha chessboard gateau, Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier, Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon, chocolate and pistachio Blue Caterpillar, Wonderland marshmallow magic mushrooms and Mad Hatters lost carrot and fennel meringue; all washed down with Alice’s exotic fruits “Drink Me” potion, served in a small bottle with a vintage paper straw.
Finally to round things off, we were given ice-cream served in a small terracotta flower-pot, as you do.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but was slightly disappointed at the standard of service received. I said as much on Twitter and much to my surprise, the impossible happened and my friend and I were invited to return to the hotel for a complimentary dinner, so they could showcase their service. We returned and our every need was met, while we enjoyed a delicious three-course meal and the hotel’s signature cocktail. They certainly turned my opinion around – what fabulous customer service!
When it came to my actual birthday, my sister-in-law surprised me with a fantastic Alice in Wonderland themed cake while my husband bought me an Alice in Wonderland cake stand.
Lewis Carroll was inspired to write the novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland while rowing in Oxford with a friend from Christ Church College and his three girls, one of whom was called Alice in 1862. During the trip he told the girls a story about a bored girl named Alice who was looking for adventure. This story, which the real Alice asked Lewis to write down, is the basis of what, once elaborated on, became the novel. I wonder if Lewis Carroll, knew when he was in Oxford that day, what an influence the novel and its characters would continue to have over 150 years later. I visited Oxford with my Mum back in May, following a shopping trip to Bicester Village. We had afternoon tea by Folly Bridge which is where Lewis’ boat trip began, visited Alice’s shop and saw the small door in the Cathedral Gardens which legend has it is where Alice entered Wonderland.
Over the years, there have been many differing adaptions of the classic tale and I have to say one of my favourite film ones is the Disney 2010 adaption, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. Whatever the version you choose though, I think there are two very important messages to take from the tale which are, nothing is ever quite as it seems and if you believe in the impossible, it becomes possible.