With what I had planned for today, it really was no surprise to wake up with the lines of Veruca Salt’s song from the original film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory going around my head.
You see, I was off to One Aldwych London with two of my closest friends for Afternoon Tea.Not just any afternoon tea, but One Aldwych’s famed Afternoon Tea Inspired by Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. This was something the three of us had been talking about doing for months, as a three way birthday treat, and finally the day had come. In preparation I hadn’t had any breakfast and substituted a delicious hot chocolate, from a cafe in nearby Covent Garden, in place of lunch.
We arrived just before our pre-booked time of 4pm and marvelled at the exterior poshness of the place. We desperately did our best to appear ladylike as the concierges opened the doors for us. Our booking was confirmed and we were efficiently whisked off upstairs and seated, the three of us slightly aware that, despite our tea dresses and blazers, we were probably not the sort of clientele that really belonged in a place like that. Our waiter came over and explained the set up to us and suggested, if we were going to take the cocktail option, we should go for it as an appetiser. Obviously we wanted the cocktail option and, if he said having it first was best, then first we would have it.
The cocktails, aptly named Cocktail Charlie, arrived in small steaming glass teapots, boiling and bubbling away. Our waiter explained that they were made according to a special recipe, invented by Willy Wonka himself, and were, in fact, scalding hot. As he poured he cautioned us to take care and not burn ourselves on the drinks. Once he’d poured a glass for each of us (from our own individual smoking glass teapots) he reassured us the cocktails were ready to drink. He even obliged us by taking photos of the first toast.
Cocktail Charlie turned out not to be hot at all, the bubbling and smoking a clever trick to make the drink appear so. Not surprising when you consider the ingredients; Dalmore whiskey mixed with Grand Marnier Cherry, chocolate bitters, grapefruit juice and cherry syrup topped with Champagne. I’m fairly sure if you boiled them up the resulting drink would be rather disgusting! We sipped our respective cocktails and marvelled at how, even though none of us were whiskey drinkers and, even though you could taste the whiskey above any other flavour, they were absolutely delicious.
As we were sipping, in a suitably genteel fashion, the Sandwiches and Savoury arrived and our waiter talked us through the selection. Firstly he pointed out what looked like chocolate cake, explaining it was not as it appeared to be, but actually roast beef and mustard on dark brown bread. There was also smoked salmon and herb creme fraiche, on what looked to be sundried tomato bread, egg mayonnaise in miniature rolls with watercress, tomato tart and the most delicious leek and Stilton quiche. We nibbled and photographed and sipped and giggled our way through the lot, the waiter again obliging by taking several group photos. Once we finished with the savouries we were delighted to find there was the chance for seconds. Aware the sweet selection was likely to crash our systems, we wisely stocked up on the savoury selection.
Having finished our cocktails the waiter took our tea orders; Kat, Jewelled Apple – “the finest black tea with wild strawberry leaves, caramel and real apple pieces… it will transport you back to days of sticky, crunchy toffee apples” – me and Mel, Smooth Caramel – “caramel chunks and a hint of vanilla make this tea ideal for anyone with a sweet tooth”, and cleared the table, ready for the Sweet. This is where One Aldwych truly excels. Not only are the creations worthy of Heston himself, they are also beautifully presented. Homemade candy floss on sticks, individual miniature milk bottles of chocolate caramel milk and tiny individual portions of the lightest, fluffiest Eton mess I think I’ll ever taste, vie for space on the table with blueberry brioches, scones served with summer berry jam, apple and meadowsweet compote and Devonshire clotted cream, coca bean financiers and the piece de resistance, one for the Veruca Salt in all of us, a golden chocolate egg filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango. If this is even a fraction of what Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory had to offer, it really is no wonder those poor kids couldn’t control themselves!
I’ll be honest, the sweets nearly did for me. Maybe I’d had one smoked salmon and herb creme fraiche sandwich too many, maybe the combination of delicious richness was too much for my palate, but I to struggled eat my share of the treats. As I was slowly picking my my way through the homemade rhubarb and custard flavoured candy floss, I noticed our waiter had brought out three plates and seemed to be doing something with them that involved candles. What he was up to was soon revealed as he and another waiter cleared space in front of each of us. We’d mentioned this was a early/late birthday treat for all three of us, not long after we’d been seated, and he’d clearly related this message back to someone as before each of us sat an extra slice of cake, complete with candle and Happy Birthday written on the plate in chocolate. They didn’t go so far as to actually sing but, naturally, the three of us were more than happy to do so anyway.
All in all it was the bestest two hours I have ever spent at tea and we all waddled out with the agreement that, unless we found somewhere offering better, we’d be back next year, again for our respective birthdays. I would totally recommend the experience, and to anyone who thinks the price tag looks a little steep for what you get I completely disagree. Alright, it’s well out of the pocket of the average Charlie Bucket but, you don’t need to be the Salt family to afford it. Even the extra service charge is earned. We all left more than stuffed and, considering it was all I’ve eaten today, I’m still not hungry and Afternoon Tea was over four hours ago! Ever since I was little I dreamed of Golden Tickets and Chocolate Factories with magical chocolate rivers and slightly dangerous, utterly manic proprietors (that scene in the tunnel in the Gene Wilder version is still something right out of a nightmare). Today I got a step closer to that dream. I also got an idea of what it would be like to be Violet Beauregard, I didn’t quite need rolling out of one Aldwych but it was close!
Website for bookings – http://www.onealdwych.com/food-drink/afternoon-tea