Freelance writer and journalist based in west London.
Published January 28th 2014
A terrific tea that transports you to a bygone era
As a dear friend remarked to me before our visit to The Vintage Patisserie; 'Cake and bubbles. I was never going to miss this!' But there is so much more to this wonderful place in Hackney, which is one of the best afternoon tea experiences I've had in London. You have to bear in mind that The Vintage Patisserie is somewhere you have to go with a group of people, ideally if you're celebrating something. You can't book unless you have a minimum of twelve in your party. I was there for a Hen-Do with fourteen other women who don't feel it's necessary to celebrate someone's impending nuptials with flashing light and plastic accessories. They do though appreciate booze, and off the bat The Vintage Patisserie gets it right, by having a 'bring your own' policy. You take home whatever is left, but if you can't be bothered to organise delivery, the patisserie will sort it for you for cost price and a 20 per cent admin fee.
There are three tea sittings on offer, Brunch, Afternoon Tea and Evening Tea. Each lasts two and a half hours. We were booked on the evening sitting which commenced at 6pm. The outside of The Vintage Patisserie is unobtrusive to say the least. The address is correct, press the labelled buzzer with confidence and don't worry that you're in the wrong place like we did. We got a warm welcome from a lovely team dressed in vintage attire, and as they led us up the stairs we knew we were about to step into something special and wow we really did. The large, lovely room was already prepared and decorated in a way that took everyone's breath away. Personalised bunting for the Hen, featuring pictures of her and custom slogans. Mismatched, pretty crockery, ornaments that reflected the Hen's interests as well as an assortment of funky chessboards, wartime ration books, flowers and myriad other knick-knacks that transported us into a vintage delight.
The guest of honour has a golden cup at their place setting
Once the party had spent time 'oohing' and 'aahhing' at the brilliant room, we took our seats and the signature champagne tea cocktail was poured for everyone. A mixture of jasmine tea and champagne, it was delicious and far too drinkable! We were told that sandwiches were on the way and that we should help ourselves to items from the dressing up box for a complete experience. Adorned with top hats, feather boas, headpieces and beads, the Hen was then given the first appointment with the stylist. She was seated on a chair in full view of everyone so she could still chat, and given a vintage makeover. Afterwards, whoever else wanted a Victory Roll or a Queue Curl could take the seat.
The Vintage Patisserie makes a promise that no one ever goes hungry and was true to that. The sandwiches were fresh and full of filling, which included rose petal and lavender honey, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise and brie, raspberry and walnut. Plate after plate kept coming. Carrot cake, scones, truffles and incredible chocolate and beetroot cupcakes were piled high on serving stands. The cupcakes had copies of photos of the Hen imposed on the icing. It was just brilliant! The personal touch continued, with cubes of chocolate that had messages about what was being celebrated artfully arranged on the tables. Sweet little individual pots of jam and dishes of clotted cream completed the menu. The atmosphere was fun but relaxed and accompanied by the sound of tunes from the 1920s -40s. Drinks were sometimes self serve but no one really minded as the hostesses were often going to get some other delectable treat from the kitchen.
Time flew in a flurry or laughter, chat, eating and quaffing bubbles. There was a real reluctance to leave when time was finally called. As guest of honour, the Hen was carted off with a special gift from the hostesses, which was a book filled with the Patisserie's recipes, as well as her unique bunting and a box full of left over sweet treats that the group couldn't manage to finish. Everyone at the party was also given a pair of vintage stockings to take home. Each guest said afterwards that they felt the £45 per person cost of the event was worth every penny. The Vintage Patisserie takes afternoon tea and elevates it to another level, effortlessly combining style and service to give every guest an experience that they could never have guessed would be so fantastic.