Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published July 18th 2013
A Chinwag and Scones
Afternoon tea for two is £10.
Every now and then my mum and I like to treat ourselves to an afternoon tea. We have tried various places, including a hotel in Central London that made me feel uncomfortable because it was too posh and quiet, and Cannizaro House, which was exquisite, but costly at £25 a head.
The other week, while doing our grocery shopping and Marks & Spencer, we saw an offer at their cafe: Afternoon Tea for Two at £10. We agreed that we should go some time, but kept not getting round to it. Then yesterday, I had to go to the post office, and seeing as Marks and Spencer is just opposite, I suggested that we go.
When we went up to the bar, we were a little surprised to find that the Afternoon Tea was partially self service. You pick your scones and packaged sandwiches off the counter, take them to the till, and then the staff arrange everything for you. At first I wasn't sure I liked this system; it seemed as if this was going to be just any old cafe lunch. But I was wrong.
With this method, instead of having a set menu, you got a say in what you wanted. There was a choice between fruit, devonshire, or cheese scones, followed by a selection of finger sandwiches. These were then elegantly assembled and brought to our table.
Each pot of tea gives you two cups.
For £10 we were served two scones with strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream, four finger sandwiches, a mini strawberry tart each, and two pots of tea with an amaretti biscuit.
Iced Mango Smoothie
As I don't drink tea, my mum was lucky enough to get both pots to herself. I in the meantime bought an additional Iced Mango Smoothie for £2.50. It was divine. Exactly what I needed in 31 C heat. Fresh, fruity, and so thick I had trouble sucking it through a straw.
The sandwiches were also good, but it was at this point that the self service method showed weakness. Since the sandwiches were prepared in advance and not made to order, it meant that they were subject to availability. For example, the Afternoon Tea sandwich selection includes coronation chicken, seafood, egg mayonnaise, BLT, or ham and cheese. By the time we arrived (two o'clock - just the right time for afternoon tea), half of these options were already sold out. There is also the issue with the packaging. They are packaged so as to keep the sandwiches fresh, but it also means that my mum and I had to have the same thing. It was fortunate that we both like BLTs, but if we had not, then we would have had to buy extra sandwiches to suit our individual tastes.
Fruit Scone with Jam and Cream
We then moved on to our fruit scones, and got into a discussion on whether we should eat them like they do in Devon or like they do in Cornwall. Mum's argument was that we had been given Devonshire cream, that M&S serve Devonshire scones, and that it is easier to spread jam over cream than the other way round. My argument was that the advertisement on the table showed the Cornish method, and jam first, cream second looks more attractive. Each to their own.
M&S Fairtrade Strawberry Jam
All that really mattered in the end was the taste. Gorgeous. The jam was particularly lovely, and I am pleased to say, their own brand. In fact, everything they make is by their own hand, also available to buy in the food hall, so you can recreate the experience at home.
While afternoon tea at the M&S cafe may not be as glamorous as some place, you certainly get value for money. Most of the time when you have afternoon tea, you are given so many delectable treats, you either can't finish it or are left feeling ill from eating too much. At M&S you are given modest portions at a modest price that leaves you completely satisfied, but in no way full or uncomfortable. The affordability also means you can indulge that little more often.