Okay, so I admit I am a convert when it comes to this afternoon tea thing. I really get why people enjoy this oh so relaxed afternoon pleasure. It means you can skip lunch and dinner, so I kind of persuade myself that it’s sort of healthy. For me it’s the finger sandwiches, scones and a glass of bubbly, for others it’s those naughty but nice cakes and assortment of herbal teas from around the world.
Tucked away in The Marylebone hotel’s Edwardian townhouse, 108 Pantry offers diners a cosy and bright ambience along with breakfast to get the day off to a good start, a light lunch or a rather indulgent afternoon tea, which is our reason for popping in on this occasion.
This was in fact my fourth visit, the other three were for two rather special afternoon teas. The first being a fun ‘Men’s Afternoon Tea’ where I experienced a whole new look to afternoon tea, geared to us guys and not a glass of bubbly in sight but rather a wholesome pint of Guinness and a hearty grilled rib eye steak sandwich with caramelised onion and Shropshire Blue cheese.
The second was a ‘007 Afternoon Tea’ back in 2015 to celebrate the release of Spectre. The pastries and sweets are where the chefs really let loose with their creativity: two mini martini glasses filled with thick chocolate mousse, raspberries and wedges of honeycomb sat amongst chocolate and matcha tea poker chips and ginger brandy snap cigars that were filled with a piquant passionfruit cream that’s as tangy as it was sweet. And it wouldn’t be the full Bond experience without a Vesper martini, shaken not stirred, naturally!
My third visit last autumn, was for 108 Pantry’s Classic and Gluten Free Afternoon Teas.
It’s not often that you find restaurants offering a full gluten-free menu, they tend to just have a few gluten-free dishes, limiting one’s choice, so I am always delighted when I do come across a proper menu that offers a choice and I am pleased to report that 108 Pantry’s latest afternoon tea also has a full gluten-free option as well.
This new English Country Garden Afternoon Tea, created by Executive Chef Russell Ford, is a wonderfully quintessential British Afternoon Tea, inspired by an idyllic English country garden setting with a rare glimpse of the sun even putting in a brief appearance whilst we were sitting there.
The tea was launched last month to mark the arrival of spring and will be available throughout the summer, using ever changing local seasonal ingredients.
Our tea arrives beautifully presented, including a grass meadow serving board with terracotta pots, edible flowers and fork and spade fashioned cutlery to really set the scene. The savouries include a Coronation chicken tartlet, smoked salmon served on their delicious Guinness bread, a Dorset crab compressed watermelon and broad bean and pea humus on a sour dough crostini. The Gluten Free savouries are similar but are made with granary bread.
This Classic Tea has a selection of freshly baked orange blossom and plain scones served with Devonshire clotted cream and rhubarb jam, whilst the Gluten Free Tea includes homemade gluten-free sultana scones.
Those of you with a sweet tooth will love what the sweet plates have to offer. Both teas include a Lavender panna cotta with a sparkling wine jelly, which is rather refreshing as well as an Elderflower and strawberry slice of Battenberg cake and for chocoholics, a Chocolate and rose opera cake. Whilst the classic tea also has a Rhubarb profiterole, the gluten-free tea offers a Coconut financier instead.
Personally, I am not a tea drinker, but for those of you who are, 108 Pantry offers a nice selection of teas from around the world, such as a classic English Breakfast, Earl Grey and 2nd Flush Muscatel Darjeeling as well as two green teas and a couple of white teas including a Jasmine Silver Tip and China White Leaf. You can also choose from a selection of herbal infusions which are all caffeine free supplied by the Rare Tea Company.
In my books an afternoon tea is not complete without a glass or two of bubbly and so I was pleased to see a comprehensive selection of all English sparkling wines ranging from an excellent Nyetimber Classic Cuvée NV from Sussex, which I am rather partial to, a 2014 Ridgeview ‘Cavendish’ Brut, also from Sussex, a Hush Heath Balfour Leslie’s Reserve from Kent and a Gusbourne Estate Brut Rosé again from Kent or you could opt for the special Rhubarb Mimosa.
The Classic English Country Garden and Gluten Free 108 Pantry Afternoon Teas costs £32 per person or £42 per person with a glass of English sparkling wine and are served from 3:00pm to 6:00pm each day.
108 Pantry, 108 Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2QE
Tel: +44(0)20 7969 3900
The closest Tube Station is Bond Street on the Central and Jubilee lines which is just over five-minutes by foot or Baker Street on the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, and is about a ten-minute walk.
Insider Tip: Don’t leave without taking a look at their other wonderful homemade cakes they have on display and pick out a few to take home with you in a box!
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of 108 Pantry and by Simon Burrell