The Mad Hatter's afternoon tea at the Sanderson hotel is a wonderful homage to Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland. It is produced in collaboration with Luna & Curious who designed the unique monochrome crockery and the concept of the tea.
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Best Afternoon Tea in London.
Sanderson London Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea Review
I adore Alice in Wonderland so I really should have tried this afternoon tea sooner.
It's served at the Sanderson Hotel just off Oxford Street. The 1950's building was once the Sanderson wallpaper factory and while it may not look very special from the outside (English Heritage has given the building Grade II listed status so it has to be preserved) the hotel was designed by French designer Philippe Starck so it's highly theatrical inside.
Afternoon tea is served in the courtyard garden in the center of the building which was once where the wallpaper factory workers had their lunch. Philippe Starck installed a beautifully designed Japanese style garden with dining either side which can be used all year round with carefully positioned heaters in the ceiling. Even though I sat outside, the only time I felt cold was when the door to the restaurant inside was opened.
Each table is already dressed when you arrive with the unique crockery and napkins are wrapped in a riddle. A vintage book on the table contains the menu and I found a musical box underneath containing sugar cubes and tongs.
There are tables to accommodate large groups and hen/bachelorette parties are popular here. I also saw family celebrations and lots of friends enjoying an indulgent afternoon together.
I was immensely impressed by the staff at the Sanderson, especially in the restaurant area. The cakes were described with passion and knowledge and that confidence was really appreciated.
The wonderfully disguised menu does not include the tea options but instead four small glass bottles with stoppers, filled with flavored teas, with a ribbon to label each, are brought to the table for you to choose from. I chose strawberry and cream' as it suited the occasion so well but there was also rhubarb & custard, apple pie and mint chocolate. If you prefer more plain teas there is also a standard black tea and an Earl Grey which I enjoyed afterwards. All are loose leaf teas and are served in a delightful white teapot with a black paper crown. Why a paper crown? To frame the pot with a king's face on it of course!
I'm always keen to see how sandwiches can be presented in so many different ways. At the Sanderson the sandwiches were like mini Swiss rolls. While the fillings were on the traditional side - smoked Cumbrian ham with wholegrain mustard, cucumber and chive cream cheese, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise - the breads were adventurous and included sun-dried tomato bread, spinach bread, dark rye bread and even lemon bread. All were freshly-made and delicious.
As well as sandwiches there was also a mini quiche which was light and fluffy.
The scones fit into the sweet and savory categories as we had a cheese scone served with herb butter, and a chocolate scone served with cream and strawberry preserve.
The top layer of the three-tiered cake stand is a colorful wonderland. On the very top we had a striped teacup with pea shoots growing out of it and an exquisite carrot meringue resting on top. Next to the teacup were strawberry and cream marshmallow mushrooms.
I adored the 'Tick Tock' traditional Victoria sponge clock and the teardrop-shaped melting mango cheesecake coated in rainbow patterned white chocolate was divine. The soft mango center was a wonderful surprise and it oozed out like an egg yolk. There was another surprise in the matcha green tea and white chocolate mousse as not only was the dark chocolate teacup edible but there was popping candy inside too!
A 'Drink Me' potion came in a small brown glass bottle with a straw and we were advised to suck slowly as there were three flavors to enjoy.
Literally everyone in the room had a smile on their face as they tried this delicious treat.
As well as the fabulous cake stand all guests can visit the 'Jelly Wonderland' for unusual fruit jellies made in Victorian jelly molds and presented on a lavish Phillipe Starck cake trolley. Happiness filled the room as we got to indulge in these childlike desserts.
Afternoon tea needs sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea and all yes, all of these elements are here but in a truly unique way. While the afternoon tea changes seasonally I'm sure it will continue to delight.
Afternoon Tea Information
The Courtyard Garden
50 Berners Street, London W1T 3NG
Nearest Tube Station:
Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road.
Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.
Days and Times: Served daily from 11am to 5.30pm.
Cost: From £35 per person.
Dress Code: Smart casual.
Reservations: 020 7300 5588
Music: No background music.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, Dot Dash believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.