We all do something special at Halloween, or most of us anyway. I can be a bit of a party pooper when it comes to the full dress-yourself-up charade, and may prefer a quiet night in with some friends rather than dancing the night away with more than a 100 strangers. However, I still buy into the whole extravaganza around it, and enjoy a spiced up, special occasion version of a very classic thing – in this case the British afternoon tea.
It’s like with pop-ups really, if you’ve ever been to one. They often take a familiar idea and turn it into something novel. If you’ve binge-watched Stranger Things like me, you’ll understand what I’m referring to when I say that you’ve basically got to “water it down to something scary yet familiar” (as the media reporter does in the hit Netflix series), to make it familiar yet strange enough for people to talk about and appreciate.
For Royal Lancaster’s special Halloween-themed afternoon tea we travel back to the ‘60s and all that comes with it – spooky-wise. More precisely, the afternoon tea is inspired by 1960s classic horror movies. This makes even more sense once we know that the Royal Lancaster London is celebrating its 50th birthday, having opened in the 1960s (1967 to be precise). As we are guided to our designated space, it’s a nice touch to find Audrey sitting on our table. Audrey who? Why, Audrey from The Little Shop of Horrors of course, at the ready to nibble at your fleshy finger. A wise note of advice then, not to touch or feed her. And yet I was very, very tempted to do so anyway. But alas, there came the waitress with the distracting ghostly menu and saved me. Danger averted. For now at least.
The loose-leaf tea menu was not short of diverse choices. And, as I believe any afternoon tea should, this one had no objections whatsoever to you trying out a bunch of them. Mind you, by pot three your belly will probably have expanded to the size of a balloon, but it means you’ll have made the most of your afternoon. We filled our tummies with the Sapphire Earl Grey, White Pear & Ginger, Spicy Rooibos, and Spiced Chai. All enjoyable teas with different accents and flavours, but we unanimously agreed (the two of us, my friend and me), that the White Pear & Ginger topped them all. A refreshing, delightful infusion of white tea, juicy pear, and a hint of ginger zing on the finish. The hourglass was also a cute little touch to making your tea drinking experience memorable and recognising the unique qualities of each type of tea, which were all first-rate and highly enjoyable.
In comes the chessboard of sweets and savouries. No classical three-tier plates, no division of pastries and savoury snacks. Just food laid out as if we were about to play a game. And what is this not but a game? We came to have fun, play around with the characters and concept of Halloween.
The dry ice misty fog set up in the middle of the tray is meant to add another touch of spookiness. We’re not scared, but excited to dig in. As we eat our way through the large plate of foods, a display of ‘60s horror movie images and quotes is revealed. Did I mention as well the TV screen at the back of the room actually playing ‘60s Hitchcock horror movies?
Amongst the savouries were Massacred Egg with Curried Mayonnaise; Cucumber, Cracked Black Pepper & Tapenade in White Coffins; and Axe Carved Bresaola Beef with Horseradish and Charcoal Shell. They were not the best of the best, but tasty enough to leave a good impression. The sweets included Night of the Living Tart; Haunted Black Forest Mousse; and Psycho Marbled Lollipops. Again, none of the desserts blew me away, but they formed a decent ensemble.
The food highlight, for me, was the grand finale: the scones. These included dark chocolate, and coconut ones, with homemade blackberry jam and “blood clotted cream.” Perhaps I should switch to cream tea, because loose leaf tea and tasty scones is really what does it for me. It’s not easy after all, to create so many different bite-sized foods and have them all be extraordinarily delicious (which is what they should be, considering the price for many afternoon teas). But for now I’ll still sift through more afternoon teas to give you the low-down of all the highlights and creativity.
The best part of the Royal Lancaster London’s Halloween ArTea? The fun-factor makes top of the list, but it’s also worth trying for their quality tea, decent scones, and of course the bursts of creativity. Their Halloween-themed afternoon tea ended today, unfortunately, but they’re ones to watch for any future special-occasion renditions (they did a Halloween tea last year too). In the meantime, they offer their usual tea service. Or, if you’re into fun, quirky things like me, why not try the Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-factory-themed afternoon tea at One Aldwych? Or a Gin-focused one at Hush in Mayfair? Or one surrounded by cats (yes, real felines!) at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in Shoreditch? Options abound.
A happily spooky Halloween to everyone!
Area: Belgravia, Southwest London
Closest tube: Lancaster Gate (Central line); Paddington (Bakerloo, Hammersmith & City, District, and Circle line)
Address: Royal Lancaster London
London W2 2TY