If you love Roald Dahl, Tim Burton or, in other words, something whimsical, then One Aldwych is the place to visit. The afternoon tea itself is a hybrid between its classic concept and its quirky execution, much like the space in which you take it is a hybrid between a formal hotel lounge and a relaxed place to enjoy a Willy Wonka bonkers afternoon tea. But the best thing about it is that it’s not all show, meaning substance (taste) isn’t sacrificed for appearance.
The 1964 children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by British author Roald Dahl tells the story of Charlie Bucket, an 11-year old boy coming from a poor family who treasures the one chocolate bar he receives every year on his birthday. When one day he wins a ticket to go on a tour of Willy Wonka’s magnificent chocolate factory, along with four other children, wondrous things await him, including a very unexpected surprise. Now if you have neither read the book nor seen the film, I certainly wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. Spoiler alert for the afternoon tea though.
The popular Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-themed afternoon tea has existed for about three years now. While One Aldwych used to change their afternoon tea menu every six months or so, they now only make occasional subtle changes. We start off with an unusual selection of teas. There are only five available (four at the time of my visit), but you’ll be likely to want them all and you can, if you so wish. From Mango Noir, to Chocolate Tea, to Winter Spice, they cover all seasons and more. Sandwiches and sweet treats are served in order rather than simultaneously on a classic three-tier plate. As at most afternoon teas (although they will not specifically tell you so everywhere), you can get free refills. The variety in shape, texture and flavour turns the simple-finger-sandwich-expectation up a notch.
The grand finale is the sweet treats arriving on a podium reflecting the five winners of the five golden tickets. Inspired by the fantastical confections to be found at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, such as geese laying golden eggs or the warming candy room, you will find gingerbread cake pops, chocolate caramel milk served in a tiny glass bottle with a straw, homemade candy floss (the flavour of which they may ask you to guess), or a golden chocolate egg filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango. The scones are as colourful as the rest of it. The theme and story are there, and so is the fun and the flavour. An experience not to be missed.
Area: Central London (close to The Strand)
Closest tube: Covent Garden (Piccadilly line); Temple (District and Circle line)
Address: One Aldwych
London WC2B 4BZ