Intrigued by the name of this afternoon tea, or rather “Not Afternoon Tea” as it is called, I decided to take my partner with me, mark the occasion as a romantic date, and see what it was all about. Cocktails and a view seemed like pretty good date material as well. But it could just as easily have been a girls’ night out too.
Being on the eighth and roof-top level floor of the OXO Tower on the south bank of the river Thames, the Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie where the Not Afternoon Tea is served has the potential on warm summer days for a charming outdoor riverside experience.
But even with the terrace closed off, as it was during our visit, the wide, almost frameless windows spanning from the floor to the ceiling make it seem as though you are already outside. Through the light streaming in even on a grey spring afternoon, and through the capacious layout of the room, the feeling was one of spaciousness. The waiter brought the menus, which were adorned, on the back, with symbols of London – Hyde Park, Saint Paul’s, Brick Lane.
There was a choice of two types of Not Afternoon Tea. One for £22 which included small desserts and cocktails, the other for £36 which additionally comprised a doggy bag, that is a take-away box of sweet treats, as well as a pot of tea, iced gingerbread biscuits, a tea cake and a special introductory cocktail: Beer Street or Gin Lane (we went for the latter, which was a perfect, refreshing choice).
The desserts were not simply served, neither chosen individually. Instead, they were offered as a set, of which there were four available: All About The English Puddings, London Markets, Rum Plate, and Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb. We decided to try the latter two. While the four small desserts part of the Rhubarb set were too similar in terms of taste (there was only one which included a gin sorbet, its sourness cutting nicely into the sweetness of the cake), the rum plate was not only well presented, but versatile in taste and texture as well.
And while the rhubarb set came with one cocktail, the rum set included four mini cocktails served in all different glasses. The doggy bag was a nice added touch, and its contents not just pretty, but appetizing too (I tried them later at home and again in the morning). Not Afternoon Tea at the OXO Tower is a dessert and cocktail experience curated in the way a classic afternoon tea would be. Instead of choosing your tea, you choose a cocktail. The desserts are explained when they arrive. Tea is available if you so desire, either ordered separately or as part of the slightly more expensive Not Afternoon Tea option.
If scones are essential for you, then be warned, because they are not included. However, OXO Tower’s Restaurant does offer a classic afternoon tea as well, where scones and finger sandwiches are all included. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, like I was, then go ahead and try their newly arrived Summer Not Afternoon Tea. As for me, I’m already thinking about who to take next..
Area: South Bank, Southeast London
Closest tube: Blackfriars (Circle and District line); Southwark (Jubilee line); Waterloo (Jubilee, Northern, and Bakerloo line)
Address: OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie
8th floor, Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street, South Bank
London SE1 9PH