As we walked through the iconic doors of Fortnum & Mason, months of lockdown behind us, I could feel my rusty ol’ restaurant-going muscles start to unfurl. Was I apprehensive? Absolutely. Did I want to support London’s wonderfully hard-working hospitality industry that has been so very good to me over the years? You bet.
We were greeted by staff in full PPE, a combination of plastic visors and facemasks, who directed us up to Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. You could choose to take the stairs if you preferred or jump in the lift, although only 1 person is allowed at a time. We were carefully taken to our socially distanced table, via a hand sanitising station, where we were given wipe clean menus. Staff asked if we were happy for them to open and pour our water or whether we’d prefer to do it ourselves. Everything felt like it had been anticipated and looked after – I felt safer in these beautiful surroundings than I have in the whole of lockdown.
And to further sweeten the deal and get us returning to some level of normality, Fortnum & Mason are offering a complimentary classic afternoon tea for the whole of July. Talk about making a comeback! Just to break it down for you – this means the two of you will experience all the grandeur of tea for two for the bargain price of £60 instead of £120. Worth dusting off your fanciest frock and packing the hand sani for, am I right? I’m sure we can all think of someone special, be it a relative or friend, that we’ve desperately missed during lockdown. I’ve certainly racked up a few postponed celebrations and lockdown birthdays and it felt pretty magic to finally catch up with my mum after all this time, over silly sandwiches and fluffy scones.
In true celebratory style, I’d recommend kicking things off with a glass of English sparkling wine before moving onto their extensive tea menu, all of which is helpfully described and served by a ‘Tearista’. There’s an option of classic or vegetarian sandwiches, with all the classics covered. From dainty cucumber and smoked salmon to ham and mustard or coronation chicken, whichever your favourite, every crustless finger is refillable – as are the fluffy scones with clotted cream, raspberry jam and lemon curd AND bitesize patisserie. Pretty as a picture and served on the iconic Fortnum and Mason eil de nil blue crockery, we recognised some of the miniature creations from Fortnum’s cookbook, including the rose éclair.
And just when you think it impossible to eat another bite you’ll be offered a slice of cake from the trolly – a brightly coloured piece of battenburg and a doorstop wedge of chocolate cake Trunchbull would be proud of somehow made it onto our plate. Thankfully stylish cardboard boxes are brandished so you can take home anything you can’t finish. I’m sure my Dad was very happy with our leftover haul. It really was excellent value.
We might not have been able to see the smiles of those serving us but there was no mistaking the glint in their eye. When asked how it was all going and how they were getting on with the changes, never a bad word was said. Every team member looked genuinely thrilled to have their customers back. Seeing how exceptionally hard everyone was working reinforced my decision to be there. Oh and for the love of god – don’t forget to tip.
As we left we stopped for a second to appreciate the live pianist. He too was wearing a face mask. Same, same. But different.
To book a reservation at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon visit: www.fortnumandmason.com/restaurants/afternoon-tea