I find the idea of an underground restaurant fascinating. these super cluns as they are called in the US are operated in someone’s home rather than the more rigid frame of a high street restaurant. Let alone the mystery factor (the address remains secret), its pop-up impact (you never know for sure whether there will be a next time or not), the trendy curiousity for it (you’ll have to be quick to book a seat, it sells so quickly!) and of course its originality (many have themed menus and sometimes themed evenings too).
16 different addresses in London, where to start?
Well, if you want a So British touch, try the Hidden Tea Room – not only are Lady Gray and her husband incredibly welcoming but they will serve you a montain of treats. More than you can eat, really, but no way to resist it, you’ll find a way…
I wasn’t feeling so sure when I stepped in the building. I mean, I was about so spend a whole afternoon in an unkown flat, with a bunch of total strangers. This could be a very long Sunday… I stand corrected. The fact only that you’re there puts you in the Love London /curious about life / sweet toothed category, same goes for the other guests. The glass of bubbly you are offered as soon as you step in is enough to get everyone chatting, exchanging addresses and comparing experiences. I do not recall a single minute of silence. A very rich human experience.
The dining room is simple and elegant – lovely black and white theme. The only colours come from the rainbow collection of cooking books oon the shelves which already have you drooling in anticipation.
And the feast begins… Extraordinary cheddar and chives biscuits, melting, warm, a touch of salted butter. To die for. You could beg for the recipe (and I am convinced some have). Nice American twist to the Afternoon Tea! It’s worth coming just for those, believe me. The traditional finger sandwiches – crunching cucumber, turkey and cranberry, ham and cheese….- do not stay long piled in your plate either.
Fab card for teas too – clearly, they take tea as seriously as I do. Classic ones, Darjeeling, Earl Grey… but also rooibos, a very fragrant Ooling with notes of watermelon and intriguing discoveries that will make your decision toufh: choco-truffle or choco-mint? A huge teapot is brought per person – enough for the whole meal but should you finish it, you will be asked whether you’d like a top-up…
Great idea to have a palate cleanser too – a scoop of very refreshing mango and pineapple sorbet – ideal dose, bright orange colour that can only make you smile in happiness. For now it is scones time people! Nature or with raisins, loads of them. Fluffy, light, just out of the oven… the best I have had since Yauatcha’s chocolate chipped ones. The menu should actually warn you: hughly addictive! Come the Monday, you’ll be sitting at work sighing, dreaming of a cup of Assam with a scone, the clotted cream melting on it, a dollop of blueberry preserve (much nicer than the usual strawberry)…
They could have stopped here – the guest already are more than staified with a huge grin on their face. This is a pure celebration of delights – toffee brownies to die for (how did she get this perfect melting heart?), tangy lemon drizzle cake, sugary shortbreads (should I dip them in the tea? or not? Oh well, I’ll just have two and compare). Of course there will be cucpakes, cream cheese frosting, my favourite, a very light but still chocolatey cake. i can’t help but considering for a moment grabbing the dish and running away with them. But then again, i would miss the jasmine tea – elegant bubble of tea leaves opening on a bright flower as it infuses – and the delicate tea truffle which ganache fills your mouth. The conversatio at that point reduces to a general mmmmmmh.
Lady Gray and her husband can finally put their apron aside and enjoy some time with us, discuss their underground experience, their vision of afternoon teas, their adventures. we have so many questions for them! Bravo to this adorable couple whose enthusiasm (and treats, let’s be honest) just makes the world a better place. You really feel you have spent an afternoon with friends not complete strangers.
Another way to live the Afternoon tea which gives it back its social dimension while still being finger licking good.
Hopefully Lady Gray will get a chance of publishing her recipe book – she’s writing it at the moment. We’re all waiting for this (pleeeeease put the scones recipe in!)
Hidden Tea Room
Check the list of underground restaurants around the world on SaltShaker’s web site.