Charlie and the chocolate factory. Willy Wonka. Those words are so full of magic that you cannot help smiling - the whole universe created by Roald Dahl comes to mind. You have read all the books, perhaps read them to your children too, seen the movies, laughed and dreamed. The author had a sweet tooth - I believe he invented one of my favourite words, scumptious. In his time were invented the best chocolate bars: Mars, Aero, Maltesers, Quality Street, Kit Kat, Rolo, Smarties… How could this not feed imagination! Did you know there now is a musical, Charlie and the chocolate factory, now playing in London? Even better, in the same street, One Aldwych is now serving a themed afternoon tea, making the afternoon simply complete.
As you step in, look out for the amazing flower arrangement: real cacao beans cascading down, voluptuous purple orchids suspended in test tubes, explosion of lilac coloured allium blooms. This,my friend, is just the introduction to the delicious journey coming your way. Come, follow me! The adventure starts with the Charlie cocktail, served in a carafe that would look superb in a chemist lab. Dry ice smoke curls beautifully out of it, the beverage simmers and bubbles inside for the longest time - how do they do this? It seems to be singing drink me, drink me! On the palate, the strength of Dalmore whisky is cheered up by Cherry Grand Marnier, sparkling champagne, the fruity note of grapefruit and the perfect final note of chocolate bitters. In between luxurious popping candy and the French Mon Cheri sweet, chocolate on kirsch cherries… Arrives a beautiful plate of savoury treats. It took me a couple of minutes to know where to start, I could not choose. being a froggie, I just have to tell you how wonderful the homemade bread is - moist, tender, just perfect. It is such a rarity in England to have ti so tasty too. It matters to us, see, a clear mark of distinction! Delicate roast beef, wasabi on onion bread… Thin slices of cucumber, chive crème fraîche on wholemeal bread, so refreshing… Cured fragrant salmon, lemon mayonnaise on perfect Rye bread, topped with almost candied lemon and just a little dill… You will fall for the mini-quiches - don’t they look like little jewels? Melt in the mouth leek and stilton, crunchy, slightly sweet pastry. The heritage tomato tartlets are very vibrant too, finishing on the beautiful taste of basil. I could not resist asking for an extra one. On the sweet side, prepare for a real feast. Oh, you will almost clap your hands in joy - such a wonderful funfair feeling, you can almost hear the music of the rides. Is it the homemade candyfloss? Spellbinding, intense tastes of pear and lemon sherbet, lingering a long time on the tastebuds, leaving the lips glistening. Or is it the regressive touch of the caramel milk served in retro style bottle, thsoe cute ones you admire in stylish magazines. How long has it been since you indulge in one of those? Willy Wonka himself would love the dessert served in a chocolate egg, cloud-like vanilla cheesecake with superb mango coulis. I so wish I could recreate that at home. I do hope One Aldwych decided to make a book of their best afternoon tea recipes. I did not think they could top the floral one and they just did.
Follows a sweet Eton Mess, with a divine strawberry compote and meringue chips… gorgeous brioche with juicy blueberries… the always-so-perfect scones… and for chocolate lovers, the perfect conclusion: chocolate financiers with a melting, to-die-for heart, shaped as a cacao bean, brushed with edible gold. You feel in heaven, years younger, remember so many childhood favourites you had completely forgotten about. Definitely the most festive, surprising, original afternoon tea in London at the moment, perfectly balance, not too sugary, simply magical.