And one of the most creative places I've had the pleasure of taking afternoon tea is the Conrad London St James hotel. Remember this English Garden tea? It was so cool, wasn't it? Having enjoyed it so much, I was incredibly keen to head back to the Conrad LSJ when I heard about their new afternoon tea: Conrad Candy Shop.
The bar had been set high, but I actually enjoyed it even more than the English Garden tea. Let me tell you aalllll about it.
Being the indulgent ladies that we are, the free-flowing champagne afternoon tea was the order of the day, and my goodness, it sure does flow freely.
And alongside our champagne we sipped my other favourite drink:
Vanilla black tea for me - which was so delicate and light it didn't need milk - and fresh rosebud tea for Tasha, served in the prettiest silver- and china-ware. Everything at Conrad LSJ is tasteful and elegant, I simply love the style. It's traditional without being old-fashioned.
And then it was time to crack on with the munching.
Rather than simply serve traditional finger sandwiches (as wonderful as they are), Conrad LSJ offer the best of both: three sandwiches plus a selection of interesting savouries.
Now, Conrad LSJ are very accommodating. Tasha's a veggie and I'm just an awkward human being who doesn't like fish, and it wasn't a problem at all. So, for Tasha:
Giant couscous, the prettiest candied beetroot and goats cheese tartlet and a mini brioche filled with houmous and black olives. I was pretty jealous of the houmous so Tasha, being the babe that she is, let me share hers. With the sugar-dusted top, it was as delish as I'd hoped.
She then also had a selection of veggie sandwiches:
A classic cucumber on white bread, cheese and pickle on brown, and tomato on tomato bread. Good thing she likes tomatoes.
For my part, I had...
The brioche roll but filled with chicken liver parfait (nice, although I'm not a huge chicken liver fan), the same tartlet and a mini cone filled with pesto chicken and sundried tomato. The cone was really tasty, but the beetroot and goats cheese tartlet was without a doubt my fave - the flavours complemented each other so beautifully and it was just so wonderfully creamy.
My sandwiches were rare roast beef with wholegrain mustard (not totally my thing tbh), tomato on tomato bread (which would usually have been smoked salmon) and, my favourite: avocado, roasted red peppers, herb butter and garden cress. I could've eaten a ginormous one of those. It was divine. I'm not sure why Tasha didn't get it but who knows.
I think she was enjoying herself all the same.
After a digestive pause it was scone o'clock.
Two candied pineapple and two brown sugar and spice, served with classic clotted cream and strawberry jam, but also lemon curd. I'm not usually a huge lemon curd fan but I am partial to the Conrad LSJ's.
We piled our scones high and got stuck in.
They had a lovely texture - not dry, God forbid - and the flavours weren't too strong, which was good. They just added a little extra something to what is a winning traditional combo.
And then it was time for the grand finale - the showstopper, if you will: the patisserie.
I don't know about you but I think the presentation and design is just sensational - and how creative to serve it on a little drawer full of hundreds and thousands! I thought it was so much fun.
But as with people, being beautiful is simply not enough. Would the cakes taste as good as they looked? There was only one way to find out...
The strawberry and cream panacotta topped with a mini bubblegum macaron was wonderful - it was beautifully creamy and the macaron was so cute and intricate. Very impressive.
This little fella was a blue raspberry mousse cake situation - it was yummy, but didn't make me go OMG WOW!
I enjoyed the lemon sherbet meringue pie more than I'd been expecting to - it was so smooth and the lemon wasn't overpowering, which I enjoyed.
And I finished off with the chocolate and peppermint cheesecake:
I'm not sure it was entirely cheesecake-like in texture - the chocolate layer was softer, almost ganache-like - but it was delicious. And the perfect flavour on which to finish our feast.
It had been a delectable afternoon and the service was, as ever, faultless.
These are the faces of two girls very pleased with their afternoon's feasting (and many glasses of champagne).
The Conrad Candy Shop afternoon tea is available until September 11th. Tasha and I were guests at the Conrad London St James hotel but all opinions are totally my own.