When you go to something called Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at a venue like One Aldwych Hotel you expect it will be rather special.
The more Afternoon Teas I take the more I grow to love them. They typically mean being comfortable and relaxed together with friends. As tea is served there is plenty of time for conversation and nothing appears hurried. The tea and food offer lots of variety to delight the senses. Beautiful to look at but not quite too beautiful to devour. Cucumber sandwiches will appear. Then vanish. So too the all important scones. They too will disappear aided by their co-conspirators jam and cream. Seconds may be offered & accepted.
There are some fantastic guides to gluten free Afternoon Teas in London from Endless Distances, Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes and Basic Bon Vivant. I follow them for ideas but I am yet to experience or find anything that I would rate against the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory experience for sheer delight and uniqueness. Read on for Q&A with head chef Dominic and the words & pictures I offer to compel you to treat yourself.
One Aldwych Comfort, Style & Service
Definitely upmarket and upscale but also wonderfully inviting and relaxing. Big plush seats. Plenty of space. Beautiful decor. Not overly noisy even during popular times. For this visit and all my others I was seated upstairs overlooking the downstairs bar area and street level. This area feels like an exclusive refuge from busier, nosier places. Imagine an elegant and comfortable living room but with table service.
On each visit I have been impressed by how thoroughly engaged & enthusiastic servers are. They seem to know and love and have pride in the food and have their own favorites. Afternoon Tea service was no exception. There were short and enlightening presentations of each course, drinks first, savories, then the treats and fancies. Refills of tea were and second rounds of sandwiches were offered and taken.
Free From at One Aldwych
One Aldwych is the hotel that hosts the Indigo restaurant. Indigo has free from dining fame thanks to chef Dominic converting to a 100% Gluten & Dairy free menu and delaying announcement of this by several months. Those months were used to test and confirm that the menu continued to be well received by all diners and did not rely upon being gluten and dairy free.
The One Aldwych kitchen is not a 100% gluten & dairy free kitchen but safety is well assured.
- Dedicated areas of the kitchen and time separation are used to prepare the free-from afternoon teas
- The kitchen is meticulously cleaned and sanitised before gluten-free offerings are prepared
- One Aldwych and Indigo are accredited by Coeliac UK and the team is fully trained to cater allergen free
- Indigo is also a Free From Eating Out Awards winner multiple years running
Everything served within the Afternoon Tea is made in-house except sliced bread for the savouries. Dominic has this to say about the free from offer.
Since Indigo became dairy and gluten-free for lunch and dinner it has become a popular dining spot among the free-from community. It was a natural progression to offer our signature afternoon tea for those with dietary requirements. We now offer gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan menus, so that all guests can have the Charlie tea experience
Dietary requirements were confirmed in advance and gluten and vegan menus supplied. On arrival requirements were reconfirmed to us without any prompting and our server also asked if anyone had any other allergies or intolerance. Food substitutions for things containing gluten or dairy seemed to be at least as good as whatever they were replacing. Nothing was missing!
The gluten, dairy free, veggie and vegan menus are not online but the page with the regular menu has contact details you can use to ask for them.
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory Savouries
Okay, so what about the food? I am tempted to simply tell & show you that the tea includes a golden chocolate egg filled with cheesecake. But no, just like me, you will have to wait for this. First tea, then savories, then the treats. Be patient.
Selection of teas, or coffee, were offered from a menu featuring tantalizing descriptions of each. There is also the option of champagne.
An initial savory course is served to each person individually as a plate of sandwich quarters and a tray of savory scones with bacon jam. I expressed envy of onion jam included within the vegan tea and was promptly brought a pot of my own. This unexpected pleasure was the highlight of the savoury course for me. I asked Dominic what was favoured most by other guests.
Our home-made candy floss always makes guests smile, as they can try guessing the flavour. Bubble gum panna cotta also tends to surprise and delight, as it’s a lot more subtle than you might expect.
I confess to some worry at this stage of the tea that the entire tea would be served on plates to each person . Worry because I love the tiered trays with sandwiches on the bottom, scones in the middle and fancy things on top that feature within many Afternoon Teas.
My concern was unnecessary because oh my goodness, look at what came next!
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory Fancies
I was dining with a friendly group of seven and every one of us was captivated and delighted by the appearance of our course of sweet scones, treats and oh my, a rather special chocolate egg. I imagine that the colorful and playful displays, candy floss included, might be a big hit with kids. I can assure you it was an absolute hit with adults too, including this one.
Of all baked goods great scones probably have the place closest to my heart. Give me a really good gluten free scone and thoughts of other things will fade away. Focus is on the scone. Yes, and the jam and the cream. In any order. The scones here are the very good sort. A nice firm exterior offering a good bite but soft and tender and flaky on the inside.
The Golden Egg . . .
Okay, star of the show. Headline act. From the moment I read the words on a menu I my hopes were very high. Golden Chocolate Egg filled with Cheesecake & Mango. Was it amazing? Was it gorgeous? Was it outstanding? Yes, yes, yes. Everything was special but if I had been served a dozen of these I might not have exercised any restraint. They tasted even better than they looked, and just look!
Dominic has this to say about the Golden Egg.
It’s one of my favourites too and has been on the menu since we launched the afternoon tea. The Goose with the golden eggs was one of the first themes from the Roald Dahl book that we took inspiration from. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it – we like to think it’s the tastiest chocolate egg around.
Is it the tastiest chocolate egg around? I might just be a guy with a very well informed opinion about that. Some of these eggs were lovely and these were captivating but Dominic, yes, I would not ever trade away the Golden Egg!
Are you looking for a extraordinary Afternoon Tea experience? Gluten Free? Vegan? Gluten Free and Vegan? There are other options to mention but I recommend this one with great enthusiasm. Allergen free safety, welcoming environment, super service and absolutely wonderful food.
At £45 per person, extra for champagne this tea is priced similarly to those in other upmarket hotels. It costs a little less than some favorites such as the Ritz and Fortnum & Mason both priced more than £10 higher.
I challenge anyone not to thoroughly relish Afternoon Tea here. If you do not I will happily buy you a Chocolate Egg. Or accept your Chocolate Cheesecake Egg. Oh, preferably the latter. Seriously, treat your friend, treat your family, treat your kids. Best of all, treat yourself. This is an Afternoon Tea to experience.
I have enjoyed gluten free Afternoon Tea at St. James Park Hotel, Covent Garden Hotel, Beyond Bread and Brasserie 108. All commendable. I recently reviewed a gluten free afternoon tea experience at The Library, County Hall which had the most refined setting. There tea is taken inside a Library looking out onto the Thames with a view of Big Ben. Which would I return to first? The one with the Golden Egg.
So if you visit, let me know. Was that the very best Chocolate Egg ever? Yes it was. Right? Can you even go back to other, lesser eggs?
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