At a time when it feels like afternoon teas are ten a penny, one London hotel has pulled together a magical festive offering that will have you dusting off your tutu and re-glittering your fairy wand. The Sugar Plum Fairy afternoon tea at the Waldorf Hilton is an exclusive dining experience, adorned with sparkling special touches and nods to the Nutcracker tale.
The magic begins the minute you set foot in the hotel as you are greeted by the sight of their magnificent handmade gingerbread house and Fina the ballerina, posing graciously, mid-pirouette in the hotel lobby. The fairy lights twinkling through garlands of fir, and the ever present scent of ginger, nutmeg and cloves is just the beginning of what will be an enchanting afternoon.
Upon checking in your coat, you’ll be ushered into the glittering dining room where crystal ballerinas float below snow white trees, and silver nutcracker soldiers guard the ballroom with pride. The smooth, soothing music from the live pianist adds to the sense of opulence as you are led to your table through an avenue of snow dusted wreaths and crisp white linen. Once seated, you’ll be presented with an amuse bouche fit for the Sugar Plum Fairy herself, as a crystalline indigo potion is decanted into your glass teacup, and a frosty mist floats from your teapot. You’ll then be given the option of a selection of champagne or Hope & Glory teas, each specially selected to compliment the culinary offerings to come.
The first course comprises of a selection of blinis and a rainbow of sandwiches made from artisan breads. Vibrant beetroot bread, shimmering salmon blinis and mouth-watering pickle, the savoury elements of this experience have clearly been thought out with precision to ensure that no one flavour overpowers the next. The variety of textures, flavours and tones mean both the palate and the eye have no time to get bored. There’s little chance or your glass or teacup running dry as you’re tucking in, as the delightfully cheery restaurant staff are constantly on hand with more bubbles or pots of steaming hot tea.
If, like me, sweet things fill you with edacious glee, you’ll be clapping with delight as (what I consider to be) the main event arrives at your table: A charming cake stand, stacked to the brim with all manner of delicious offerings, topped with a gingerbread ballerina by the sugary geniuses at Biscuiteers. The scones, still warm from the oven, fill the air with scents of cinnamon, candied orange and vanilla. Mark, the pastry chef, recommends that you start with the layered pistachio cake, followed by the choux bun and the small chocolate glazed cake (which contains a little surprise, but I won’t spoil that for you). I could pontificate about the pistachio cake all day long, but that’s not to say that the other goodies were not equally, mouth-wateringly delicious. As a woman who pretty much eats cake for a living, I cannot stress enough how this was the lightest pastry and silkiest, velveteen cream I have ever tasted. Post cake-binge, you then move down a tier to the selection of scones accompanied by clotted cream and two home made jams. My favourite combination was spiced scone slathered with star anise spiked sugarplum jam and cream, but the plain scone with strawberry was certainly a refreshing finish to the cake course.
The grand finale of this dazzling array of dishes is the Sugarplum Fairy herself, as she spins and swirls across a miniature piano adorned with delicate, mouthwatering macarons. If you haven’t gobbled it up already, this is the perfect time to dunk your gingerbread ballerina into your last cup of tea before heading out onto the (hopefully) snowy streets of London.
As a culinary, visual, and sensory dining experience, the Sugar Plum Fairy offering at the Waldorf Hilton is second to none. Faultless from start to finish, you are drawn into the magic of the story, each dish incorporating the decadence and enchantment of both the hotel and the fable. The attention to detail, quality of service, and glittering charm result in an afternoon tea that is both fascinating and delicious in equal measure. If you find yourself in London over the festive period, this is an experience not to be missed.
When to go: The Sugarplum Fairy Afternoon Tea is available from now and throughout the Christmas period.
Must see’s/do’s: It’s imperative that you go and see the magnificent gingerbread Waldorf Hilton in the hotel reception. The hotel restaurant, lobby and bar are also filled to the brim with Instagrammable areas and highly photogenic details.
Food hero of the day: I honestly couldn’t pick one item, everything was utterly delicious in its own right.
Cost: The Sugar Plum Fairy Afternoon Tea costs £39.00 (£49.00 with a glass of champagne) Monday to Thursday, and £44.50 (£54.50 with a glass of champagne) from Friday to Sunday. I highly recommend upgrading the the free-flowing champagne option if you have something to celebrate (or even if you don’t). Costing £70.00 Monday to Thursday and £75.50 Friday to Sunday and served for 90 minutes, the staff will ensure your glass never runs dry.
Venue details: The Waldorf Hilton is located on Aldwych, London, WC2B 4DD. Bookings can be made by telephone on 0203 551 9749, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org