Afternoon tea @ The Ivy Cafe, Blackheath

Afternoon tea usually feels likes just the ticket for a celebration meal – big birthdays, civilised pre-wedding gatherings or anniversaries, and for that reason schlepping into central London doesn’t seem like much of a problem.

What has always struck me as a bit of an issue is the hefty price tag that sandwiches and cakes can attract, with the most well-known tea experiences now stretching upwards of £60-70.

While I appreciate grand surroundings and string quartets are used as a justification, I’m not entirely comfortable with the outlay, not to mention the fact that afternoon tea, traditionally 3pm to 5pm, has become a money-making endeavour for many of the big hotels.

Waiting lists are now months long, unless you are happy with a 7pm slot, which last time I looked was dinner time, and not tea.

With these factors in mind, I was only too pleased to hear that the Ivy Café in Blackheath was open and that afternoon tea is served in the traditional slot.

I booked three of us for the Champagne Tea at £27.50, including a selection of sweet treats, savouries, a glass of fizz and tea or coffee.

The delicate proportions of the items were deceiving, and I must admit at first glance to being a little underwhelmed at my personal haul (three sandwiches, three tiny cakes and a scone).

My disappointment was born out of my savoury palate and preference for extra sandwiches over the sweet stuff. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was with me and we did a straight swap.

The sandwich selection was innovative and although I loved it, I’m unsure whether the truffled chicken brioche chicken roll would be to everyone’s taste – it packed a fragrant punch, tempered a little by the sweet notes of the bun. Marinated cucumber and dill finger sandwich was a definite crowd-pleaser and smoked salmon on gluten-free dark rye with cream cheese and chives brought a Scandinavian twist to these very English proceedings. The ubiquitous scones didn’t disappoint, served with a generous helping of Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserve, and those with a sweet tooth were surely satisfied by raspberry cheesecake, chocolate and salted caramel mousse and crème brûlée doughnut.

A deceptively good spread and well worth the cost. In fact, if you leave out the Champagne, afternoon tea, including hot drinks, is just  £19.75.

Paloma was a guest of the Ivy Café in Blackheath. 43-45 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, SE3 0TJ. Call 020 3940 1010

The Ivy Cafe in Blackheath Pictures: Paul Winch-Furness 


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