“Mr Willy Wonka can make marshmallows that taste of violets, and rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds as you suck them, and little feathery sweets that melt away deliciously the moment you put them between your lips. He can make chewing-gum that never loses its taste, and sugar balloons that you can blow up to enormous sizes before you pop them with a pin and gobble them up.”
– Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
As a child, I always wished that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory existed. I was completely obsessed with both the book and the original film, and dreamt I would one day get the chance to visit Wonka’s Chocolate Room, drink the fizzy lifting drinks, and even try some lickable wallpaper (in hindsight, that last one sounds pretty unhygienic…).
To celebrate their partnership with the West End production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, One Aldwych hotel has put together an afternoon tea that ol’ Slugworth himself would be tripping over his own feet to taste.
For a 5* star hotel a stone’s throw away from Covent Garden, you would be forgiven for assuming the atmosphere in One Aldwych hotel would be pretty stuffy. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. With an intimate sofa area fitted with all the contemporary fixtures, the lounge is an inviting space for drifters off the street, whilst still retaining an air of exclusivity that makes you feel extra special throughout. The staff are attentive – leading you to your sofa/armchair, taking your coats, explaining all the individual nibbles – and enthusiastic about the afternoon spread, which just got me and my friend even more excited about what lay ahead.
Forget run-of-the-mill scones, sandwiches and tea that typically make up your average afternoon tea. At Old Aldwych, each and every tastebud is taken and infused with flavours you didn’t even know worked well together.
Our platter of savouries was filled with miniature sandwiches, quiches and tarts for us to sample. We each got our own plate and, being a vegetarian, the hotel staff made sure that everything on my plate was meat-free.
The nibbles may not look very filling, but each one lasted us a while as we savoured all the flavours. After sampling each bite, our waiter came over and asked if we would like some more of our favourites – and, of course, it would be rude to pass up extra samples of the delicious cream cheese and cucumber sandwich, and tomato and cheese tart, right?
Just when we thought our tummies were fit to burst, our eyes widened as a wooden pyramid of sweet treats was placed on our table. If you were going to visit Wonka’s chocolate factory, this is exactly the kind of thing you would expect to see:
From the left hand side: a bowl of scones and blueberry brioches, Eton mess, handmade candyfloss, a golden chocolate egg filled with vanilla cheesecake, cake pops, and chocolate caramel milk.
My first thought when I saw this was: “I’m never going to be able to eat all this.”
And you know what? I absolutely did. Every last bite.
My absolute favourites were the vanilla cheesecake and candyfloss (the flavour of which is a secret – you’ll have to taste it to find out!). The scones, accompanied by a summer fruit spread and cream, also got my tastebuds tingling.
Again, we were offered more candyfloss, but by this time we were absolutely full. I’ve never felt so gutted at turning away more food.
And as for drinks? One Aldwych has that covered, too. We were offered pretty much every tea under the sun, from smooth caramel to jewelled apple. In the end, we stuck to our British roots and opted for the English breakfast tea.
You can also upgrade to include an alcoholic drink on the side for special occasions. My friend went for a glass of champagne, while I felt it was rude not to at least try the magical Cocktail Charlie, a scrumptious mix of whisky, champagne and, of course, chocolate.
The only thing I regret about One Aldwych’s afternoon tea was the fact I ate six hours beforehand.
The spread is so filling, and so scrumptious in every possible way, it felt almost a sin to leave any crumbs on the plate.
I’ve been raving about the tea ever since, and some of my friends said that all the chocolate looks ‘sickly.’ However, if you’re more of a savoury-lover, don’t let that put you off it. It’s got the perfect mix of flavours to suit all preferences, with the staff eager to produce more of what you like the best.
It’s a perfectly quirky treat if you’re looking to treat yourself or a friend, suitable for all kinds of special occasions. Just this once, it’s perfectly OK to unleash your inner Veruca Salt and proclaim “I want it now.”
What do you think of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired afternoon tea? Is it your cup of tea?
Many thanks to the team at One Aldwych for providing me with a complimentary afternoon tea. All views remain, as ever, my own.
Cost: £34.50 per adult, or £45 with a glass of champagne or Cocktail Charlie. Under 12s eat for just £25.
Nearest tube station: Temple