But you don't care about the liquids; you're here to see the food. They brought our beautiful tiers of food glorious food out promptly - the bottom layer of sandwiches, the middle patisserie layer from their acclaimed pastry chef, and the top layer for the scones, which every tea requires.
- chipotle cheese with caramelized onion chutney and rocket on rye bread
- brioche roll with cream cheese and smoked carrot salmon
- BLT with aubergine bacon and garlic mayo on sourdough
- Mediterranean hummus and cucumber on farmhouse loaf
The one bad sandwich was the only low point of the entire experience: the hummus on white bread. They tried to fancy it up on the menu calling it "Mediterranean" hummus on "farmhouse loaf" but it was bland af paste with cucumber on white bread. Not a fan. In fact, we had an extra and no one ate it. I'm surprised at the lack of taste, really the lack of anything interesting going on with this sandwich since everything else was so wonderful.
By this time, I was hella full and awash with tea, but I powered through to the scones. They were GREAT. Buttery and a good solid texture without being too hard, the scones were quite impressive. Happily, Cafe Forty One sends out the best accompaniments with their scones: homemade berry compote, and also coconut cream (they call it clotted cream but it is plain old coconut cream (that kind of loses its form the longer it sits on your table but that's to be expected, it's coconut cream)), and vegan honey! Or, to be precise, Vegan Honea, the product on sale in the UK. I thought this honey was super convincing. The texture was right on and the taste was pretty accurate in my opinion.
I was fin' to bust at this point but that pastry tier looked beyond incredible so I had to try at least the items that wouldn't keep if I had to take anything to go.
- Black forest entremets, Griotte dark chocolate and vanilla Chantilly (I don't know what half these words mean)
- Pistachio and milk chocolate brioche
- Pecan and almond cookie
- Red currant macaron
- Shortbread with chocolate cube and caramel creme (and goooold)
I also adored the black forest creation, the dark berry-chocolate custardy mound on top of a perfect, bitter chocolate cake base. It was hard to lift this one off the tray - they should put a tiny paper under it - but man it was remarkable. Entremets apparently means delicious gooey stuff. Okay I looked it up and all I could find is that entremets means multi-layered mousse based cake, which this kiiinda is, I guess, or it just means 'between courses' which no.
I really loved the shortbread cookie too, but especially the chocolate cube and the caramel custard and little white cream on top. These three components were applied with a sewing needle, I imagine - so so tiny!!! Not that I could have eaten more, but I would have loved more of that custard and cream and chocolate.
I was v. v. hurt at this point so we packed up the red currant macaron (one 'o' on the French sandwich jawn, two for the coconut thing popular at Passover) and the shortbreak cookies with my leftover scones (I couldn't finish them either) and ate them the next day and they were still great. They're not as impressive as the more complex French patisserie, since I mean I make amazing cookies and there's only so amazing a cookie can be (there's a threshold I think like with falafel) and macarons are the most overrated food in existence (so much work! so little payoff!) but it was nice to have a macaron and a good solid cookie and everything was beautiful.
Cafe Forty One at La Suite West, London, England
Water speed: They brought carafes allll the time. Highest marks!
Service: All the waitstaff was very nice. There was an issue when my friend's specific allergen-free sandwiches weren't sent out with the rest of ours, and it took a while for them to send out the right plate. That's more a kitchen mishap than a service issue, but considering all the prep we had done to make sure they knew about the allergy, it's surprising that it wasn't all set.
Bathrooms: As you'd expect from a nice hotel! They were very dark but nice. The gender symbols on the doors are the forking TINIEST I've ever seen I'm obsessed.
Bonus: A decently priced afternoon tea with extraordinarily high calibre French pastries??? FIRE THAT SUCKER UP AND THROW IT AT MY FACE.