Afternoon tea may not seem the most logical meal for a coeliac. Sandwiches, pastries, cakes - it's a challenge for any chef's gluten free skills. So it's fantastic to see some of the leading establishments in London have picked up the gauntlet and provide a gluten free option for their rightly world famous teas.
I've been to three places that are celebrated for their sandwich/pastry combos - The Dorchester, Claridges, and Fortnum and Masons. Here are my views on them, and also some other options to try.
I went to The Dorchester with my Mum to celebrate her birthday. I wasn't so keen on the area in which they serve the afternoon tea, which is essentially a glorified large entrance hall, and a bit of an odd narrow shape. But, of course, the service was impeccable. The bread wasn't the best, and the scone was a bit dry. The cakes, however, were excellent. And my Mum loved it - which was the main thing!
The Dorchester afternoon tea - £41
Champagne afternoon tea - £51
I went to Claridges with a fellow coeliac I met at one of Annie's Supper Clubs. We went after work one day. It's a really beautiful, luxurious art deco space, and had the best atmosphere. The standard of food was better here than at The Dorchester. In particular, the sandwich fillings were lovely, imaginative and tasty. You get unlimited sandwiches, so I'm afraid we did rather greedily ask for another tray which we didn't manage to get through.There's nothing like eating posh, delicious gluten free sandwiches someone else has made for you.
The only downside - and this was a big downside - was that they served a cake containing gluten on our cake stand! The waitress, however, who was excellent and very knowledgeable, realised something wasn't right and asked us not to eat it while she investigated. She came back and confirmed that the kitchen had by mistake put a gluten-containing cake on there. She removed the cake stand and returned it without the offending article and some extra cakes instead. She also gave us an additional free glass of champagne. So I'm afraid we rolled out of there rather pissed, to the surprise of our husbands who hadn't realised sandwiches and cake could involved quite so much alcohol.
Classic afternoon tea - £40
Champagne afternoon tea - £51
Fortnum and Masons
I went to the top floor of Fortnum and Masons after it was refurbished and renamed the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon last year. It is a beautiful, airy room, decorated almost like a 'boudoir' or a wedding shop. I went with a vegetarian friend to celebrate a birthday (I can't quite remember whose). It was excellent. The scones, in particular were a very high standard. It had less of a relaxed atmosphere than Claridges, partly I think because the space is less intimate, and you have to push your way through the manic busyness in the shop to get there, which can raise your stress levels. There were no problems on the gluten free front at all. GF blogger Gluten Free Mrs D has commented she wasn't so keen on the bread there, but I don't recall any problems. In any case, Genius Foods have tweeted recently that they now have the contract to supply the GF bread to Fortnums, which should maintain quality.
They also publish their full gluten free afternoon tea menu on their website.
Gluten Intolerant Afternoon Tea: £40
Glasses of champagne start at £12
Other options to try:
On my list are...
Browns - Trawl the internet and you'll find some good reviews of the gluten free afternoon tea at Browns
The Savoy - The Savoy had an eye-watering £220m refurbishment a few years ago, and I've never been, so this one is also on my list.
To read more about Liz's gluten free adventures, visit her blog Down With Gluten here.