As someone who spends a lot of time in London for work, I very rarely get to see much more than my office in Kensington, so this year I’ve decided I want to change that and explore the capital a bit more. If you’ve read much of my blog already, you’ll know I’m always on the look out for quirky things to see and do, and London is full of that kind of stuff.
When my friend Tasha told me she’d be in the capital, sorting out her Visa for Australia, I quickly booked the afternoon off and went to meet her for afternoon tea – which is an absolute must when you’re in London because there are so many options to chose from. The only problem is, there are so many options to chose from. Even a search for spots that were in a close proximity to my office brought up hundreds of results.
Thankfully, we weren’t just looking for your regular tea and cake, we wanted something a little different, and as a self-proclaimed ‘Geeky Tourist’, the nerdier the better, so we booked a table at The Drawing Rooms where their Science Afternoon Tea had caught my eye.
The Drawing Rooms are part of the Ampersand Hotel down Harrington Road in Kensington and Chelsea, which just so happens to be right around the corner from London’s Science Museum – I’m guessing that’s where they got their inspiration from.
We walked into the restaurant expecting to see planets hanging from the ceiling, but the small venue, spread across two rooms, was instead a quaint and beautiful little spot, painted pale blue with accented walls, quirky portraits of animals spilling out of tea cups, and low, post-box red chairs at mirrored tables.
Shown to our seats and handed menus, we both already knew exactly what we wanted – the Science Afternoon Tea. There were lots of other tasty treats on the menu, but we couldn’t be swayed, and opted for the Vegetarian option – there was also a gluten free afternoon tea available too.
The waitress asked us what kind of drink we’d like with our lunch, and showed us their huge selection of loose leaf teas. It reminded me of that scene in Scott Pilgrim, where Ramona Flowers lists off every tea she has in her cupboard, so I quickly chose the Peppermint whilst Tasha went for the Breakfast variety.
We then received what I can only describe as a small science experiment – an empty beaker accompanied by a syringe of glucose, a test tube of lemon, a sachet of baking soda, and a little corked bottle of water, with the instruction to mix everything together and create our own lemonade. You could then flavor it with a pipette of passion fruit or raspberry if you wanted. It was the perfect way to waste time whilst waiting for our meal, and ended up tasting surprisingly delicious, whilst being a lot of fun to make.
When it was time for the three tiered selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes to come out, we weren’t sure it could get any better than pretending to be Walt in Breaking Bad, until our waitress placed the tower in front of us and poured some water into a bowl on the top tier so that smoke erupted around the planet shaped cakes and tiny chocolate astronauts. ‘DRY ICE’ I squealed a bit too excitedly. It’s something I’ve never really seen up close before and it completely blew my mind.
We quickly dug into everything with huge smiles on our faces, and it all tasted absolutely amazing. From the tiny, flaky tarts filled with creamy goats cheese and beetroot, to the egg mayo rolls topped with truffle oil, and the scones – the scones just broke apart in your hand, with a fluffy center and a crispy edge. I pilled mine with cream and jam, but there was also lemon curd and test tubes of freeze dried pineapple and raspberry that you could sprinkle on top. They looked just like moon rocks.
The cakes were the show stoppers though. There were lemon and orange cakes shaped like half moons, coconut and blueberry macaroons that you could fill yourself, and chocolate spacemen orbiting planet shaped mouse filled with caramel. There was even a petri dish layered with Prosecco jelly and kiwi jam that looked like something you’d make in science class at school.
It was the ultimate, decadent, quirky feast, and it didn’t even end there. Our final lesson of the day was Archaeology, where we were given a little wooden box, filled with ‘dirt’ – crushed cookies – and told to excavate. I picked up the brush and started sweeping away at the box until a tiny biscuit dinosaur was unveiled, along with a fossil truffle.
By this point, we were absolutely stuffed, so they gave us a bag to take away our left over treats to eat on the train home, then wished us a good evening. I can honestly say I’ve never had so much fun at a restaurant before, let alone eating a meal. It was a perfect mix of geeky fun and sophisticated dining which is something I’ve never experienced any where else, and would happily experience again every day for the rest of my life.