The Oxo Tower is an impressive art deco building once home to iconic British gravy brand Oxo. Thankfully, this afternoon tea with a twist is not related to the building’s savoury heritage; no one wants gravy with their cake, after all.
In fact the tower, in prime position on London’s South Bank, has undergone a dramatic makeover and is now abuzz with design studios, boutique shops and galleries. Its crowning glory is the Oxo Tower Brasserie, which boasts sweeping views of the Thames, as well as this very contemporary teatime experience.
We took our seats, in prime position overlooking the river boats gliding along and magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance. The sunny brasserie, with its vibrant flourishes of colour – from the bright blue ceiling to the vases of pink peonies on the bar – is nothing like an old-fashioned tea parlour.
Not Afternoon Tea, it turns out, is definitely for the sweet-toothed and sinful among us. There were no neatly cut cucumber or smoked salmon sandwiches on the menu. There wasn’t even any tea, for that matter…
Instead we were given a decadent choice of desserts including: the Tea Total plate, a tea- infused selection of classic cakes; the Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb selection, with the exquisite sounding rhubarb gin trifle; the Chocolate Fruit and Nut Case, a must for chocoholics; and All About the British Pudding…. which I just couldn’t resist.
But all afternoon teas come with sweets, right? The difference here is that every option also comes with its own expertly matched cocktail.
I was pretty excited when my Delicious Union cocktail arrived, a delicious fusion of Sipsmith Summer Cup gin, cider and cherry bitters. With a Union Jack flag standing proudly in the fluffy vanilla foam on top, it was the perfect fanfare for my plate of puddings.
Faced with all my childhood favourites – treacle tart, sticky toffee pudding, apple crumble and custard, plus rice pudding finished off with a tart dollop of marmalade – I hardly knew where to begin.
And to add to this happy conundrum, my friend and I had agreed to split desserts so we could sample a bit of everything.
She went for the chocolate option: dark chocolate peanut tart, white chocolate and cranberry truffle, hazelnut mousse and rum and raisin chocolate pudding. The marvellous melee was accompanied by the Chambolic cocktail, a heady mix of Chambord, Frangelico liqueur and ginger ale.
We both had our highlights, of course – mine was the dreamy white chocolate and cranberry truffle. But every morsel was a treat and, just as the late afternoon sun began to drop beyond the historic buildings of Whitehall, we left on the ultimate sugar high.