I was recently treated to an afternoon tea, by lovely Josh my husband, in recognition of my advancing age. We went the day after a boozy pub-based wedding and I was, naturally, dangerously hungover. As such, my temperament during the afternoon tea was fairly woozy, I was clammy throughout, and the incredibly dark bathrooms and dimly-lit corridors leading to them at La Suite West were in danger of flummoxing me completely. Thankfully the refreshments did manage to invigorate me. Here’s how the experience went down:
Food and drink
As well as a pot of tea per person (with the peppermint tea being, frankly exquisite) you are given a glass of non-alcoholic fizz when you arrive. So tasty and effervescent; it was heavenly and I was so glad it was booze-free too – no ‘hair of the dog’ for me.
As part of the tea you, of course, get to enjoy a selection of Finger Sandwiches. The cashew nut cream cheese with sundried-tomato and basil was really lovely. The soft, creamy slightly nutty cheese worked perfectly with the huge slabs of chewy, juicy tomatoes.
The scrambled tofu with mustard cress was, unfortunately pretty bland. I know scrambled tofu can taste better than this – they needed to up their seasoning game.
Thankfully the BBQ tempeh with rocket salad sarnie was gorgeous. Juicy, tasty tempeh with peppery-hot rocket leaves. I had to ask for another round and would love for places like Pret to start selling something like this.
Next I tried one of the warm homemade scones served with fresh strawberries, a pot of jam and whipped coconut “Cream”. Josh and I agreed that the scones were really well-made and would confidently pass the Mary Berry taste-test. The strawbs were lovely and I’ve got a thing for jam served in teeny-tiny jars: so doll-like and cute. The cream was weird though and I’ve had whipped coconut cream before (looking at you Club Mexicana) that has been divine. This was cloying and over-sweet and I surprised myself by eating very little of it.
Finally it was time to tuck into the “Chef’s selection of cakes”. There was a decent chocolate Brownie that had lovely crisp edges and a fudgy soft centre. The carrot cake was alright; slightly greasy and missing a vanilla frosting perhaps. And then a couple of coconut-covered balls – that looked a little like the little fat balls you put out on a bird table. They were not great and I couldn’t finish them.
I may have unfair expectations, not least as I’ve always tended to take afternoon tea at Sketch – a pink wonderland of David Shrigley cartoons, toilets shaped like eggs and the most intricate and irreverent finger foods – but Sketch is extremely decadent with a price-tag to match. However, I thought the presentation was a little lacklustre. I like to see cakes stacked perilously high, with intricate decorations, served on banging crockery. If I want a cake just for cake’s sake I can grab a Chelsea Bun from Gregg’s and save a whole bunch of time and cash. An afternoon tea is a bit of theatre, it’s a bit ridiculous and should feel like an indulgence; so I think they should work on making their offering look more exciting and dramatic.
Everyone we encountered at La Suite West were friendly, helpful and unobtrusive. The menu was well-explained and cake and sarnie top-ups were offered.
It cost £29.00 per person, plus there’s a 12.5% service charge added to your bill. I’m always struck at how expensive afternoon tea is, but you really are paying for more than the sum of the parts. It’s an experience and this is a reasonably priced afternoon tea.
Overall, I would definitely recommend afternoon tea at La Suite West to a friend. It was lovely seeing all of the traditional items you’d get at an afternoon tea veganized and most of them were really tasty. If they could make it look a little bit fancier presentation-wise (so it looks more like the photos on their website *cough*) then I would be even more likely to sing their praises. But for a special occasion when you want scones and tea and tempeh; you can do a lot worse than this!