Did you know that this week is Afternoon Tea Week? I’ve been to quite a few Afternoon Teas across the UK now (mostly in London), many of which I’ve written about on here, but I still have a fairly extensive list of places I’d love to visit.
At the weekend, I was invited to Afternoon Tea at 108 Pantry within The Marylebone Hotel. And I was particularly looking forward to the fact that they offer a ‘gluten-free’ option, which I’ve never come across before. I’m not intolerant to gluten but I was interested to see how the products would compare to the ‘classic’ versions and be able to report back to you on here. I wrote my first gluten-free related post on here last week and it got a pretty good response, so there’s obviously a lot of interest in the subject.
New research by Udi’s Gluten Free (which I was given today) has found that the top struggle of those who are gluten-intolerant is ‘eating out in a restaurant’. The recent introduction of the EU’s Food Information Regulation rules has seen many restaurants adapting their menus to show allergen labelling to help customers who suffer from an allergy or intolerance, however a third (32%), claim that there’s still a struggle when choosing what to eat with gluten-free options remaining limited. So I was keen to see what 108 Pantry would have to offer.
Straight away, I loved the decor – vibrant and comfy red, grey and yellow seats with quirky plates hanging on the walls.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the huge counter of cakes, of which you could choose a slice of one at the end of your Afternoon Tea, but more on this later…
We were seated at a large round table in the window and were soon brought a selection of teas to choose from. The waiter was lovely and incredibly knowledgeable. He passed each tea on to us to smell as he told us the ingredients and stories behind the teas. Many of the teas as you can see below were from the Rare Tea Company. This was set up by Henrietta Lovell in 2004 who has quite literally travelled the world to source the finest teas.
This is where I feel other Afternoon Teas have fallen down recently. You may have read my review of Bettys in my hometown of Harrogate, where I was disappointed that you weren’t given a selection of teas to choose from on the Afternoon Tea menu. At 108 Pantry, I chose the Earl Grey and Tim went for the Darjeeling. The waiter brought them over and advised us to wait for 2-3 minutes before pouring. The Rare Tea Company have a brilliant section on their website telling you how to brew the perfect cup of tea, which you can read here.
We ordered one ‘Classic’ Afternoon Tea and one ‘Healthy/Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea, as discussed, to be able to compare.
The Classic Afternoon Tea comprised of four types of sandwiches (Cream Cheese & Cucumber, Egg & Cress, Salmon and Ham), two scones with jam and clotted cream, and four desserts (Pistachio Sponge Cake, Pimms Jelly, Passion Fruit Meringue and a Cherry Brownie).
The Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea had the same sandwiches (but obviously with gluten-free bread and slightly healthier alternatives of the fillings), gluten-free scones and for desserts, Orange/Carrot Sponge Cake, Raspberry Macaron, Chocolate & Almond Brownie and the Pimms Jelly. Both Afternoon Teas were topped with a 108 Pantry branded white chocolate disc.
We decided to try the gluten-free version of each sandwich, immediately followed by the classic version, to see how they compared. The gluten-free versions felt more ‘dense’ in texture, but they were still very tasty. Overall I preferred the classic options because I found that they had more flavour (probably because they were more indulgent!)
But while the sandwiches and the scones were lovely, what really impressed me were the cakes, and I was surprised by the fact I actually preferred the gluten-free options. The orange/carrot sponge cake was wonderful – the orange cream and candied orange on top worked perfectly (the latter passed the Mary Berry candied fruit ‘drop test’!) And I particularly enjoyed the chocolate and almond brownie.
We ended our Afternoon Tea with a lovely pot of soothing camomile tea, which made me quite sleepy and very content!
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, as I mentioned earlier, we were able to choose a slice of cake each to take away with us, from the huge selection on display: A range of gluten-free cakes (including meringues and macarons):
Chocolate & Beetroot Cupcakes, Matcha Green Tea Cakes, Carrot & Walnut Cupcakes, Strawberry Cheesecake Sponge, Double Lemon & Poppy Cake, Mixed Berries Tart, Fresh Fruit Flan, Pecan Pie, Guinness & Baileys Cake and Vanilla Cheesecake.
We chose a Chocolate & Beetroot Cupcake and a slice of Guinness and Baileys Cake and ate them later that evening (when we had more room in our very full tummies!) Both were gorgeous, the perfect end to a lovely day!
It’s a fantastic Afternoon Tea for anyone who is a coeliac or who is gluten-intolerant. As you can see from the photos, both the classic and gluten-free options looked the same. For those who are gluten-intolerant, it must be a pain being able to find dishes that they can eat, without having something completely different to those dining with them, as the research I mentioned earlier indicates. I know how excited the ladies I met at the recent Coori cookery class were at the gluten-free products on offer, so I imagine they would love to be able to indulge in Afternoon Tea with their friends.
If you’d like to try 108 Pantry you can find out more and book on their website here. Why not visit this week and be a part of the Afternoon Tea Week celebrations?
I was invited to review 108 Pantry by Neil Reading PR, but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.