Its definitely a feast for the eyes and the stomach if you are lucky enough to visit Claridges in Mayfair. The Foyer and Reading Room where tea is served is beautifully Art Deco with perfectly matching crockery and cutlery, but then again you wouldn't expect anything else. If you like Art Deco, this is the place to be with its pale green and cream curves and soft lighting, just a place to sit and relax and spend several hours eating and drinking. When you book your table, as long as you mention how many of your group will be gluten free, all will be well as everything is freshly made, but you'll have to be organised especially if you want to go at the weekend or a Friday, you'll need to be thinking at least 6 months ahead.
The staff are friendly and attentive - your cup of tea will never be empty as passing staff will always stop to fill it up for you, not once will you pour yourself a cuppa. Its a good thing the tea is lovely and there are 40 to choose from, as you won't realise that by the end of will have drunk liters of the stuff, we choose to share assam tea, which was just right for accommodating those who want milk in their tea and those who don't.
First the finger sandwiches, with two normals and one gluten free in the group, the normals shared a platter and the gluten free ones were (and always are) served separately. Cut into danty quarters - I believe they use genuis gluten free bread - you get a mix of brown and white bread - with all sorts of filling - ham, smoke salmon, chicken, egg, cucumber and cream cheese - rather a mundane description, but be assured each sandwich contains an ingredient that raises it to a new level and makes it delicious and slightly unusual. I happily munched them all. When you food is boroght to you, you get a whirlwind tour of all the ingredients, but its difficult to remember the details when you are marvelling at everything around you. You can order more sandwiches if you want to, you can order more of everything. As lovely as the sandwiches were, my game plan is always to leave as much room as possible for the sweet stuff, so declined extra sandwiches.
Gluten free finger sandwiches!
Now the scones and sweet pastries. These pretty things are deceptive, you think you'll more of everything - they are delicate but filling, especially with the amount of tea you will drink.
Beautifully presented delights!
Of course, I ate everything you see here, but only managed one extra scone. The raisin and apple scones are freshly baked, so if you order more there is a slight wait - but its worth it for fresh warm scones with Marco Polo jelly and Cornish clotted cream - just thinking about it make me drowl.
Freshly baked gluten free scones!
Claridges also provide variety of other sweet treats, have been twice now and they each time had completely different treats. This time a macroon with an amazing pear and caramel filling. There always seems to be a shot glass of delight, last time it was rice pudding, this time creme caramel with candied walnuts - I can't remember if this flavour combination is strictly true but it was out of this world good.
Basically is a perfectly lovely way to spend an afternoon, and I really appreciate the effort made to make the gluten free option as good as possible - and Claridges really hit the mark - there was never a point where I looked longingly at gluten version wishing mine was just as good, there is a different selection of pastries for the gluten eaters, but you won't feel left out. They both looked amazing, the standards are very high and it was absolutely delicious.