I love afternoon tea. It's a great Victorian concept - Hungry between lunch and dinner? Have another meal! - that has somehow survived into the 21st century. It involves tiny sandwiches, tiny scones and tiny cakes all served with lots of tea and, if you're lucky, a glass of something with an ABV.
Sadly, it's been fairly hard to come by in London of late - the last vegan place I heard about serving afternoon tea shut down a while back. Handy then that a hotel in Bayswater (an area to the west of London, geography fans) called La Suite West has opened a raw restaurant serving vegan afternoon tea between 12 and 6pm.
Clearly, it was my patriotic duty to go and try it out.
When we got there at that distinctly un-afternoon tea hour of 12.30, we were the second couple in the restaurant. It was quiet as anything for the duration of our meal (apparently the afternoon tea rush starts at 2pm) but that meant we snagged a table by the window and got the place to ourselves while we quietly gorged on all sorts of good, good things.
First up, lots of dainty finger sandwiches - check out these bad boys:
Each of them has a different filling - it's as close as you can get to English tapas! There's hummus up there, and tofu scramble with guacamole. So far, so expected. But the surprise star of the show was the butternut squash with cream of artichoke and truffle (fancy!) - the butternut still had bite and made a lovely partner to the soft cream. Honourable mentions too to the portobello and pesto sandwich, and the light and lovely roast spinach, garlic, aubergine and cauliflower mousse.
And the tea, the fine, fine tea. Every time I got to the bottom, it replenished itself - a new pot appeared as if from nowhere. Magic.
When we downed our first plate, the waiter asked us if we'd like any more of the sandwiches. The answer was yes, of course (More food! More delicious food!) particularly that butternut squash beauty, but we saved ourselves for the scones with strawberries and whipped coconut cream.
Here's what landed in front of us:
After a while pondering why the coconut cream had a blue cast (I worked it out - it was in a blue dish. I have no defence as to why arriving at this conclusion took more than two seconds) and why there was so much of it (maybe they had no smaller bowls?), we got stuck in.
The scones weren't scones as I understood them - there was no dried fruit and the texture was far lighter and more bread-like than scones traditionally are. But hey, sometimes you hear a punk cover of a Kate Bush record, and you're like 'ah, well I like the original, but that new one's kind of cool too'. Especially if the punk cover has a lot of coconut whipped cream and strawberries on it.
Then there was that siren song 'would you like any more?' and again, I want to say 'yes, dammit, and bring me another stomach so I've got enough room to put it in'. But again, I said no, because I knew what awaited me.
The third plate was the cakes. Three of them - one more than the menu online said. Score! There's a big dark cocoa-y one, some halva and lovely orangey cashewy cheesecake fella.
A couple of minor gripes - when the first pot of tea turned up, we got brought cow's milk to go with it. It might be a weird concession to the non-vegans that stay at the hotel, but given the restaurant is pitched at vegans, it would make more sense to ask first before bringing cow's milk to the table. We declined the cow's milk obviously, and we were offered a selection of plant milks - much better. There was honey on the table, leftover from a hotel breakfast I think, so I asked if the food had any honey in, and they were incredibly helpful, and said no, not a bit of it.
This may not be a traditional afternoon tea, but it's definitely a good one.
RAW at La Suite West
41-51 Inverness Terrace
020 7313 8484