Afternoon Tea? Don't mind if I do…
The Eldest of the Darling Daughters arrives to whisk me off to Chichester where
we are to enjoy each other's company over finger sandwiches, delicious cakes and scones with jam and cream. I mean, what's not to like? Particularly one such as I who is, as you all know, Always Thinking About Her Stomach.
Our Afternoon Tea experience was a birthday present from my daughter’s sister in law last year and she is about to run out of time to redeem it. I am thrilled, indeed, that she has invited me
to be her Plus One when, let's face it, she has very many friends she could have asked in my place.
So here we are in Patisserie Valerie. I've never frequented
one of these establishments, I tell my daughter - who proceeds to remind me that actually I have; it was one of the places we visited on her memorable Birthday Outing to London, in between cocktails in the Ice Bar and dinner at The Ollery. So it was, I say,
The Eldest of the Darling Daughters is a trifle miffed to note that another couple enjoying Afternoon Tea are ensconced in cosy arm chairs in one
corner of the restaurant while we are shown to an ordinary table, albeit with an important looking “Reserved” sign decorating it. I am perfectly happy with our table as the armchairs, while probably every bit as cosy as they look, are somewhat
low to the ground. I think I might have just struggled to heave myself out of my armchair, had we been seated there. I don't share this thought as I don't like to admit to what Faris the Rascal would term my Great Age unless it is strictly necessary.
We decide that, despite the fact that coffee is my Drink of Choice, we should opt for tea. In a Tea pot and all. It is called Afternoon Tea, after all, not Afternoon Coffee.
Our smiley waitress brings us cups, saucers, tea pot and milk and I pour the first of many cuppas which we will enjoy over the course of the afternoon.
cake stand has arrived. There are sandwiches on the bottom plate, scones on the middle plate and an assortment of small, yummy looking cakes on the top plate. The cake stand, heaving thus with Good Things, is accompanied by a small, but perfectly formed, set
of tongs which will be the cause of much merriment over tea time as we endeavour to behave with due decorum lifting sandwich, scone and cake in turn with the tongs - only to either (I) forget or (ii) give up as the sandwich, scone or cake concerned slips out
of the tongs’ less than steely grip.
We agree that it should be Sandwiches First. Nestled among the egg mayonnaise and cress, smoked salmon and cream cheese;
chicken, pesto and sunblazed tomatoes; ham, spinach and mustard sandwiches are two mini vegetable quiches. I grab mine with the tongs and transport it, in triumph, to my plate.
We are similarly agreed that the scones are our favourite - would it be very wrong to eat them out of turn, as in, after the cakes? We decide to eat one of our two scones after the sandwiches but to leave t’other one till the
very last. Turning our attention to the cakes, we discover that, while there are two chocolate eclairs, the other cakes are what might be described as “singletons.” How will we fairly decide who should have what? I recall an Afternoon Tea shared
with the Middle of the Darling Daughters some years ago at a hotel near Wimbledon Common when we solved the same problem by dividing each tasty cake exactly in half. Such a good idea - we thankfully follow suit.
Over each mouthful, we set our worlds to rights. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters has a new job at a local Grammar School and tells me all about the selection process. One of her interviews was with a group of students
from each year of the school; what were you like at school? they asked her. She had to confess that she had actually been a pupil at the rival school in town. Thankfully they forgave her. We talk about the latest challenges for her father and me and she dispenses
sound advice. That's what sons and daughters are for, don't you agree?
We drive home congratulating each other that, though we have eaten well, we don't feel uncomfortably
full. We haven't been too greedy, after all. No, we probably won't need dinner…
Afternoon Tea with a Darling Daughter. Totally, deliciously, perfect.