It’s fair to say that ‘Frida fever’ has had us in its grip of late, with everything from food, fashion and homeware giving an indomitable nod to the colours, designs and flavours of Mexico. What from the flower crowns donned by countless festival goers, the rise of the thick, unkempt eyebrow, and the coloured fringes and frills, and printed textiles that now fill the summer rails in the shops. And so it was with a flutter of excitement that the V&A announced plans for ‘Making Her Self Up’ – an exhibit celebrating Frida Kahlo’s life and work, which is now enjoying a predictably sell-out run (until November 4th 2018).
As well as showcasing some of her most famed works (from an artist who developed a mere hobby into a life’s work of timeless masterpieces, after an accident left her unable to practice medicine), the collection also includes many of Kahlo’s personal trinkets and clothes, which up until now has never been exhibited outside of Mexico. And so cue the ultimate culinary tribute to this behemoth of art and culture: The Franklin’s intricately designed Frida Kahlo-themed afternoon tea. The delicate bone china, finger sandwiches, scones and sweet indulgences remain, joined by South American-style flourishes and a splash of rainbow colour.
Contrasting with the chic monochrome dining room, decked out in black, white and stone grey with vintage mirrors all around, the ‘Frida’ tables are lain with colourful poncho-style textile, mini cacti and beautiful embroidered coasters. The specially commissioned menu is also fittingly artsy, listing a range of rare signature teas, and the adventurous, eclectic menu.
We start with the margarita-esque El Diablo cocktail, made with native tequila, lime, cassis and a kick of spicy ginger beer. We opt for huge, swirly aroma pots of Darjeeling and signature Franklin afternoon blend tea.
A change from the traditional tiered stand, the rectangular tiled tray our treats arrive on is almost a canvas in itself: a beautiful, rainbow-colour splash of textures, flavours and experimental twists on traditional afternoon tea.
We start with not-your-average sandwiches: octopus & sweet corn, pepper & ricotta, chicken & avocado and egg with mixed beans. All with a decidedly South American twist, super fresh and impossible to choose between (though maybe the juicy, perfectly cooked octopus just clinched it).
Next, the scones: sweet banana chocolate contrasted with the zing of lime scones. Liberally slathered with lemon curd (a condiment wonder that doesn’t get enough press in my opinion) and the trusty clotted cream with homemade strawberry jam (because some classics are just too good to swap out, right.)
Next, fruity, creamy, chocolatey are served in equal measure. We started with a piquant fruit salad soup: the exotic flavours of pineapple, mango, melon, kiwi, pomegranate and crunchy passion fruit seeds. A gorgeous, summertime palate cleanser.
Then, a delicate set-milk pudding topped with satisfyingly gloopy dulce de leche caramel, decorated with nasturtium petals.
And because what sort of Mexican afternoon tea wouldn’t have sweet, cinnamonny churros dipped in bitter dark chocolate.
And the most gorgeous petit four-style conclusion, reminding us why we were here: a chilli praline portrait of Frida herself, resting on a cute easel. There was a kick of spice infused through the smooth, deeply fleavoured chocolate (something of a metaphor for the woman herself).
As if all this savoury-sweet-spicy-sugary indulgence wasn’t good enough, this experience can be enjoyed with an accompanying ‘anytime’ ticket to the exhibition (meaning no need to pre-book a slot). Compiled with the care and love of a great artwork, The Franklin teams the ultimate post-lunch treat with the vibrancy and spice of Frida Kahlo’s fascinating world.