There are few experiences so synonymous with British indulgence as afternoon tea: think clotted cream and jam (whichever order you slather it), ruler-precision finger sandwiches, maybe a mini quiche nestled on the 3-tier stand if you’re lucky. All well and good, but let’s be honest: seen one thinly sliced cucumber sarnie, seen ‘em all.
And in this vein, OXO Tower Brasserie is fully bucking the trend with its Not Afternoon Tea: a menu that focuses on a uniquely reimagined approach to the post-lunch treat. The ‘NOT’ menu is overhauled each season, and for summer 2018, things have taken a decidedly dramatic turn, with a theatre-themed experience added to the OXO repertoire.
We visit on a Sunday afternoon, and we enter to a show of OXO’s own, taking in the stunner London-skyline views: look out onto a mammoth stretch of the Thames, and a smattering of world famous landmarks.
These views are put to paper in the form of a beautifully illustrated menu, depicting the theatrical inspiration for the afternoon: The Globe, The Lyceum, Her Majesty’s Theatre, and more.
First off: a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and one of The Bard’s most famous plays: Hamlet. A fluffy, fragrant bergamot foam and tart cherry jam sit underneath a white chocolate skull. An accompanying goblet of ‘poison’ slid down like a fizzy hot toddy: an apothecary-style swirl of peach liqueur and cider, served with raspberries set in skull-mould ice cubes. Next arrived the main event: mini works of art are fawned over, photographed and almost tentatively nibbled at simply due to their levels of craftsmanship: looking too good to eat took on a new meaning here.
First, a journey to The Apollo Theatre for our first dessert, inspired by Wicked: a mint parfait scribbled with the chocolate creases of the Wicked Witch of the West’s hat, accompanied by a creamy yet air-light mint cocktail. Almost like drinking melted mint choc chip ice cream.
Next up, a floral rose tart dotted with chewy meringues, topped with the white chocolate mask of the Phantom of the Opera. The sweetness was cut through with a raspberry and gin mix, topped with picture-perfect edible nasturtium.
Simba’s face peered out of a Lion King-themed coconut & mango mousse: a light and fluffy tropical creations that was the cake of the afternoon, if one could be set apart from the rest. This was washed down with a creamy spiced rum cocktail mix: a gorgeously pina colada-esque mouthful.
Lastly, a more manageable version of Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake, light sponge filled with a rich chocolate fondant infused with honey. The decadence was met with the aromatic pang of espresso martini.
Despite OXO’s protestations of the ‘NOT’ afternoon tea vibe, we couldn’t leave without a brew, and pots of tea arrive with funfair-style striped paper bags, containing surprise show-themed ginger biscuits (we got Kinky Boots and School of Rock). Take home a box of indulgent themed chocolates and continue the experience at home (ft. Swan Lake macaron and edible Golden Snitch!)
OXO managed to roll so many elements into the couple of hours we were there: views, iconic London goings on, and simply jaw-dropping pastry-chef skills. We predict it’ll be the hottest ticket in town.
OXO Tower Brasserie
OXO Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH