Did you know that Roald Dahl used to be a spy? And also a fighter pilot, inventor and historian of chocolate? Well it’s true! And this September it will be 100 years since the great man, whose stories were synonymous with bedtime, was born.
To celebrate the occasion, theatres, restaurants and museums across London are all planning their own pieces of Dahl-ightful entertainment so you can indulge your inner child and celebrate everything Roald.
Wanting to indoctrinate my three-year-old son into the wonderful world of Roald, I decided to start with the Charlie and the Chesterfield Afternoon Tea at Mayfair’s Chesterfield Hotel.
Set on a quiet corner linking Queen Street with Charles Street, the historic hotel has been offering Afternoon Tea since its inception, but for the past two years this has been a tea with a twist. There are currently two West End shows based on Dahl’s books (Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and the inspired team at the hotel decided to tap in on their popularity.
As my son and I took a seat in the bright conservatory adjoining the hotel restaurant we were immediately served a special fizzy lifting drink. After much reassurance that he wouldn’t, in fact, float off into the rafters, the Little Man tentatively took a sip through his stripy straw… A grin spread across his face from ear to ear. “It’s fizzy and fruity and really, really funny!” he exclaimed. Phew, we were off to a good start.
Our exceptionally charming server then brought The Boy an activity case full of colouring, quiz books and crayons, to keep him busy while I enjoyed my own fizzy lifting drink in the form of a Lanson Brut! I then took a look through the extensive menu of 18 loose teas which offers everything from Earl Grey and Assam, to flowering Jasmine and First Flush Darjeeling, and even a special Willy Wonka chocolate tea – blended especially for this occasion.
During the course of our visit I tried the uplifting organic green tea, the richer and more warming Willy Wonka invention, and also – my favourite the Dancing Dragon. For this delicious drink, young green leaves are hand-sewn around jasmine, marigold and globe amaranth flowers. When placed in the hot water, the small ball burst open – a delightful sight for a three-year-old in itself!
As Afternoon Tea is brought to your table you will be hard-pushed to hold back the gasp that escapes your lungs as you take in the view that is a celebration of colour and design! A selection of delicious finger sandwiches including honey roast ham and cheese with tomato chutney, egg and watercress on basil bread, smoked salmon and cream cheese on brown bread, and chicken with grain mustard mayonnaise on white, sit below a tower of chocolate and fruit scones.
Topping the pyramid of delights is the finest selection of pastries and cakes you could imagine. Oompa Loompa cupcakes are individual cakes created to actually resemble Willy Wonka’s trusty workforce. There are also blueberry macaroons, a fizzy lifting cake, the most melt-in-your-mouth Golden egg you could imagine, and, of course, a special Chocolate Wonka bar. I thought my little boy’s eyes would burst out of his head as he ingested this magical sight. Then I feared his tummy may burst as he took to task the serious job of actually attempting to eat it all!
We took our time enjoying the treats and the surroundings. At least three other families were seated during our stay to enjoy this special take on Afternoon Tea, and our waiter told us that up to 200 are frequently served in just one day! And believe it or not, the fun doesn’t end with the food… As we sat back to contemplate attempting one more round of goodies, a smartly dressed man in a purple suit and dark glasses approached our table. “Good afternoon Sir” he greeted my gobsmacked son, while offering forward a bowl filled with round sweets. “Can I tempt you with an everlasting Gobstopper?” My slightly aghast son couldn’t believe his eyes or ears when Willy Wonka began talking to him while presenting him with one of the famous sweets as well as his very own golden ticket envelope. The envelope is a cunning way of encouraging diners to return: If it remains sealed and you bring it back on your next visit, you can then open it at the table. Inside will be a golden ticket which could offer anything from 10% off your meal to a weekend stay at the hotel. Well worth keeping hold of and a nice extra touch to round off the most indulgent and enjoyable of afternoons.
As we left I asked my son whether he had enjoyed his trip to Charlie and the Chesterfield. Too full to talk and tired after so much excitement, he looked a little weary. Then broke into the biggest smile and gave me a huge thumbs up. I couldn’t resist snapping one last picture. A lasting memory of our special afternoon.
Prices for Charlie and the Chesterfield Afternoon Tea start from £34.50 per person, and £12.50 for the Little Oompa Loompa Afternoon Tea. For more information visitwww.chesterfieldmayfair.com/afternoon-tea , call 020 7491 262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Chesterfield Mayfair is at 35 Charles Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5EB