Grand Slam Afternoon Tea

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It is Wimbledon fever in London and consequently I have been enjoying a range of tennis themed events and pop-ups across London. One of my favourite seasonal celebrations was at the Saatchi Gallery Mess café where they are serving up an ace afternoon tea! The Grand Slam Afternoon Tea is fresh and summery with hints to the tennis tournament.

Though I have often visited The Saatchi Gallery for exciting art projects I have never had the pleasure of enjoying this restaurant before. Civilised and sophisticated I felt like it was a real occasion walking inside. The interiors are beautiful, with exposed brickwork and lovely arches, and in one corner a neon cockerel adds a touch of contemporary style. The large windows allow plenty of light inside, though there is also the option to enjoy your meal or afternoon tea on the terrace.

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Two dainty slate cake stands were swiftly delivered to our table. The array of cakes, scones and sandwiches represent the best of British summertime. I was grateful to see the modest selection – I find it quite overwhelming when a whole cake shop arrives at the table! To start, a trio of savoury sandwiches (prawn marie rose, ham & mustard and smoked salmon) and a homemade scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream. All very fresh, tasty and neatly presented. On the next level there was a tennis ball macaroon, a white chocolate and pistachio Battenberg sponge inspired by a court, Pimm’s fruit jelly and a strawberry & cream choux pastry. I loved the macaroon which had the perfect chewiness inside and a lovely crispness on the edge. The jelly was refreshing and the fluffy choux éclair added a touch of luxury. Each item was thoughtfully created to celebrate a feature from Wimbledon.

To accompany the food the waitress bought us a pot of warm Hendricks tea, a concoction of tea, wild berry, orange and gin. It was an intriguing brew, flavoured with fruit and with a spicy kick from the gin. I was pleased to find it not too sweet, instead the citrus taste balanced nicely with the sugary cakes.

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If you can’t get a seat on centre court, enjoy a stroll round the Saatchi Gallery before indulging at the Gallery Mess with their tennis tea for two.

Available until 6th July, more information and book here.

Lawn Bistro, Wimbledon

Wimbledon is upon us… tennis, Pimms, strawberries and all the other jolly English summer traditions. Those enjoying a day of sport (or escaping from rain showers for a snack) will be pleased to hear of Lawn Bistro, a sophisticated restaurant in Wimbledon Village serving French inspired dishes.

The cool grey exterior stands out amongst the boutiques and pubs and the modern, stylish interior is instantly welcoming. Décor is simple and classic, not detracting from the quality and creativity of the food. Staff are professional and clearly proud of their workplace, greeting us warmly. For dinner, Head chef Neal Cooper serves two seasonal menus, the A la carte and the Taster’s (which gives guests the chance to try 3 starters, 2 mains and 1 dessert) perfect for those who experience food envy! We tried both menus between us, evaluating the difference in size and layout. Many of the recipes overlap, illustrating which creations are most popular.

To combat the summer heat, we cracked open a bottle of thirst-quenching South African Chenin Blanc, a lovely accompaniment to the light tapas style taster dishes. Before tackling the menu, ask for a portion of the Chorizo of Catalunya cooked in rich tomato sauce to devour with the freshly baked rosemary bread.

To start we shared an array of indulgent treats, a superior charcuterie platter with smoked bacon rillettes and cornichons, comforting roast tomato and red pepper soup, grilled tiger prawn and crispy leg of lamb with aioli. It was lovely to try such an assortment, each mouthful is different showcasing a new combination of flavours and textures. For main course, the Braised Belly of Pork with glazed potatoes, pickled carrots and spring pea mousse was exemplary – it was sweet and salty, the soft meat cooked perfectly with no excess fat and the crackling with a good bite. The Tagliatta of lamb was exquisite too, thin lean slices of fleshy meat topped with shaved parmesan, rocket and vibrant sundried tomatoes. The gnocchi cooked in French barigoule style with fennel and saffron sounded better than it tasted, rather bland and starchy in a nondescript sauce.

Desserts were the highlight, and I considered ordering every option, but we decided on three between the two of us. The lovely Strawberries with pistachio sponge and clotted cream ice-cream is a tribute to Wimbledon’s famous sweet and is the ideal summer pudding, light and sweet. Chocolate financier cake was dense and really benefitted from the sweetcorn ice-cream; salted caramel popcorn was a tad lacklustre sprinkled on top. Decadent White chocolate and coconut mousse with passionfruit sorbet was an innovative and exotic idea for a girly diner.

Lawn Bistro excelled in every department and really impressed me. The Taster’s menu is especially worth trying, a beautiful selection of six smaller portions, all for just £25. By the end of the meal you’ll be so smitten by the food, that you will have forgotten why you came all the way to Wimbledon in the first place and tennis will be an afterthought.

More information and book a table at Lawn Bistro here.

Cannizaro House Hotel, Wimbledon

Set in the secluded leafy suburbs of south-west London, Cannizaro House offers a characterful location to while away a wintry evening and rest your weary head.

After a confused taxi driver struggled to negotiate his way there, we eventually arrived at this magnificent home away from home. Although the building is grand, the service felt discreet and relaxed, and I felt instantly calmed walking in on a Friday evening. The main reception area has a real buzz, with a grand piano, cocktail bar and real fireplace making the place cosy.

As well as the hotel and restaurant, meeting rooms are available in all shapes, sizes and styles, and are easily adapted to suit the occasion. The staff at the hotel work extremely hard to make your every wish a possibility, often transforming the whole house for weddings and functions.

We were given one of the many recently renovated suites, complete with high tech underfloor heating and luxurious furnishings. Each room is individually decorated with carefully selected furniture and special wallpapers, I particularly loved the retro pink flamingo design. Many guests become attached to a particular room, and can’t bear to stay anywhere else, but after seeing a few, I’d be happy to stay in any of them!

Our room had numerous indulgent features, with an epic four-poster bed and lush dark blue and black décor. A desk is available in one corner for the more studious guests and a big flat screen TV occupies the other corner. I danced around the bathroom in amazement at its size. Fully modernised and filled with soft enveloping bathrobes and Duck Island toiletries, it was an absolute indulgence.

Once settled, we went to satisfy our hunger in the restaurant. This eatery deserves recognition, bringing in customers who inhabit the hotel and visitors from afar. The daring chef prepares intricate British dishes with character and flair. The autumnal menu offers a variety of intriguing flavours. After warm bread and farmhouse butter, we were treated to mini amuse-bouches from the kitchen. I adored my pumpkin soup with crème fraiche, sweet and very smooth with a kick of spice. Following the waitress’s recommendations, for starters we chose Lobster Lasagne which went down very well, my guest mentioned its clever construction and luxurious creamy taste and I went for the Goat’s Cheese Salad. This was nice with an assortment of interesting textures and flavours. However the cheese, with a smoky burnt edge, was rather overpowering, and I would suggest a smaller portion size.

For mains my date was brave selecting the Lamb with Sweetbreads while I opted for the more conservative choice, Duck with Kale. Both were cooked to perfection, tender high quality meat seasoned delicately and paired with cleverly complimenting vegetables.

A pre-dessert lemon mousse was a delight accompanied by our digestif cocktails, Polish Martinis. Cheese and Pistachio pudding completed the meal, prettily presented though lacking the inspiration of the mains.

Rising from an immersive night’s sleep, we were back in the conservatory dining room for a delicious breakfast. If you can leave time to stroll in the picturesque grounds, the Italian and Rose Gardens are especially pretty, and a lovely place to picnic in the warmer months.

This transformed stately home achieves a feat many cannot, incorporating a modern hotel with a fine dining restaurant; the walls play host to ever-changing pieces from local artists.

Cannizaro offers couples a weekend retreat to rest and recuperate, families a place to eat and explore and friends a welcoming hotel to reminiscence and catch up. I’d definitely recommend this hotel and it would be ideal if you are watching the tennis at Wimbledon, but be warned – it’ll cost you more than a few punnets of strawberries!

Visit the Cannizaro website here.