You know what's great? When you wake up on a Thursday morning knowing you're going for afternoon tea, but the details are hazy. You know you've been told, but you weren't really listening, so you idly follow directions to the address you've been given, assuming it's a hotel or something, only to find yourself standing outside Dominique frickin' Ansel Bakery.
(For the uninitiated, Dominique Ansel is a trendy bakery in Belgravia, London - and other locations around the world - best known for being the cradle for the Cronut, and internet famous for the extremely Instagrammable flower arches it usually has outside.)
It's a bit of a blogger cliche to visit Dominique Ansel, but given that my love of all things sweet massively predates my blogging, I feel I can justify it - oh, and I'm all about the food. None of this take-hundreds-of-selfies-but-leave-the-food-untouched nonsense that bloggers get a bad rep for - you'll be lucky if you find a crumb left once you let me at an afternoon tea, and you can forget about seeing any selfies.
That said, this afternoon tea is served is Dominique Ansel's oh-so-pretty covered terrace, a light and airy conservatory at the back of the bakery. They've gone all out with the decor here, suspending terrariums and individual blooms from the ceiling - but it might take you a while to notice them as you'll be dazzled by the psychedelic flower wall.
I'll be honest, I was expecting it to all be a bit la-di-dah, perhaps the sort of place where people look down their noses at you if you're not a regular (this is Belgravia, after all), but it's actually a thoroughly relaxed and extremely friendly place. We had great fun with some of the staff.
The floral theme doesn't end with the surroundings. The theme of the afternoon tea is the life cycle of a flower, from seed to blossom, told through a series of bite-sized offerings as you work your way up the menu. It's steered clear of the well-trodden sandwiches and cakes route, instead producing some really unique options.
The strength of this afternoon tea is that it keeps you on your toes - as my friend said "nothing tastes like what you expect it to". Think steak tartate and Cornish crab salad for the savouries, and a whipped basil ganache making an appearance on the sweet section.
Even the scones - an afternoon tea staple that's been done to death - manage to surprise us. Cream or jam first? Doesn't matter, you don't have the choice here. Both come together, packaged up as strawberries, coated in a white chocolate. Simply pop the strawberry on your scone and get spreading.
It's worth noting that there is no veggie or vegan option for the afternoon tea - all the savoury menu items feature meat or fish of some kind. Not a problem for me, but worth knowing if you're thinking of booking.
Once we'd finished our afternoon tea, we were really lucky to be invited into the kitchen with pastry chef James Clarke to get an exclusive insight into how the delicate components of the meal are put together. We weren't allowed to photo/video everything, but here's a look at the final touches being added:
Oh, and a cheeky tray of Cronuts. The kitchen's full of them:
Afternoon tea at Dominique Ansel Bakery, Belgravia. Read about my other afternoon tea adventures.