After a recent, questionable experience of a cocktail-paired afternoon tea, I'm completely off teas that involve booze in any way, so when I received an invitation to W London's Tea Total (see what they did there?) afternoon tea, it sounded ideal. Afternoon tea against a flower wall backdrop, right next to Leicester Square - what's not to like?
...Well, quite a lot actually. Despite its moniker, a brief glance at the menu reveals that Tea Total is in fact not teetotal. It's not even close. Each sweet treat is paired with a mini, 'crystallised' version of one of the bar's most popular cocktails. 'Crystallised' we later found out, means jelly.
When I queried the non-teetotalness of the Tea Total tea, I was told that they could whip up a non-alcoholic version on request, although this isn't made clear on the website - so if that's what you're after, do double check when booking.
So, misleading moniker aside, how does this afternoon tea measure up? Like most afternoon teas, it's very well presented, put together with the Instagram generation in mind. The flower wall which appears in the promo photos only takes up one tiny part of the bar, so you may be queuing to get your snap. In design and colour, it's strikingly similar to the larger flower wall at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Beyond that, the decor is something of a talking point - think old school hall meets art gallery meets what I can only imagine the interior of Spearmint Rhino looks like. Enough said really.
We arrive promptly - and hungry - for our 1pm booking, yet our food doesn't arrive until 2pm, leaving us to amuse ourselves with our tea for an hour, with no explanation for the hold-up. We assume the sandwiches are being made fresh for us, but their dryness and tastelessness when they do arrive stomps all over that theory.
The scones are decent, if on the small side, served traditionally with jam and cream. For me though, an afternoon tea lives or dies on the quality of the sweet selection, and in this case that translates as floating through life without much comment. A quartet of treats includes an overly rich chocolate mint mousse, a slightly odd eyeball type concoction, a delicious but sickly sweet white chocolate cake, and a meringue with a slice of carrot cake stashed inside it. Again, thought has clearly gone into presentation, but nothing leaves us wanting more.
At the end of the meal, we discuss our favourite part. For both of us, it's the scones - which tells you all you need to know about this afternoon tea. Average, but not memorable. As for the title? I've still got no idea who thought 'Tea Total' was a good name for a booze-laden experience.
Tea Total Afternoon Tea at W London, Leicester Square. £37-£42 per person, book ahead.