Jack and Beyond Review: Not your grandmother’s afternoon tea

For Americans abroad, afternoon tea is a must and Jack and Beyond offers a contemporary take on the British classic, says Keely Doll

Thursday 12 August 2021 10:00
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<p>The afternoon tea tray features far more than cucumber and watercress sandwiches</p>

The afternoon tea tray features far more than cucumber and watercress sandwiches

As an American living in London for the summer, there’s a few bucket list things I had to do. Visit Buckingham palace, go up in the London Eye, and of course, have afternoon tea. For me, and I assume many Americans, afternoon tea conjures up a very specific mental image; fine, delicate china teacups and cucumber sandwiches served in a lavish Victorian drawing room.

My afternoon tea at Jack and Beyond was not what I had pictured but amazing all the same. The cake shop and cafe in Fulham is embracing the modern age of afternoon tea and appealing to a younger audience. In my head afternoon tea was an exceedingly formal occasion, but here it was bright, contemporary, and casual in the best way.

A friend and I stopped in on Friday to see what this famed British classic tradition was all about. It’s a small, intimate space, filled with cakes and pastries. It doubles as a cake shop and cafe, so it’s definitely better for smaller groups.

The space is bright and contemporary, with minimal decoration, which allows the cakes on display in the window to really shine. The staff were exceedingly friendly and willing to share their favourites from the menu. Even the music was obviously aimed at a younger generation. I had expected classical music was a mandatory part of afternoon tea and was pleasantly surprised by songs from Queen and Harry Styles coming through the speakers instead.

Earl Grey and chamomile at afternoon tea

The 90-minute experience included a complimentary glass of prosecco and unlimited tea, coffee or signature lattes alongside the tray of snacks. For all you get, it’s fairly moderately priced and perfect for those new to afternoon tea or those who don’t want to break the bank.

After sitting down and ordering our first cup, Earl Grey for me and chamomile for my friend, our tray of sweet and savoury snacks was brought out. Our waiter explained what everything was and specified that it was all vegetarian.

Forget cucumber and watercress sandwiches, this tray was rather different. It held flaky palmier with sharp cheddar, cheese gougere, and an avocado and feta crouton. Our favourite by far was the leek and potato quiche. Fluffy and soft with a perfect crust, I could have eaten the entire quiche. Despite looking so small a portion, the bottom half of the tray was quite filling.

While the savoury options were good, where Jack and Beyond really shines is their sweeter side. The bite sized desserts included jammy dodgers, Bakewell tarts, scones, and more.

Scones with clotted cream and jam

I immediately fell in love with the fruit tart with Chantilly cream. The tartness of the fresh kiwi cut the sweetness of the fresh cream, making for a fresh dessert that didn’t get lost amongst the rest of the bunch.

Being someone who hates cookies-and-cream flavour, and most types of frosting, the brownie fingers topped with the two was especially daunting. But my fears were unnecessary, it was easily one of the best brownies I’ve had in years. Where I usually find cookies-and-cream flavour to be overly artificial and sweet, the frosting tasted fresh and delicious. The brownie itself was unbelievably good, moist and spongy, it wasn’t overly dense or rich. It was the perfect amount of chocolate to not overwhelm the palate or the rest of the plate.

My friend and I were split on the lemon and elderflower macaron, where she thought it was a tad too lemony, I believed it a bit too sweet. Finishing with the scones, both red velvet and original, served with clotted cream and fresh jam, we were both quite full.

The signature latte’s were the one thing I could do without on the menu. Beautiful and caffeine free, they’re amazing for Instagram but I ordered the apple and lavender latte and wasn’t thrilled. Made with beetroot, butterfly blue pea flowers, and lavender, it was definitely gorgeous to look at but I couldn’t get over the richness of the milk and foam with the tart acidity of the apple. The lavender, although there in colour, was lost amongst the other flavours. Maybe I’m still just an American at heart and love my latte just with milk and espresso.

Lavender and apple latte, gorgeous to look at, but it doesn’t beat a regular milk and espresso latte

Overall, if you’re looking for a very classic traditional afternoon tea or something on the fancier side, Jack and Beyond’s experience might be too casual for you. But if you’re just looking for something to do for the afternoon or for a girls day out, it’s a perfect spot to sit down for tea and catch up.

It wasn’t the experience I had expected from years of television and movies but what is? I could see myself going back to Jack and Beyond again and again, unlike the dated Victorian version I, and many other Americans, once held.

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