The Mother’s Day Regency Afternoon Tea at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane

The Blurb

A site for entertainment since 1663 and therefore the world’s oldest theatre still in use, the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane has seen, heard and played it all – from the first-ever performance of the national anthem to being totally burnt down in the 1700s, to one actor even reportedly murdering another in the green room.

And yet, since its £60 million renovation, its pristine condition doesn’t look a day over two – changes were completed in 2021, the work being done, very pragmatically, during the pandemic. The Regency Afternoon Tea has also been given a modern makeover by way of hot Columbia Road thing Lily Vanilli, best-selling recipe book author and cult bespoke cake maker. Now she’s changed things up a little bit more to create a special Mother’s Day version, available for five days only.

The Food

Thanks to Vanilli’s verve and imagination, the menu is packed with conversation points for us: the maverick warm puff pastry Cornish sausage roll included as a starter; the unusually dense and biscuit-like scones; the pink lemonade tart and custard-filled sticky toffee pudding to finish, along with Vanilli’s signature buttercream-slathered dark chocolate sponge with on-theme dainty pink and red icing flowers.

The tea list is short and punchy with just six pots – a bold move that paid off for us at least, and we could easily pick out three brews each that appealed: in particular, I found the Green Whole Leaf deliciously smoky.

It was only after I’d left that I realised this was the first tea I’d ever experienced that didn’t include any finger sandwiches, so satisfied was I with the spread. It was also the first one I have ever left without a box of leftovers to bash around on my return journey, almost to the point of inedibility, which then never taste as good at home.

The Style

Of all the afternoon teas in London (and, as you can imagine, there are a lot), this has perhaps the most beautiful setting, in the Theatre Royal’s Grand Saloon. With its soaring, intricately decorated ceiling and glittering chandeliers, vast, light-splashing windows, dark green marble pillars and statues of theatre royalty (we loved 18th-century actress Dorothy Jordan and her children, just before the bathrooms), it isn’t a million miles off the Palace of Versailles in terms of its no-holds-barred majesty. Tables are symmetrically arranged like dancers at a ball; wait staff are both immaculately dressed and wonderfully warm. The Lily Vanilli menu and Kit and Willow Kemp designed Mythical Characters crockery featuring colourful Edwardian jesters, ballerinas and pantomime acts (available to buy), meanwhile, give the experience a certain very British style and quirk.

The Crowd

For the regular Regency Afternoon Tea, expect quite casually dressed families typically with teenagers or babies, friends having long, luxurious catch-ups. savvy London visitors or spontaneous passers by who spotted the huge advert for the tea on the top of the theatre (which doesn’t really give away just how resplendent the set-up is inside). Obviously, for this special edition, there will be many marvellous mothers and their thoughtful offspring – I went with my mum, seven-month-old daughter and sister (who’s a hero ma of two boys too). Tip: book early, around 12.30pm, to have more (or maybe even all) of the gorgeous place to yourselves.

The Verdict

The stunning, storied setting, creative, delicious and nattily presented delicacies with slick but down-to-earth service – I know my teas, and this surprisingly little-known one is a real queen.

The Details

Available from 16th-21st March, it’s £59 per person, £35 per child, which is very decent value for possibly the prettiest and coolest afternoon tea in the city right now – and, of course, a steal for making your mama smile.

Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5JF

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