House’s Afternoon Tea at the National Theatre
What was once known as Mezzanine is now known as House. The National Theatre’s upmarket restaurant has been revised into “a new dining destination” for those who want a higher quality food that, oddly, the Southbank currently offers little of.
The false ceiling and wall-coverings have been removed to expose the original concrete beneath. Metal pendant lights hang over each table, illuminating the pressed white tablecloths. The bar has become the focal point, emanating a 007 vibe with Martini glasses and full-length mirrors. Canvases that adorn the feature walls imprint a personal mark, but it all feels a little uncomfortable
It’s an interior that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be – so decided to be everything it wanted to be. In the case of House’s theatre-themed Afternoon Tea, being everything at once is an exciting prospect. Every component is based around a previous production at the National Theatre, making the traditional Afternoon Tea a little more special for theatre lovers.
Friendly and attentive staff in formal dress offer me a selection of teas along with the complimentary Bellini as I wait for Act 1 to begin. I’m not disappointed as dainty cakes, scones, sandwiches and an unforgiving pork pie arrive on a white, three-tiered stand.
Mrs Lovett’s Pie is more wholesome than Sweeney Todd’s. The buttery pastry is light and crumbly, containing pork flakes combined with onion and herbs. The Lady Bracknell Triangles of thinly sliced cucumber and rich cream cheese are reminiscent of the Importance of Being Earnest. A rectangular hummus sandwich, as offered up in One Man, Two Guv’nors, is tweaked with pieces of green beans and red pepper running through the wholemeal bread. Green eggs and ham are rolled up in white crust-less shapes in honour of The Cat in the Hat. The sandwiches on their own are, sadly, a little bland but together they complement one another nicely.
Before Act 2, there is interval ice-cream – a choice of vanilla, strawberry or honeycomb. As the restaurant has a beehive on the theatre roof, I choose the honeycomb. Presented in a Martini glass, the ice-cream is far too soft but the crunchy, crackling, honeycomb on top more than makes up for it. The portion is just small enough to cleanse the palate, ready for sweets.
House’s marble cake promises to be “much easier to chew and far more enjoyable” than Eliza Doolittle’s mouthful of marbles in My Fair Lady – but I’m not so convinced. The round, firm ball covered in dark chocolate, nestling inside a rice paper wrapping, looks the most inviting of all three sweets. It tastes, however, the worst. The cake is the kind of dry that sticks to your teeth and is difficult to swallow. Although we were assured on several occasions that the wrapping was edible, it was purely for the aesthetic as it was tasteless – similar to the home-made preserves that accompanied the too buttery and too salty baby scones. It is a relief that, third time lucky, the A Taste of Honey layer cake is moist and moreish. It comes with cream that is perfectly sweet and candied pieces of lemon rind that are just acidic enough.
One cannot deny that the themed Afternoon Tea at House is a lovely experience – but it’s perhaps not lovely enough to warrant the £26.50 per person price tag. Although perfectly nice, nice is too ordinary to live up to the delicacies’ theatrical namesakes.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
House’s Afternoon Tea is available Tuesday – Sunday, until 30th September 2015. To book a table at House, National Theatre, Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX call 020 7452 3600 or visit here.