A whim took us off for afternoon tea at Portrait, the restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery. What better way to enjoy a sunny London afternoon than a classic tea? We’d had a light brunch at home as a strategic move to leave plenty of room for a 4pm sitting, but doing justice to this feast was still a challenge.
The bottom tier of elegant finger sandwiches was a delight, and there’s a free refill if your appetite is bigger than ours. I started with the rare roast beef and horseradish – delicious but very messy to eat (the beef sandwich is not included in the refill, a cost saving that seems a little bit stingy). The free range egg mayonnaise and mustard cress was much more like it, and along with the cucumber and cream cheese on white bread, felt classically English. I wasn’t so keen on the Severn & Wye smoked salmon, crème fraîche and chives sandwich as the strong flavour upset the delicate balance of the plate , but perhaps that was just me.
The middle tier of sultana scones with jam and cream needed a second pot of tea (again, a free refill). The scones were substantial, and I noticed that many people didn’t eat the two per person provided, but we’re too greedy to leave anything on the plate – and we’re talking light, fluffy scones here, a perfect foil for the Cornish clotted cream and classic strawberry jam. Taking time to enjoy the skyline view was a must, both because it really is stunning but also as a tactic to prepare ourselves for the final cake tier. A tiny lemon meringue pie was delectable, the upside down rhubarb cake was a treat, a canelé heavenly if a little rich. Like the wafer thin mint for Monty Python’s Monsieur Creosote our nemesis was the chocolate pot with salted caramel. Refraining from an actual bodily explosion, we drifted off on a sugar high that took several hours to subside.
PMC Rating (loos): ★★★☆☆
Portrait, National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE Sunday, 11th June 2017