I hadn’t been to The Wallace Collection but one of my friends had it on her London to-do list, so when we found out they did afternoon tea we decided to go there for one of our group’s birthday.
The Wallace Collection is this incredible collection of fine art, sculptures, furniture and all kinds of odd things, homed across 25 galleries in central London. I still find it amazing that central London has so many places like this that I’ve never even heard of, so close to places I frequently visit.
At the back of the building is the courtyard restaurant – a huge glass-roofed conservatory space with ceilings so high that it basically feels like being outside. Bathed in natural light but heated and sheltered, it was a great place to spend a very rainy Saturday afternoon. It really is a stunning setting for an afternoon tea.
The restaurant within The Wallace Collection is run by Peyton & Byrne. Though it’s called a restaurant and describes itself as a “French-style brasserie”, it definitely had more of a café vibe than restaurant during the day when we visited. The tables are quite closely packed together and it’s quite noisy and casual. However on Friday/Saturday evenings they open until 9.30pm for dinner, I imagine it would feel pretty special to have the stars above you and may have a completely different atmosphere.
We went for the afternoon tea and I was looking forward to it having had good experiences of Peyton & Byrne’s cakes in Greenwich before. It’s one of the cheapest afternoon teas I’ve had in London, costing only £18.75 for the basic afternoon tea. Fizz options are £26, or £29.50 for a glass of Jean Paul Deville rosé Champagne. Unusually, none of us were drinking on the day we visited.
They brought one stand with scones, cakes and sandwiches per two people, and they brought a separate plate of sandwiches for the veggie in our group, which they did with no fuss. Everyone chose from a reasonable sized tea menu and they swapped my tea for a freshly squeezed orange juice at no extra charge. (I don’t really like hot drinks, I’m a terrible Brit).
The sandwiches were nice and classic – coronation chicken, egg, smoked salmon and cream cheese and cucumber with dill cream. They were served on a mix of brown and white bread with the crusts cut off. My favourites were the coronation chicken and egg ones. I’m not fussed about the traditional British cucumber sandwich – it always seems to me like they put the salad in but forgot the main filling! On the bottom plate of the stands were four delicate finger sandwiches each, I’m not sure if you pay for extra sandwiches as we didn’t want any extra this time.
There was two large fruit scones and two plain scones to share, accompanied by clotted cream and a strawberry jam. The jam was quite runny and smooth (I prefer mine with chunks of fruit in but that’s personal preference), but the scones were fresh and nice.
The cakes were fairly sizeable for an afternoon tea – there was one of each per person. The carrot cake square was very moist and, although I’m usually fairly ambivalent about carrot cake, was delicious. The chocolate tart was incredibly dense and rich, just how chocolatey desserts should be. There was a lovely light passionfruit layered sponge too which was very strong on passionfruit, though I couldn’t manage much of that!
Our waiter was a bit abrupt, verging on rude at times. Periodically the windows along the side of the roof tilted to maintain a consistent temperature/humidity in, what is essentially, a giant greenhouse. This means that you get a draft for 10-15 minutes a time which they were unable to do anything about. They didn’t rush us at all though and we did stay for quite a while chatting – they also boxed up the leftover cakes for us to take home. I’m sure other places would have told us that they needed our table back, so that was nice.
Overall, The Wallace Collection offers a really great value afternoon tea, especially considering its central location. It’s one of those places that is perfect to take visiting friends and family. The setting is beautiful and you can wander round the galleries before you eat. I’d be really interested to see how they transform it into more of a “proper” restaurant atmosphere for their evening dinners as I imagine dining under the stars in there to be a lovely experience.
Nearest Tube: Bond Street is about a 10 minute walk away, Oxford Circus is also easily walkable.