So what should I know about Mariage Freres?
This historic tea company has been selling its wares in Paris for over 150 years and have recently started branching out - into Berlin, Tokyo and now London. But if you think this is just a hastily-thought out expansion, think again - the attention to detail at this London emporium is amazing. This is not hyperbole - their first London salon in Covent Garden is properly breathtaking and, frankly, an Instagrammer's dream.
They sell tea, but can you eat in?
You can, in a three-part restaurant and tea salon on the first floor (and some private event spaces above that). There's a galleried part overlooking the main part of the tea shop, a central section where tea is prepared and a beautiful, bright tea room overlooking King Street in Covent Garden.
So, a good place for afternoon tea?
Mais, oui. They do a cracking sounding afternoon tea for £39 and £49, but they are also open throughout the day from breakfast to dinner. It was the former we went along to try.
The full French, yes?
Well, yes and no. Obviously, you can order all manner of amazing pastries - much of which will have been arrived from Paris at the crack of dawn that day. Looking back, we feel we may have missed out on ordering the marvellously-named Chariot de Patisseries which comes to your table laden with financiers, muffins and madeleines. But there's also an a-la-carte section with croque monsieurs and omelettes as well as four set Parisian breakfast options.
Here's what we had:
And what about the tea?
There's about a thousand to choose from, so we made full use of our waiter's knowledge to help us wade through the menu. We opted for a pot of their signature Marco Polo blend - which had overtones of caramel and vanilla - as well as a pot of their blue tea. This was a first for us and is made using Butterfly-pea flowers from Thailand which give it its intense hue.
A pot of tea ranges in price from around £9 up to £20 for a pot of rare Gyokuro tea.
Time to go shopping
Downstairs at the front of the store is a takeaway section, so if you're after some of their pastries and cakes to bring home with you, you can stock up here. There are also some beautiful open sandwiches on sale here that aren't available upstairs.
Mariage Freres opened pretty quietly before Christmas. So quietly, in fact, that it doesn't seem as if many people know they're here. Even their website doesn't mention they've opened in London. And that's a shame, because our breakfast, followed by a wander through the shop downstairs was a total treat. It deserves to be much, much busier - so it's well worth checking out.
Hot Dinners dined as guests of Mariage Freres, prices are correct at the time of writing.
More about Mariage Frères
Where is it? 38 King St, London WC2E 8JS
Find out more: Visit their website.
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