Norwich: Assembly House
PUBLISHED: 09:32 05 October 2012
In an artistic twist on a traditional favourite, the humble afternoon tea has been transformed into a masterpiece at the Assembly House. STACIA BRIGGS takes tea in the presence of genius.
It’s the only place you’ll find a Van Gogh, a Pollock and a Mondriaan in close proximity and, more to the point, be able to eat them all.
The Assembly House has created a spectacular new afternoon tea to tie in with the EDP Adnams Food and Drink Festival and the venue’s own current exhibition, The Art of Food, which showcases a feast of food-related photography and paintings.
Drawing inspiration from world-famous artists, the Art of Food Afternoon Tea offers you the chance to eat your way through the post-impressionist, De Stijl and abstract movements, all lovingly interpreted by the Assembly House’s crazily-talented pastry chef Julia Hetherton.
Served on a tiered cake stand, you can work your way through three layers of decadence while simultaneously spanning more than 100 years of artistic genius.
Visually stunning to look at, with clever touches like a ‘paint pot and brush’ (a shot of orange mousse-topped strawberry jelly with a chocolate paint brush) this is the kind of tea you’d expect to find in a high-end restaurant in London – Norwich has never seen its like before.
Our waitress Naomi talked my companion and I through the menu, showing us the 10 choices of tea we could choose from, explaining the connection between the food and the current exhibition and was then attentive throughout our visit, which is always a welcome touch.
Starting like good girls with savoury before sweet, my companion and I chose the vegetarian sandwich fillings (hummous and carrot, free-range egg and cress, cheese and pickle) rather than the usual fillings – local ham, oak-smoked salmon, egg and cress. Served on brown and white bread, these are delicate little numbers and they need to be when there’s so much art yet to be eaten.
Layer two offers each diner two scones served with homemade jam and clotted cream but it’s the third layer which is the real showstopper: like a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party held in the National Gallery by Grayson Perry.
The Jackson Pollock macarons echo the artist’s love of paint splattering, there’s a vanilla cupcake adorned with Van Gogh’s famous sunflower, a Battenburg cake based on Piet Mondriaan’s famous block work and a slice of classic Gateau Opera.
To finish, you can find your own inspiration with the aforementioned paint pot and brush, although in such esteemed company, you may find it hard to compete.
Every single element of this tea has been meticulously thought out and incredibly well executed to the point where you almost feel like a hateful heathen for eating it – although this guilt will soon pass, replaced with greed.
Beautiful to look at, beautiful to eat and only available until mid-way through October, the Art of Food Afternoon Tea is an experience not to be missed.
Even if you do have to Google Piet Mondriaan when you get home. Ahem.
Open: Afternoon tea served Mon-Sat 12pm-5pm. The Art of Food runs until mid-November.
Prices: £16 per person, £28 for two; add a glass of Assembly House Champagne for £22.50 per person or £40 for two.
Vegetarian options: Sandwiches can be vegetarian
Wheelchair access: Yes