We would normally be suspicious of a restaurant that sits in such close proximity to a major tourist hot spot, but Bronte, just off of Trafalgar Square is like a cleverly crafted dreamscape serving up breakfast, lunch, cocktails, dinner and tea. Tea is what had us crossing the threshold into this beautifully appointed restaurant and bar, and from the moment we walked in, we were smitten.
Tom Dixon was charged with designing the interior and it feels wonderfully modish with a quirky gesture towards Victorian entomolgy and geographic discovery. In the same vein as sketch or Bob Bob Ricard, dusky pinks, bright blues and splashes of Art Deco make it chic and stylish with a trace of British eccentricity.
Walking through to the back dining room, we were stopped in our tracks on more than one occasion to process a shelf of glass balls orbiting a ceramic, blue-haired head and curio cabinets neatly arranged with woven safari hats (perhaps an homage to Dixon’s Tunisian birthplace) and exotic collectables from the far off travels that lend inspiration to the food.
Tea is a British institution and if you’re going to do it in the twenty-first century, why not do it in absolute style? The #Brontea is £24 per guest, or £36 with the addition of a glass of non-vintage Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut. While it still retains the ritual’s steeped traditions, Bronte has evolved its afternoon tea into modernity and it’s wholeheartedly welcomed.
Gone is the tiered serving tray and vintage-esque glass boxes rimmed in gold, that may have once held antique insect collections, now house the sandwiches, cakes and scones. Tea has an ordained order and our first bites were from the little glass boxes of fingerling sandwiches. Each was delicious with it’s own unique twist – smoked salmon with yuzu and dill, ham with miso mustard (our favourite), cucumber with amarinth and cheese with piccalilli (homemade Indian pickle).
Next stop, the large glass box filled with scones and cakes. We’re picky about our scones, but Bronte seemed to know this already and delivered excellence. Topping them with fresh dollops of clotted cream and wild strawberry jam, we lingered on the apex of afternoon tea, but not too long, as a selection of Paris-worthy mini cakes and pastries were waiting.
The salted caramel macaron flaked with crunchy bits of chilli was an innovative play on spice and texture – a theme that carried forward into two more of the six treats. The mini chocolate éclair was lifted in flavour with cardamom and the cheesecake’s light and creamy essence was enhanced with ginger and rhubarb. On the more refreshing side, yuzu (an under-utilised, in our opinion, Japanese citrus fruit) made a secondary appearance in the mouse tart and the pistachio and leman cake bar drizzled in lemon frosting transported us to an upscale Beirut cake shop. The most delicious of the bunch – the baby pineapple and mango tartlet had us poolside in Indonesia, enjoying the sweet flavours at the peak of their season.
We can certainly see Bronte becoming the location of choice for the fashion crowd over London Fashion Week and London Fashion Week Men’s, and by all means, if you want to impress a companion for afternoon tea, take them to Bronte.
Words by Courtney Blackman