Afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason, Dubai

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A view of the tea room.

As my daughter and I walked into Fortnum and Mason Dubai, I worried a little that it would be one of those snobby Dubai places where you’d be judged by your clothes and designer togs (or lack thereof). Considering we were walking in carrying a large plastic bag from Daiso’s, I assumed we had every right to be worried. Add in the fact that the original store in London counts the Queen as one of its regular patrons, we clearly had no business there.

Or so I thought, and was proven pleasantly wrong. For one thing, the kindly English hostess patiently explained the whole menu to me, an absolute afternoon tea virgin. I thought I’d be expected to order two afternoon teas, one for each of us, or at the very least place a second order of a little something, but she said it was unnecessary.

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A sunny corner. You can also choose to sit outdoors.

She seated us at our table with a pristine white table cloth in a pretty corner of the sunlit tea room (well duh, this is, after all, Dubai in April!) The interiors reminded me that my daughter and I were at Fortnum as much for the atmosphere as for the food. There was pretty china in their signature green, silverware that was clearly aged but in the nicest way, glass jars and more. The menus were gorgeous and I wish I had taken a picture, but I was far too conscious of the waiter hovering.

As part of the tea, you get served a pot of tea, five finger sandwiches, some mini desserts and cakes, scones and a full-sized wedge of cake.

To begin with, we selected our tea (Assam) and moved to the cake display to choose our full-sized cake slice. There was a Victoria sponge, a Battenburg cake (which I was forced to reject as it contains marzipan, which my daughter hates) and a chocolate cake. There might have been a fourth choice but at this point my eyes glazed over. We went with the Victoria as it seemed to be the safest bet.

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Clotted cream, preserves and my cup of tea. 

Back at our table, our clotted cream and preserves had arrived as a precursor to the main dishes. Our server poured out the Assam tea using a wee strainer, and then placed a three tier cake tray in front of us.

As a vegetarian, I could eat only one of the five finger sandwiches – mint and cucumber. In retrospect, I should have saved it to leaven the sugar overdose that was to follow. My daughter ate the rest; salmon, beef and egg among others.

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The entire service in all its glory with my daughter caught in mid-chomp.

The two scones were plain and raisin respectively; we tried them with the clotted cream, raspberry preserve and strawberry preserve as was recommended.

By now, the rest of the dessert offerings were beginning to look at me with a menacing eye. I don’t really have a sweet tooth, but my daughter polished off a mini macaroon, a little red velvet thingy, and an itty-bitty chocolate cake. She also ate half of the massive Victoria sponge while I marveled at her dessert-eating abilities. I picked at a little of the cake, ate the apple crumble, demolished most of both the scones and swore not to eat anything sweet ever again in this lifetime. However, I did absolutely love the fruity pannacotta. It was sweet yet tart and just perfect!

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All the mini-desserts, plus more chomping in the background. 

Now that I’m done with my first afternoon tea experience, I believe that the whole experience is better suited for a long and leisurely afternoon with friends, delicately nibbling on sandwiches, popping down a mini-dessert or two (but not more!), drinking copious cups of tea while debating the state of the world (or botox, as the lovely women at the next table were doing). For the two of us, it was a bit of a struggle (in the nicest way) to finish everything laid out before us, but ah well, first-world problems!

 

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These are a few of my favourite things

I wrote a while back about my grandmother’s filigree brooch, which is one of my most treasured pieces. Very few of my other pieces have that pedigree – although I do have some antique gold tucked away in a locker across the seas, and loads and loads of the of-the-moment pieces that Aldo, Claire’s or Accessorise see fit to churn out.

But what of the pieces that have some personal history, carry interesting associations or are linked irrevocably to friends and memories?

I’ve always had a fascination for precious stones – rubies, diamonds and emeralds especially. So the first of my modest collection of what I’ll call interesting jewellery, is this, a small pair of ruby earrings belonging, once again, to my grandmother. It was in the very same glass bottle that I mentioned in the post on the brooch. IMG_9061

I wore these for my wedding, attached to a longer, more traditional pair and I remember asking her what stones they were. She shrugged and said “Good red stones” – by which I understood she thought they were rubies. And so they were, as I confirmed many years later, on one of my rare visits to a jeweller. I love the beautiful deep colour of these stones, and the unmistakably old-fashioned and untrendy setting.

IMG_2508But before we consign my grandmother’s glass bottle to the steel armoire, there’s one more little treasure in there – a black opal. Part of a set of loose stones she got from Australia, this stone was hurriedly set in an old gold ring, to make my wedding trousseau look a little more substantial. The opal itself hasn’t been polished to achieve the iridescence and colour of black opals I’ve seen elsewhere, but I love it all the same. Its liquid beauty and simple oval shape make this a classic as far as I am concerned. Also, I have only her word for it that this is a black opal – it might be a chip of marble for all I know.

IMG_4886I bought myself these emerald earrings after having saved up for them for a long time. I’d joined one of those monthly installment schemes, and shortly after I did my financial situation took a nosedive due to various circumstances. So, when the scheme matured, having struggled all year, it was with a sense of deep satisfaction I went in to buy these. I had a choice between really tiny diamonds or more substantial emeralds and I thought these earrings were just perfect. I don’t wear them as often as I should, but consider them an elegant addition to my closet.

IMG_2457This little scarab pin was gifted to me by my little cousin – not so little actually, considering she’s all grown up enough to go to Germany on an exchange programme, visit the Egyptian museum in Berlin and pick out an interesting piece of jewellery for the constant companion of her childhood.

I wear this quirky little creation on the collar of my shirts to add a touch of interest.

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These oh-so-pretty pink topaz earrings were gifted by a close friend in the early days of our friendship. I’d moved cities not long before that, and begun a new job where I was thrown in with a set of wonderfully intelligent yet intimidating women, whose conversation, laced as it was with wordplay and references regularly went over my head – a feeling I am not generally used to.

By the time I got this on my 36th birthday, however, I had firmly become one of the inner circle. That year is always enshrined in my memory as a priceless one of self-discovery, good food, great wine and the best conversations.

FullSizeRender 12This one is a recent acquisition, bought from Lynda Kirby, a seller who specializes in all things vintage. It was one of my favourite finds at the wonderful Arte Market. Considering my budget, my choices were this pretty lucite leaf and an oval cloisonné brooch in black and gold. Her entire collection is gorgeous. She stocks vintage dresses, hats, rings and more. Lynda sources much of her stuff from England, where she’s from. I’m looking forward to going back and picking up more, when time and my purse permit.

As a bonafide magpie, I have my eye on a ton of other shiny things. More brooches, for instance. Something – anything – with the distinctive interlocking Chanel Cs. A pair of earrings with the pearl drops like this, or this brooch. Some real, creamy pearls or even good looking cultured ones – the list goes on an on.