It was only a matter of time, but someone has gone and done a
Harry Potter-themed magical yet unbranded wizarding world type afternoon tea. And not just any someone – you’ll find it at my number one favourite London bakery, Cutter & Squidge. (I buy a lot of birthday cakes from there and they are freakin’ amazing. They’ve all got five layers and fancy icing dribbles and all sorts of delicious shit piled on top. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.)
This isn’t their first rodeo either. The enterprising owners, realising that most of their clientele are usually just popping in for a coffee and cake, or picking up a custom order, have found a way to capitalise on what would be an otherwise empty basement space: throw highly elaborate, intricately-themed afternoon teas. The last one was Aladdin-themed, and the one before that a much-hyped collaboration with Hello Kitty, which I didn’t try myself but apparently was utterly mobbed.
This time, they’ve managed to, rather ingeniously, recreate all the magic of a certain wizarding world while neatly sidestepping all those annoying copyright laws that can get in the way of a really good wheeze. I am 100% certain it’s going to be a huge hit with people going to see the (bloody fantastic, by the way) Harry Potter And The Cursed Child show just ten minutes’ walk away.
I don’t want to spill all of Cutter & Squidge’s secrets, because half the fun is in the surprise. There’s some interactivity involved that makes the experience more like an afternoon tea version of Alcotraz than any of its more pedestrian counterparts. Everyone sits at benches and faces the front, and a real live witch presides over the proceedings, which involves a certain amount of messing around with beakers and pestle and mortars.
The food was overall good. There’s no wafer-thin cucumber nonsense here; instead, the obligatory sandwiches have more substantial fillings, like ‘roast chicken dinner’ and ploughman’s, and there are flaky, buttery little pies, which I could have eaten dozens off given the opportunity and a complimentary lipo session afterwards. Less impressive was the Yorkshire pudding ‘fit for a feast’, which, at the size of a 2p piece, was almost comically wee.
I was disappointed that C&S’s signature wares didn’t take a greater role in the pudding portion. The two big draws in the cafe upstairs are the dream cakes – the aforementioned fabulous, multi-layered confections with elaborate decorations – and ‘biskies’, a sort of cookie sandwich of their own invention. The miniature butterscotch biskie was one of the highlights of the tea – rich, gooey, small enough that you weren’t sick – but the pint-sized Knickerbocker Glory felt like an afterthought in comparison. I know there’s a link there to the original inspiration (it’s the pudding of choice of a certain wizard’s vile cousin), but it’s a shame they couldn’t use their cake-making tekkers to make an elaborate teeny dream cake instead.
For me, low-level alcoholic, a key component of any afternoon tea is what you’re washing everything down with. Unfortunately, while C&S are very good at baked goods, they’re not so hot on cocktails. We were in attendance as part of a press preview so tried a couple of different ones, and they were uniformly watery and flavourless. I’ve had more of a buzz off Alka Seltzer. Hopefully they’ve ironed out the kinks since then, but if you’re a drinker I’d recommend doing the tea in the afternoon and moving onto a decent bar afterwards. (Within a ten minute walk: The Blind Pig, 68 & Boston and Bar Termini, all excellent.)
Standard tickets (the ones without any alcoholic beverages) are £49.50 – a little steep at first glance, but good value considering the novelty factor and the live action element. Tickets are extremely limited until around August, so you’ll need to look sharp if you want to try it yourself. And if you don’t manage to get a slot…well, go anyway and just have a piece of cake from the cafe upstairs. It’s really just as magical.
The Potion Room @ Cutter & Squidge, 20 Brewer St, Soho, London, W1F 0SJ
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.