Afternoon tea is one of the greatest joys in London. The feeling of taking a few hours, in the middle of the day, to relax with a traditional tea service just feels special. I think it is the whole spectacle of the matter. The three tiered platter, the proper pot of tea, the indulgence of dessert at 3pm. Unfortunately, as someone with celiac disease, the thought of staring as my partner eats warm scones slathered in clotted cream as I am stuck with some clunky gluten free options takes some of the thrill out of the experience. Luckily, there are options.
Warm, buttery scones? Check. Rich, chocolate bites? Check. Fabulous finger sandwiches? Check. The gluten free afternoon tea at The Modern Pantry offers everything you want and a little more.
We love The Modern Pantry. It has a relaxed atmosphere that feels more akin to your living room than a restaurant. The space is bright and airy and not too cluttered. There are whimsical design features, like rows of Modern Pantry aprons and mismatched vintage tea cups and saucers.
The service is usually impeccable, though for our last visit there was major confusion over our booking, as I had to write down my full name on a piece of paper for the hostess who had trouble understanding me when I spelled it out once we arrived. There was confusion again once the food arrived, as they seemed unsure what was gluten free and what was not (Julie got the regular menu).
Thankfully, the manager came over, settling the situation. He acknowledged that the bottom tier of the stand was entirely gluten free, and then preceded to describe each item from both of our menus. The food was almost identical, except for a few minor alterations. As a career-long restaurant manager, I can tell you that is precisely why good restaurants have managers on the floor.
What sets The Modern Pantry apart from other establishments is the funky offerings on their menu. While most places serve the classics like raisin scones and cucumber sandwiches, The Modern Panty does their afternoon tea with a twist, offering unique flavor combinations not found anywhere else.
Our menu featured both savory and sweet scones, in a thankfully miniature size. The scones, though gluten free, tasted rich and buttery like they should. The savory option was a sun-dried tomato, parmesan and mustard seed scone with goats curd, a clever savory play on the traditional clotted cream filling. The sweet scone was sour cherry and rosewater flavored, with a licorice and berry jam and the classic clotted cream. Perfect.
The star of the show was the finger sandwich, usually the most dull aspect of an afternoon tea. I could have eat ten of the roast chicken, gooseberry and nigella seed sandwich, the tart gooseberry relish adding a pop of flavor that lingered. The truffled pea puree with courgette and mint was certainly no slouch either.
I think Julie preferred the elderflower custard, as she resorted to a knife to get every bit of custard out of my glass jar. Sharing is caring.
Sampling the gluten free afternoon tea at The Modern Pantry was a relief. A realization that a gluten free tea exists that is not only delicious but interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I like the classic stuff too, but I like a little flair and drama in my afternoon tea, something a little different. It is good value for money too, ringing in at £22.50 that kept us full through the dinner hour.
If you like funky, if you like different, head to Clerkenwell for tea at The Modern Pantry. You won’t be disappointed.
For the video of our time at The Modern Pantry, check out our YouTube channel. Enjoy!