What do you do when your husband doesn’t like tea and you’ve a gift voucher for two to Claridge’s afternoon tea (with a glass of champers, too)? You take an old friend, of course!
That’s how Kerry and I had a belated joint 50th in London – very belated. Mine was four years ago and Kerry’s was two, but it felt like we needed a reason for such a special occasion.
Kerry is one of my oldest friends. We met as teenagers, through mutual friends, and while we were never close, over the years I came to find I had more in common with her than the others: we’d both moved away from Newcastle so our lives had changed enormously. We don’t get to see each other, but it always feels comfy when we do.
I want to say “like a pair of old slippers”, but with Kerry, it’s more like a pair of fabulous Manolo Blahniks!
Covid had stopped us seeing each other and celebrating her milestone, so when Mr 50Sense suggested I ask her so he could have a day free (!), it was a no-brainer.
Covent Garden and the Lisa Eldridge Pop-Up Shop
So how do you start an old-pals reunion?
At Covent Garden with a Baileys coffee, naturally. That wasn’t really how we’d wanted to start (it was only 12.30, after all), but it was cold and we’d both travelled a couple of hours and the terrace we went to only did alcoholic drinks so…
It was gorgeous! And with the Christmas shoppers milling round us as we caught up and gossiped, I began to feel like it could be Christmas (is it just me, or are others just not feeling it this year?)
I had an ulterior motive for wanting to go to Covent Garden, though – the Lisa Eldridge Pop-Up Shop.
Lisa Eldridge is one of my favourite make-up artists. I watched her religiously on Ten Years Younger (don’t judge me, I loved it) while her BBC series on the history of make-up ticked all my geek boxes. I always get the feeling make-up is art to her.
What I really wanted to see, though, was her new make-up range. It’s been getting rave reviews in forums over the internet but until now, you could only buy online and I’m never convinced by website shade-matchers. I have three “nude” lipsticks that looked amazing on me in the virtual world only to make me look like Nosferatu in real life.
But the pop-up is more than just a shop. Inside is the biggest collection of vintage make-up on display in Europe and while Kerry was whisked away to be made up, I oohed and ahhed to my heart’s content. It was amazing: ancient powder compacts, lipsticks, shadows, creams… It was fascinating to see how little make-up has changed, really. (Well, apart from the face-destroying ingredients!)
Trying the Lisa Eldridge Seamless Skin Foundation
I was also matched up for Lisa’s Seamless Skin foundation (shade 8) and given a small sample that gave me several days’ worth of use. It’s £44 so not cheap, I admit, but it’s on my Christmas list because I loved it. It is light and glowy, without making you look like an oil slick – think of a soft-focus filter automatically fitted to your face.
The shade was a perfect match, too, and completely different to the one I would have chosen online. It looks yellow on first application and I was so disappointed, but it blends in beautifully to give a lovely peaches and cream look.
The result is incredibly natural – not only in look, but how it feels. And you don’t have to powder it, which makes it perfect for midlife skin.
I like it. Can you tell? (And Mr 50Sense better be telling Santa or else.)
Off to Claridge’s Afternoon Tea
From Covent Garden it was off to Mayfair – via a couple of bars for some more gossip and to keep warm and admire the designer stores all lit up for Christmas.
I’m a sucker for Art Deco so being led into the Foyer & Reading Room was already hitting all the right spots. It has the most incredible glass screens that take you back to the Flapper era – Covid and all the problems of the world melted away the moment I saw the footmen in top hats.
(We were wrongly shown into the Fumoir, which was actually even more atmospheric with its Lalique furnishings. I was lucky enough to be invited to Villa Lalique a few years ago so was thrilled to see them.)
We were taken to a cosy corner with a full view of the room – just perfect for people watching – while next to us stood a grand piano with a choir serenading us with Christmas carols. The actions and joy they put into The Twelve Days of Christmas will stay with me forever.
Being Christmas, we decided to pay an extra £10 to enjoy the Festive Afternoon Tea and studied the range of teas while the Laurent-Perrier was poured.
A good friend, beautiful surroundings and a glass of my favourite fizz: it was heaven.
On the menu
First came a selection of traditional sandwiches – and it was here we made our fateful mistake. Smoked salmon on rye, egg mayo, cucumber with sorrel and pine cream, ham with burnt orange and the festive treat: turkey, cranberry and pork and chestnut stuffing on malt bread. Oh, plus a smoked duck, pistachio, mango and pomegranate oat sablé.
They were all delicious, so much so that when the waiter asked if we’d like any more, we said yes without hestitation.
Once we’d finished these, it was on to Christmas pudding, warm and rich and on fire as it was presented with all the pomp and ceremony it should be. (I love Christmas pud but I’m the only one in my family who really does so it’s a luxury for me.)
This was followed by scones: one fruit, one plain, with clotted cream and jam.
But by then we were starting to feel the effects of those extra sandwiches.
We had one scone each and when they brought over a delightful plate of “eat me now and don’t lose yourself to paradise” pastries, we looked at each other with resignation.
We couldn’t do it!
Much as we would have loved to indulge (milk chocolate and hazelnut bûche de Noël, pineapple and passion fruit Christmas bauble, blueberry Mont-Blanc and an Alpaco dark chocolate religieuse) we couldn’t. So we left Claridge’s with a doggy bag (and a wee Christmas cake in a gorgeous Claridge’s tin).
All that and we couldn’t make the finale. Can you believe it?
But we left happy and making plans for our next get-together. And I swear there was a Christmas star shining…
As for the cakes, Mr 50Sense ploughed into them the next day. The religieuse got top marks. Seems he does like afternoon tea – so long as there’s no actual tea.
(A massive thank you to my father-in-law for the belated 50th present.)
Are you feeling in the Christmas mood? Let me know how you’re getting there in the comments below.
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