The R Chocolate London boutique’s a few minutes’ walk from Sloane Square station, but a cold few minutes. When we arrive at the awning on Ebury Street the shopfront doesn’t just look good, it looks like sanctuary.
There are Big Decisions standing between us and all the cake, though. The connections of co-founder Sir Evelyn de Rothschild mean there’s Champagne Barons de Rothschild Brut being served. But you can choose to swap it for Chocolate in a Bottle – a chocolate-infused sparkling wine – which Jethro, in his commitment to the theme, orders. It arrives looking surprisingly pale, a coupe of Champagne-coloured, cocoa-smelling bubbles, and tasting surprisingly lovely – the depth of chocolate without the sweetness.
I order the Whiter than White tea, which I believe makes this technically a detox experience. And I might have to drink a lot of it, because the rest of the the R Chocolate afternoon tea is a mostly-chocolate, entirely-dessert line up. Not a hint of a cucumber sandwich, which can only be a good thing.
The scones are where we start, though there’s no rigid running order – just this tower of tiny works of art, and covering the rest of the tables plates, pots of tea, pots of cream, pots of jam, raspberry trifle in shot glasses, coupes for Champagne.
Elsewhere on that tower there are little piles of 80% Grand Cru mousse, on hazelnut biscuit with a sea salt caramel centre. Two sorts of scones, plain and with cacao nibs, both sorts still oven-warm. The jams for the scones are blueberry and chocolate, and marmalade with cacao nibs. Not everything has chocolate in it, but where they’ve been able to slide it in by hook or crook, it’s there – the lemon drizzle cake’s a small, dense and perfect mix of brightness and sweetness, decorated with thin whirls of chocolate. A small, square cross-section of cherry Battenberg’s topped with a chocolate leaf. The clotted cream’s chocolate-less, but as we’re layering it under chocolate-infused jams, and onto cacao-studded scones, I don’t know if that counts.
That’s not all. It’s not remotely all. Kieran Mitchell, Ops Manager for R Chocolate, tells us many of the people who come here for the afternoon tea end up leaving with a box of desserts for later, unable to finish it all in one attempt. There’s a strawberry and Champagne mousse on a pistachio biscuit. A mini chocolate loaf. A shot glass of raspberry trifle – the sort of slim stack of raspberry coulis, sponge, unsugary custard and Chantilly creme that could coax even a custard-denier like me pretty deep into custard territory. A tiny slice of Victoria sponge.
Everything about this afternoon tea is carefully-judged and delicate and beautiful to look at. Everything apart from what we do to it. The fact that I’m loving this – and that the only soundbite Jethro has to offer are nonverbal noises – doesn’t change the fact we demolish this tea like it’s an enemy fortress.
When there are only crumbs and sticky traces of Grand Cru mousse left we head – slowly, very slowly – to the cinema and the welcoming embrace of Rogue One. You extremely don’t want to make energetic plans for after the R Chocolate London tea – it’s the afternoon, true, and the day stretches ahead of you. But watching other people’s heroics in outer space – from a deep chair in a darkened room – is the only thing you’ll be prepared to do after being swathed with this much richness.
The chocolate afternoon tea at R Chocolate is £35 a person, including cakes, scones, clotted cream and jams, and tea of your choice. With a glass of Champagne or Chocolate Champagne the afternoon tea is £45 per person.
R Chocolate, 198, Ebury Street, SW1W 8UN. 0207 7305522. For more information, visit www.rchocolatelondon.co.uk.