(Published in the Cayman Compass Weekender, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015)
“The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: ‘No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw Alice coming. ‘There’s plenty of room!’ said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.” Excerpt, Chapter 7, Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
It’s the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s famed children’s book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” creating a flurry of renewed interest in the enchanting fictional world of heroine Alice and the characters she encounters during her travels.
The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort’s restaurant Anchor & Den has launched a whimsical “Alice in Wonderland”-inspired tea party, offering guests the opportunity to elegantly tumble down the rabbit hole into Alice’s enchanted world.
Tea parties have seen a huge resurgence of interest in recent years, so it was no surprise to learn that Anchor & Den’s inaugural “Mad Tea Party” was a sold-out success.
“Alice in Wonderland” is an ideal theme around which to base a tea party. Food and drink feature prominently throughout the beloved novel, from the “Eat Me” cake Alice discovers in a little glass box, to the jar of marmalade she snatches as she tumbles down the rabbit hole. However, the food really comes into its own in Chapter 7, “The Hatter’s Tea Party,” which is the key inspiration for Anchor & Den’s afternoon tea offering.
“Lewis Carroll’s timeless story of a little girl following a white rabbit into a strange land remains a part of popular culture, and many of its themes and life lessons resonated with us,” said Laura Skec, director of sales and marketing. “Knowing that many of our guests adore the story as much as we do, we wanted to share the beauty and eccentricity of the ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.’”
Skec added the tea party took “months of research, development, and experimentation” to bring it to fruition.
“We have a culinary committee at our hotel that led this special project, consisting of different departments from the food and beverage department to the marketing team. Every detail was taken into consideration.”
The tea experience
My guest and I started our enchanted journey into Alice’s world with a miniature potion, a delicious limoncello and raspberry liqueur, served in a tiny apothecary jar with a label saying “Drink Me.” Unfortunately, unlike Alice, it didn’t make us shrink in size – magically losing a few pounds would have been rather fantastic. Neither did it give us a “curious feeling” as Alice reported. It was, however, the perfect palate cleanser and a fun way to start our teatime adventure.
Our table was beautifully decorated with an assortment of delicate china sourced from the popular American store, Anthroplogie, adding instant charm to the literary-inspired event. The food menu is set, so all guests need to do is select their beverage of choice.
Anchor & Den has partnered with local tea company Tea Time in Cayman, offering guests a selection of some of their most popular specialty tea blends, including Royal Affair (classic English breakfast), Beloved Isles Cayman (Green tea, rose petals, marigold petals, passion fruit, mango, and grapefruit flavor), and Skinny Lemongrass (Oolong tea with organic lemongrass and pure essential oil of bergamot). The menu also includes a selection of “Potions,” including the Islay Swizzle (Botanist gin, cinnamon syrup and strawberries) and “Marmalade” (Chambord, Aperol, fig marmalade, Prosecco Lunetta).
Once our tea arrived, it was time for the main affair: a classic three-tier cake stand filled with an assortment of edible delights, including delicate savory finger sandwiches (egg mayonnaise, and smoked salmon and cream cheese), miniature pastries and tiny cakes. The selection changes weekly, ensuring there is always something new for returning guests.
In addition to the cake stand, there is also a cake table filled with a selection of freshly baked cakes. You can have as much cake as you like – although I only managed one sliver of a delicious chocolate cake mousse, having already gobbled up most of the delights on the cake stand.
My favorite part of the tea were the scones, served freshly baked and still warm, complete with homemade strawberry jam and, most importantly, real clotted cream from Cornwall, England – a thick ultra-yummy cream that is a must.
The tea is held against a background of music by local band Trio Vivo, their effortless soft beats adding to the charming and relaxed atmosphere.
And, what would a literary-inspired tea be without a novel or two? Indeed, the tea party includes a selection of books from the Cayman Islands Humane Society Book Loft for guests to browse and take home if they wish.
Enchanted once again by Carroll’s delightfully whimsical world of “Alice in Wonderland,” I could have sworn I spotted the March Hare enjoying his never-ending tea with Hatter as my guest and I got up to leave. Or, perhaps it was just one too many sweet treats playing havoc with my mind.
The tea party is held every Saturday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. Cost is $40 per person or $45 with a glass of De Chanceny Cremant de Loire Champagne. A 16 percent service charge is added to the final bill. Chic fascinators and stylish hats are encouraged. Reservations are required.