Food | Need To Now

Where to enjoy a crafty afternoon tea

Tea, served with a dash of whimsy

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Where to enjoy a crafty afternoon tea

September 17 2010
Dominic Lutyens

The London Design Festival might be synonymous to those in the know with edgy, experimental homeware. But in the genteel environs of the 1901 Restaurant in London’s Andaz hotel, you can enjoy a gentler version of it at a special food-meets-design event to coincide with LDF (as the festival is nicknamed), held this year from September 18 to 26. The pull is a traditional high tea served in a Limoges porcelain tea set hand-thrown and decorated by young British ceramicist Helen Beard.

Beard’s teapots, teacups and serving plates feature her freehand, charmingly whimsical images of people painted with all the limpid delicacy of a watercolour. To date, Fortnum & Mason has commissioned her to create a ceramics range including a honey jar, but she also takes on commissions from private clients.

“For this occasion, I wanted to celebrate London and Londoners and picked two of my most popular themes: Borough Market and the swimmers in the Serpentine,” she says. “Aesthetically, I think my pieces are subtle and so very much in harmony with the ambience of the 1901 Restaurant.” (First picture shows mugs depicting the Monmouth coffee shop in Borough Market.) Her sketchy, slightly naïve style recalls the drawings of the illustrator and children’s book author Quentin Blake, which she doesn’t deny: “I’m an admirer of his playful work.”

Sandwiches and pink macaroons might perch on the serving plates at the 1901 Restaurant, but Beard doesn’t put her lovingly crafted ceramics on a pedestal. Although obviously unique, each piece is designed, ultimately, to be used as functional tableware.

And if this isn’t quite your cup of tea, from September 21 to 25, you can have a stronger drink at a cute, wooden pop-up bar called the L Bar (second picture) by London designers Glass Hill. The brainchild of Gallery Libby Sellers (itself a pop-up gallery that takes on temporary locations throughout the year), the bar will be located right outside the Andaz hotel’s Liverpool Street entrance. Clearly, the Andaz has the design set down as a thirsty bunch.