Zaha Hadid and I spent many weekends in each other’s company in the later 2000s. Or to be exact, I spent many evenings perched at the Zaha Hadid-designed bar in the private members’ club, Home House. In those days, House Bar became an extension to my Marylebone apartment. Goodness knows how many hours I spent in there with Zaha and her bronze, metallic curves. So, I was really looking forward to meeting up with her again, this time at The Magazine restaurant in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. No negronis on the menu here, mind, but some exceedingly good cake instead. It was time for my arty date with Afternoon Tea at the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens.
Please note: the Afternoon Tea at the Serpentine is now offered by a different operator.
The Serpentine Gallery
Many of you will be familiar with the Serpentine Gallery. A former tea pavilion built in 1933, it opened as a gallery in 1970. It has since been an artistic catwalk for the great and godly including Andy Warhol, Man Ray, Anish Kapoor, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damian Hirst and Jeff Koons. Many of you braced the snaking queues to catch Grayson Perry’s colourful The Most Popular Art Exhibition this summer. I’m afraid if you didn’t, he has now left the house, but there’s plenty more to see this Autumn.
The Serpentine Gallery is home to one of London’s biggest annual summer parties, the Serpentine Gallery Summer Party. Who can ever forget Princess Diana, that black dress, and how she upstaged Prince Charles at the 1994 bash?
Every summer, a temporary pavilion is erected in the grounds to much fanfare. The pavilion is completed within six months and then open for three months to the public. Zaha Hadid designed the first pavilion in 2000 and another one in 2007. This year, it was Francis Kéré’s turn, and you can catch his summer pavilion until November 19th.
The Serpentine Sackler
Across the Serpentine Bridge is the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, opened in 2013. The space includes The Magazine restaurant, originally a gunpowder store built in 1805 and given a spectacular facelift by Zaha Hadid Architects. The restaurant reminds me of the CNIT in La Défense, Paris. It’s a snow-white, glistening, light-filled space with an outdoor-indoor design, retro space age qualities and with Zaha’s signature curves.
It’s also home to London’s coolest Afternoon Tea: understated, avantgarde, and with a dash of the eccentric.
Afternoon Tea at The Magazine
The Magazine restaurant is a snow-white indoor-outdoor pavilion with Zaha Hadid’s signature curves. There’s a terrace at the front, so London weather permitting, you could have tea in the leafy park. Inside, there’s a space age retro feel with lots of natural light. There’s a fun, arty crowd in Magazine: the restaurant décor may be muted, but the clientele is very colourful indeed!
I started with a zesty Lime and Ginger Beer and ordered some Jasmine tea. My daughter Eloise had a flowery Marmalade Mule cocktail and English Breakfast tea. For £16 you can add a glass of Perrier-Jouet champagne.
Sandwiches include hot smoked salmon and dill, beetroot hummus (a discovery!) and a tangy goats curd with dried fig and mint.
The sweet course includes a white chocolate bombom with passionfruit and coconut and my favourites, financier with vanilla and orange. The Magazine makes its own buttermilk scones with vanilla clotted cream.
This has to be the coolest Afternoon Tea in London, and at £25, I think it’s a steal! I reckon Andy Warhol would like this, don’t you? The tea is a work of art in itself.
About The Magazine
West Carriage Drive, London W2 2AR. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-6pm
Afternoon Tea is available from 3.30pm-5pm Wednesday to Sunday.
£25 – Afternoon Tea including a cocktail. £7.50 – Cream Tea.
About the Serpentine Galleries
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery West Carriage Drive, London W2 2AR. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Exhibitions are Free. Current exhibition Torbjørn Rødland: The Touch that Made You (to 19 Nov 2017).
The Serpentine Gallery Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Exhibitions are Free. Current exhibitions include the Serpentine Pavlion designed by Francis Kéré (to 19 Nov 2017) and Wade Guyton: Das New Yorker Atelier, Abridged (to 4 Feb 2018).