Art, architecture and cakes come together in an elegant package of updated Victoriana for this Brontë-inspired afternoon tea. The Gilbert Scott restaurant is in one of London’s most spectacular buildings, the High Victorian Gothic masterpiece that is the refurbished St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Afternoon tea was a highlight of the scribbling sisters’ days. This version has been given a contemporary twist with Pontefract liquorice and chocolate cupcakes and Yorkshire parkin (a cake adapted from a recipe used by the Brontë’s housekeeper Tabby). Wensleydale and pickle sandwiches are a nod to the family’s love of the Lake District, and Yorkshire puddings, which would apparently lure keen cook Emily Brontë from her writing desk into the kitchen to help prepare them.
The exhibition ‘Capturing the Brontës’, a cheeky alternative history of the era’s pre-eminent literary family, runs alongside the tea. There are no confirmed photographs of the Brontë sisters, so artist Charlotte Cory has imagined them by superimposing photographs of taxidermied animals on to antiquated calling cards, which were a something of a Victorian craze.
The afternoon tea and exhibition launch on Wednesday January 29, with talks by Charlotte Cory and Ann Sumner, the Brontë Society's Executive Director. They run until February 4 (booking is essential), before the photographs move to Long & Ryle gallery in Pimlico (February 5-28).
Cory’s image of a rabbit in crinolines arriving excitedly at St Pancras is a humorous tribute to the enthusiasm with which Charlotte Brontë embraced the advent of the railways to visit London at the height of her literary fame. ‘London always represented somewhere enticing and alluringly unattainable to the Brontë family,’ says the artist. Fortunately this literary tea is far more accessible, and sounds like a plateful of fun.