If you pick up any Fanny Cradock book, you'll soon find something to be made in the shape of a swan. The partwork is crammed with all kinds of variations, whether it be swans made from choux paste or decorated eggs with pipe cleaner heads. She loved them, almost as if she had a special affinity with the richly regal birds with their plumped up plumage. Fanny and Johnnie claimed to be friends of royalty and as such were forever accepting invites to fabulous social gatherings. You do wonder where they found the time. This week I was cordially invited to attend a right royal grand opening of a new Edinburgh Afternoon Tea venue myself, and on discovering it was the Colonnades at the Signet Library, I just had to make the time!
Fanny would've swanned in all glitz and glamour with extremely full ballgown, probably a few feathers here and there, very blingy jewels and possibly a tiara. For my night out, all the glamour was reserved for the venue. Stunning. The Library has had a swanky make-over to host the most elegant tea salon of days gone by. Fanny would be right at home. I had the impression that everyone would be made to feel extra special and welcomed in. I certainly was. The evening had the best possible start - we were asked to taste a section of bespoke Edinburgh Gin and to vote for our favourite, which would become the signature sip of the Signet. Tough job, but someone had to do it. I won't spoil the surprise. Before I could hoover up all the remaining glasses, we were shown to our cosy table nestled amongst the bookcases with glasses of fizz thrust into our eager hands. What a nightmare. This evening was going to drag on and on... thankfully!
Very soon an astounding selection of savoury and sweet delights were delivered to our table by the phenomenal Laura. She made us feel oh-so-special the whole night. Too young to remember Fanny Cradock, I think she just thought I was a rude writer but she never let her smile slip. I just wanted to sing 'Tell Laura I Love Her' all night. We did. Our mirrored tables glistened with miniature works of art, peppered with endless pots of Wee Tea Company tea. Everything was absolutely breathtaking, the vegetarian selection was particularly perfect. I certainly did not feel I was missing anything from the 'normal' version at it's side. I was especially jubilant to discover they also had a gluten free menu, a grand excuse to return 'rapidement' with my Mum! (Or maybe just by myself)...
What would Fanny have made of it? The setting was spectacularly grand, but amazingly comfortable, fit for royalty, celebrity and common folk alike. The food was unbelievable, with huge attention to flavours and detail. The chefs came bouncing over to speak to us at the table, they were almost as excited to have made everything as we were to eat it. What a treat. The drinks were simply divine. Above all the service was impeccable. If there was any stress, and I doubt it, they kept it hidden, their little legs flapping away unseen under water as they sailed through the library with style and grace. All in all it was a magical night, and I've no doubt it wasn't at all for show for us, this will be de rigeur at the Signet.
Just one thing missing though, no swans. Fanny would've maximised the Signet theme by installing a swan ice sculpture or two, a choux bun swan on the savoury plates and a chocolate swan on the sweet. She even recommends serving her swans on mirrors. It was as if she knew. She provides a template for the chocolate swans in the partwork if the chefs are interested. Just a suggestion. Fanny recommends cutting them out of scraps of plastic curtain from the bathroom, which just doesn't fit the glamour feel, so I used a disposable piping bag. Smear the templates with softened chocolate, I'm using some from Charlotte Flowers which is superb, cool, peel and they are ready to assemble as a Swan with a little coloured buttercream for feathers. My attempt may look a little like Nessie instead, but I'm sure the talented bunch at the Colonnades would succeed. They just need to up their game a little, think à la Fanny instead of à la carte. And swans, we want more swans.
I was invited along to experience the new Afternoon Tea at the Colonnades, which opens on June 4th 2015, by the charming folk at Pagoda PR and was not required to write any kind of review or promotion nor to make swans out of chocolate. All my own doing.