I’m always in my element when I find somebody else who’s as passionate as I can be about the finest geekery around afternoon tea. When I meet people who also can’t think of anything better than drinking a loose leaf tea from the finest china teacups and creating afternoon tea tables to please an entire crowd, I know that I’m in the PERFECT company.
It’s taken me a little while to write this event up as I wanted to do it justice and I’ve been focussing on all things “social media” with the launch of my latest project. So it’s time to reminisce over a cup of Earl grey as I tell you all about one of my highlights of 2013.
Naturally, I’m the proud owner of most afternoon tea themed books and recipe books, including those of the gorgeous Angel Adoree of The Vintage Patisserie in London. This young lady you may recognise from appearing on the BBC business programme “Dragons’ Den”, where she managed to impress not one, but two of the dragons who offered her a favourable deal to help with her business. What I love about Angel is that she declined this offer in the end and went at it a different way, creating a hugely successful brand and business that afternoon tea egos such as myself have looked up to ever since – she’s one heck of an inspiring woman!
Angel has a fascinating past, where she states in her book that it’s her life’s work to make people smile and offer a little escapism by transforming them to a moment in time where life was simpler, yet stood side by side with a little excitement and decadence thrown in for good measure.
Angel, originally named Angela, grew up in East London and smiles at memories of supper time bringing her family together around the table. She would wash the dishes afterwards, earning 25p a day for her services which earned her enough to purchase her first faux-fur jacket at the age of 6.
During her teenage years she found a fascination with local car-boot sales and this is where her vintage fascination started to take shape. If she liked it, she bought it – everything from clothes, jewellery, bags, china and shoes, absolutely anything. She started to consider various business options around buying and selling vintage items and soon became hooked on learning everything she could about business. She was so keen to know more that she studied to be a chartered accountant and found herself working for an accountancy firm by the time she was 21!
Her problem was that she had funky pink hair and piercings, sticking out against most of her colleagues of which soon became an apparent problem – so she left and went alone as a freelancer. From this bold move, she took on accounts for various companies, including a model agency and some fashion labels.
She soon started up an event called “Angel-A Vintage Experience” in her own flat where she pampered her guests, fed them and sent them home with vintage goodies. She ended giving people a shopping experience with the hospitality to match and in 2007 The Vintage Patisserie was born.
The Vintage Patisserie was created as a sanctuary to enjoy a luxurious vintage event, I with delicious food & drink to match any theme or requirement. They’ve catered for corporate events, even a “Mad Men” tea party and a private event for the likes of Paul Smith and has been featured in Grazia, Company, The Independent and Style magazine.
Needless to say, she’s one awesome afternoon tea hostess and the perfect mentor to learn a thing or two from!
Vintage Hospitality Academy:
Queue a chilly Thursday back in November and I finally had myself booked on Angels’ Hospitality Academy, meeting her and my fellow students at an agreed spot on the edge of Spitalfields Antique Market for a cuppa and a chance to get to know each other. It was cold to say the least, but my fellow students were glamourously dressed (some wearing fur coats and heels!) putting my all black outfit to shame and some traveling from overseas to join this monthly workshop.
The mix of emotion was something that made this event so special, as it was the last hospitality workshop planned for the foreseeable future – Angel was heavily pregnant with her second baby and was getting ready for new plans with her family in France for 2014 and beyond. Due to that fact, this day was very special for all involved and I was relieved to have finally booked my spot (after lusting after this workshop for some time!), having not known this until we nattered over coffee.
The Hospitality Academy was created to help everyone elevate their hosting skills, with Angel and her small professional team on hand to share their tricks and wisdom throughout.
We started in Spitalfields Market, having told Angel what we would be looking out for – in my case, cake tongs or silver cutlery – and she pointed us in the right directions, teaching us how to barter and introducing us to traders of whom she had fantastic relationships with from hitting the market herself for years. It was a fantastic experience and a real eye opener in learning what to look out for and when to duck out of a deal, she knows her stuff!
After an hour at the market, we were whisked away to Hackney in cabs to join Angels’ team at The Vintage Patisserie – It still feels like yesterday that I was here! There had been a power cut on arrival, so it was a little dark on heading upstairs to the attic parlour, but it was still homely in this instance. We were met with freshly brewed loose leaf teas and toast with jam to tuck into as we chatted about how to set the afternoon tea table, how to create the perfect event and Angel imparted her hosting wisdom on us, with her own twist on etiquette to boot.
One piece of advice that Angel gave us and that I use to this day when talking to anyone about hosting an event is to put yourself in the shoes of your guest when hosting any size/ style of event. Walk up to the front door and see what your guest will see as they ring the doorbell, where you will put their coat, when they’ll receive a drink, if they can hear the background music, what they should expect from the evening, where they head to if they need something…every little detail to ensure that your event flows faultlessly. It’s the perfect advice and Angel saw us all making reams of notes as she regaled stories of her events, both eventful for the good and bad.
The parlour was filled with props, china and books, clothes and had individual glass-top tables for us to create our very own table decoration to be photographed and judged by Angel, following her simple “pyramid” approach to laying any table. We got to raid the props room and nosey through absolutely everything, included all props used in the Vintage Tea a party books – geekery at its very best!
She advised us that every table setting should be 3D, so that no matter where a guest is sat at the table, they have something to cast their eye on within the centrepiece. Not satisfied with a simple flower arrangement to cast eyes on, Angel taught us to tell a story with our decor, showing off a brass giraffe “eating” from the flowers in the middle of the table for example. She showed us that a centrepiece for a table doesn’t have to be simply one item, it should be fun to look at as soon as your guests are seated.
We had so much fun creating these centrepieces that we ran into lunchtime very quickly, having been shown Angels’ perfect way to set the table, we sat down to a freshly prepared afternoon tea with more tea and fantastic conversation.
We enjoyed finger sandwiches with traditional fillings such as ham & mustard or egg mayonnaise, as well as a honey & rose petals, one of Angels’ trademark sandwiches. After the initial worry of how this might taste, I can confirm that this was one of the BEST sandwich fillings I’ve ever tried, it was beautiful, didn’t overwhelm and I’ll be serving this myself one day soon! Angel had also made her soft home baked scones topped with pink sugar crystals and served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, we were seriously full to the rafters after this feast!
We were served by Angels’ very own “washing up fairy” in the form of her gorgeous partner, Dick Strawbridge. He pootled around the kitchen in his pinny with his iPod plugged in and my other half was seriously jealous of my meeting & chatting with him, as he was a big fan of his when he presented “Robot Wars” many years ago – simple things hehe!
I loved that her friends & family got stuck in and help out, this is very similar to how my own events ran over the years and I know just how thankful I was to have that support. It also makes it feel friendlier and homelier as a result, I loved this.
Towards the end of the day we got crafty and had a basic lesson in taxidermy, learning a few tips on how to dry and use butterflies within this fascinating craft. We were provided with a box frame each, six stunning butterflies and vintage magazines & newspapers to create a work of art to take home as a keepsake – this was a lovely touch, so thank you to Angel for letting us do this!
The buzz of the day had simmered down as we all sat there (tongues out in concentration!) focusing on our mini craft projects, hilarious!
Between all this, Angel also gave us a crash course in cocktails and we sipped on two concoctions as we crafted as well as having out hair done by one of the team, where she created victory curls and up dos for us all as a final farewell. This final touch really made for a fun photo shoot at the end of the day, we had a blast! This was a momentous day for everyone, Angel and her team included – this was a little bit of Vintage Patisserie history, the last Hospitality Academy in Hackney, sob!
Some of us headed back into central London after our final goodbyes and I headed off to “Sketch” to continue with some cocktails, it was a very memorable (and tipsy) day and one that I’ll remember for a very, very long time to come.
Angel has very exciting plans for 2014 and beyond, whilst balancing a new family (she’s a multi-talented gal!) so watch her closely for developments, she certainly won’t disappoint!