Follow Me Foodie to Afternoon Tea in London!
It was so hard to decide! There were so many choices for Afternoon Tea in London. Should I go classic? Or modern? The classic Afternoon Teas would be at The Ritz Hotel, Brown’s Hotel, or The Goring Hotel, but the modern Afternoon Teas seemed so fun! There was The Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at Sanderson, The Berkeley’s designer afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea, inspired by fashion designers and haute couture, and also The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at One Aldwych Hotel. Decisions! Decisions! But, luckily I didn’t have to make many and I ended up trying one classic and one modern.
Right before Follow Me Foodie to London I wrote an article called “Afternoon Tea vs High Tea“, it was basically explaining the differences between the two. I have a huge pet peeve with people calling Afternoon Tea “High Tea”, which is a common mistake made outside of the United Kingdom. Besides calling it by the wrong name it is also commonly associated with women, which is not necessarily the case in London. It wasn’t rare to see two heterosexual gentlemen having tea in London, and I wish the idea of Afternoon Tea was more gender neutral in North America.
Afternoon Tea in London is an event, but more so with tourists although locals still participate for special occasions or for business. It’s quite pricey so it’s not something people do every day. Most hotels in London will offer an Afternoon Tea service and usually it will be themed. There are several to chose from and it’s one of the few times I wouldn’t look solely at the menu to make my decision. Part of the Afternoon Tea experience is the service, tearoom, and ambiance, so I’d take into consideration all these factors on top of what was being served. That being said, the themes can be convincing and it’s an entertaining way to spend an afternoon.
Follow Me Foodie to Afternoon Tea at The Royal Horseguards Hotel
I had the pleasure of being hosted at The Royal Horseguards Hotel which is a five-star hotel conveniently located near the London Eye. The Victorian style rooms are more traditional and offer views of the River Thames. It caters to a mature crowd and was actually the headquarters of the Secret Service during the First World War. If it’s your first time in London, or your priorities are to see many of London’s landmarks, then the hotel is a great choice since it’s near The London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and Royal Parks.
Restaurant: The Lobby at The Royal Horseguards
Cuisine: Afternoon Tea
Last visited: April 30, 2014
Location: London, England
Address: 2 Whitehall Ct, London
Phone: +44 871 376 9033
Price Range: £15.95 to £45
I didn’t hear much about the Afternoon Tea service at The Royal Horseguards hotel before my stay, but it is one of the more traditional options. For the second year in a row it has been awarded the ‘Award of Excellence’ in the Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea Awards 2013, which is considered the Oscars of the afternoon tea world.
They offered a selection of Afternoon Tea services ranging from £15.95 to £45 (£30+ featuring champagne) and their signature Afternoon Tea is £32. It was nice to have a few options and each month their pastry team creates a specially themed tea inspired by local events and trends. On this occasion the theme was Spring which was a bit more standard, but nonetheless professionally executed and elegant.
I ordered The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight Afternoon Tea (£55) which featured their Signature Afternoon Tea and their sommeliers selection of three selected Laurent-Perrier varieties: Laurent-Perrier Brut, Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, and Laurent-Perrier Demi Sec.
The Signature Afternoon Tea included: a traditional selection of elegant finger sandwiches and savoury bites, handmade cakes and pastries, warm, freshly baked fruit and plain scones, homemade fruit preserves and Cornish clotted cream. It was served with a pot of tea, and I chose their unique blend leaf tea ‘Strawberries & Cream’ which was excellent.
One of the most important elements of an Afternoon Tea is in fact the quality of tea and they do no wrong here. This Strawberries & Cream was a blend of black leaf teas and it had a fragrant yet subtle strawberry and cream flavour further enhanced with the addition of cream.
The crustless finger sandwiches were smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber, hummus and cream cheese, roast beef and dijon mustard, and curry chicken salad. The sandwiches were unlimited which is standard for many Afternoon Tea services in London. The savoury bites were a tuna melt and egg salad in a choux pastry.
The highlight of the Afternoon Tea besides the tea were actually the scones which were crisp on the outside and incredibly tender, soft, moist and cake-like inside without being too sweet. They brought the scones out after the sandwiches to ensure they would be enjoyed warm which is appreciated. I thought about these scones even days later and the two things they had to nail, they did – the tea and scones.
The housemade pastries and sweets included passion fruit and mango tarts with coconut meringue, lemon cupcakes with marshmallows, raspberry meringue lollipops, raspberry macarons, Darjeeling tea infused chocolate creme brûlée trifles, and banana toffee caramel cheesecakes.
I would recommend Afternoon Tea at The Royal Horseguards hotel if you prefer something a bit more classic and traditional. It is the only hotel in the area offering Laurent-Perrier Champagne during Afternoon Tea. The room was quiet and cozy and the service attentive. If you happen to be seeing the sights nearby, it would be a great break for the mid-late afternoon.
The standouts were the tea and scones which can be enjoyed for £15.95 when you order their Monck’s 2nd Regiment: A Traditional Cream Tea service.
Follow Me Foodie to The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych Hotel
The next Afternoon Tea I was invited to was at One Aldwych Hotel, which is a five-star luxury hotel in Covent Garden in the heart of London. It’s a contemporary hotel with a gorgeous high ceiling lobby, fresh flowers, a chlorine-free swimming pool with underwater music and a gym with personal trainers. To be honest, I never saw the gym or the pool as I was pre-occupied at their Lobby Bar and Lounge at One, their fully serviced guest lounge complete with a selection of Rizzoli books.
The “secret” Lounge at One open to guests of the hotel. Books are selected by Paul Smith.
The spacious rooms were very well designed with a modern feel, fresh flowers and stylish decor. It was technology friendly, comfortable and refined, and all the bathrooms featured a mini television, a shower and a bathtub. The hotel attracts sophisticated young and mature professionals and the surrounding area features plenty of mainstream and boutique shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. I would definitely stay here again and it was well suited for my tastes and lifestyle when I travel.
Restaurant: One Aldwych Hotel
Cuisine: Afternoon Tea
Last visited: May 1, 2014
Location: London, UK
Address: 1 Aldwych, London
Phone: +44 20 7300 1000
Price Range: £34.50 per person, £45.00 per person with a cocktail Charlie or a glass of Champagne
I was pretty excited about this specially themed afternoon tea because Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favourite childhood books. One Aldwych Hotel is the official hotel partner of the musical which plays nearby, so they created a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired Afternoon Tea in celebration of it.
It was a playful yet tasteful take on an afternoon tea service appropriate for all ages. I actually didn’t see any children when I was there and the “Cocktail Charlie” (Dalmore whisky mixed with Grand Marnier Cherry, chocolate bitters, grapefruit juice and cherry syrup topped with champagne) was a nice adult-twist. If anything, it was more catered towards adults than kids which is understandable given the nature of the hotel and market it naturally attracts.
The teas are specially selected, fantastic quality and non-traditional with options such as: Jewelled Apple (finest black tea with wild strawberry leaves, caramel and real apple pieces), Smooth Caramel (caramel chunks and a hint of vanilla), Queen of Berries (fruity black tea with ripe raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants), and Organic Lavender Grey (blended with organic lavender from Provence).
The sandwiches and savouries included: roast beef and horseradish on onion bread, cucumber and chive creme fraiche on wholemeal bread, cured smoked salmon and lemon mayonnaise on rye bread, heritage tomato tart, and leek and stilton quiche. All of the savouries are unlimited (standard at most afternoon tea services in London), and I probably asked for at least three leek and stilton quiches.
The sweets included: Golden chocolate eggs filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango puree, chocolate caramel milk, eton mess (very common dessert in the UK), homemade green apple flavoured candy floss, and lemon crackle pops crusted with pop rocks.
The bread basket included: blueberry brioche, cocoa bean financier dusted with gold dust, and warm scones served with plum jam, apple and meadowsweet compote, and Devonshire clotted cream.
It was one of the cutest afternoon teas and it was well thought out, memorable, entertaining, and most importantly delicious. The chocolate caramel milk was fantastic and surprisingly not too sweet, but unfortunately done in two sips.
I also tried their Full English Breakfast which came recommended by locals. It came as a surprise since I didn’t expect locals to be having breakfast at a fancy hotel, but it was a good sign of a worthy breakfast. The only thing missing was the baked beans, but the quality of meats and house made blood pudding was very good. It certainly wasn’t your sloppy truck stop diner version of an English Breakfast (which I can enjoy as well), but this was a very clean and upscale version of a British staple. If you don’t come for the Afternoon Tea then come for the breakfast, or better yet, try both!
And if you have a minute (make the time) do yourself a favour and order an Old Fashioned (£13) at The Lobby Bar. They do an incredible job and it’s a gigantic glass with a hand chiseled softball-sized ice cube. The Lobby Bar is known for stellar martinis and cocktails and I also tried their One D.O.M. (Benedictine, Babicka vodka, fresh lime, honey, kaffir lime leaves and egg white, served in a chilled martini glass £13). Both drinks are worth ordering/re-ordering, substantial in size, and go down way too easily, so consider booking a room before visiting the bar.
While I thoroughly enjoyed both Afternoon Tea experiences, I have a soft spot for live music. If you appreciate piano, I recommend visiting The Ritz where you can listen to the melodies of the lovely Mr. Ian Gomes. He was the private pianist for Frank Sinatra for 10 years and he plays regularly at The Ritz during Afternoon Tea and dinner.