“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”: Henry James
The cake stand in all it’s glory
With copious amounts of pomp and ceremony, afternoon tea at The Lanesborough is an event to be savoured. While Henry James’ suggests one hour is sufficient, yesterday I managed a leisurely two hour afternoon tea session with Mathilde’s Cuisine, Greedy Diva and Food for Think. We nibbled and nattered to our hearts content at The Lanesborough, one of those swanky Knightsbridge hotels that no-one you know could ever afford to stay at. What you can do though, is soak up a bit of the ritzy atmosphere by indulging in afternoon tea. The afternoon tea is held in the main dining room which looks a little like I imagine Buckingham palace does. The room is an opulent large atrium filled with white linen clad tables and plush sofas while in the background a pianist tinkles away.
Goats cheese and red onion quiches
Afternoon tea at The Lanesborough costs £35 and includes a two hour session of basically as much as you can eat and as much tea as you can drink. In the interests of being able to sample the whole afternoon tea menu (and let’s face it, get our moneys worth) we had all skipped lunch and so were absolutely starving by the time we arrived at the hotel. Luckily we were presented immediately with a fabulous pre-afternoon tea amuse bouche of a shot glass containing a creamy cheese cake topped with berries.
The sandwich tier
The Lanesborough takes the tea part of afternoon tea seriously. It has it’s own tea sommelier, Karl Kessab, and was awarded the UK Tea Council’s ‘Award of Excellence’ last year and ‘London’s best afternoon tea’ the year before. I couldn’t spot the sommelier on our visit but our waiter was very knowledgeable about the tea menu and I ended up choosing the silver tip tea which is a white tea made from the first spring buds. It had a really light and refreshing taste and I could have sat and drank it all day. The service generally was both cosseting and indulgent. As you would expect from a five star hotel the tea was served in gleaming sterling silver tea pots and there were no less than three choices of sugar to add to the tea. That’s the kind of place The Lanesborough is.
Scone filled with jam and cream
Aside from the tea, the main event was of course the heavily laden cake stand arriving. Firstly, goats cheese and red onion quiches which were superb little mouthfuls. Then the sandwich tier which included the obligatory cucumber sandwiches, sandwiches filled with chicken and sun dried tomato paste and egg filled brioche rolls. While the sandwich fillings were varied and satisfying some of the bread on the sandwiches could have been fresher. However, I had no such complaints about the scones which were fluffy and fresh and served with some of the best strawberry jam I have ever tasted (along with clotted cream and lemon curd). Best of all the scones just kept on coming and we managed to demolish almost two servings. The next tier was filled with friands: a death by chocolate style chocolate friand, a dense carrot cake and nut friand and a friand with a tart lemon flavour. Finally, at the top of the stand teetered delicate confectionery creations including a truly exquisite meringue and gingernut confection and a slice made with a cream cheese filling and fruity topping.
The friand tier
Two hours and several tiers of cake and scones later we had enjoyed a truly decadent afternoon. Just around the corner from Buckingham palace, the Lanesborough is a great place to savour a quintessentially British experience. We left the hotel feeling like we were pampered princesses. In any event, we were princesses who would not need to eat anything for dinner.
The sweet tier
Details: Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge SW1X 7TA (Ph 020 7259 5599) Tube: Hyde Park Corner. Afternoon tea is served daily at 4, 4.30 and 5 – plump for the 4pm sitting so that you can linger longer.
Damage: Budget breaking
If you are looking for afternoon tea in London, Sketch also does a great afternoon tea in surroundings that are more quirky than ritzy, for a cheaper option try Betty Blythe in Brooks Green.