Afternoon Tea at the Ritz LondonNovember 22, 2015
For those of us who love the ritual of Afternoon Tea, having tea at the Ritz, London is the pinnacle of all tea experiences.
Whenever my children had a windfall of money, I would teasingly say to them, “Well then, it’s time to take Mummy to the Ritz for tea!” As it turns out, one of those children took it to heart and began her plan.
Secretly, my 16 year old daughter started saving, working extra jobs and planning the extravaganza. She spent months thinking about it, researching and making the arrangements. The booking had to be made, the train tickets bought and the day cleared. The only thing she told me was that we were going out for the whole day for something nice and that I should wear a pretty dress.
The Secret Journey
On the day, as we travelled from the Carmarthen train station, getting ever closer to Paddington, London, she revealed little bits of information about what the day was to entail, never revealing too much. As we were to be in London for the whole day and the tea was not until the late afternoon, plans had been made to entertain us; a walk along the River Thames, past Westminster and Big Ben, a stroll through the Garden Museum next to Lambeth Palace and then over to Piccadilly Circus. Eventually we found ourselves on Piccadilly. We happily browsed through the great Fortnum and Masons store; a large, luxury department store with a history going back to 1707 with its own great tradition of tea. At last it was the late afternoon.
She said there was a little tea shop at the end of Piccadilly which is famous for their lovely afternoon tea. She still had not divulged the exact venue, though of course, I was hoping it was the Ritz. We reached the end of Piccadilly slightly early for our reservation, so she had us walk right past the Ritz, enjoy the park for a few minutes and then turn around and approach the hotel again. The destination was still a surprise.
Greeted by Top Hat and Tails
Down a side street is the main entrance to the hotel. The friendly, yet stately doorman in top hat and tails greeted us cheerfully. He could see that we were there for afternoon tea and directed us into the hotel, informing us where the powder room was and where to find the Palm Court. We still had time to spare, so we decided to visit the powder room.
That was an experience in itself! Lovely furniture to sit and rest upon, glasses of water to refresh ourselves, magazines to read at our leisure. Finally, although this was such a nice powder room, we moved on to find the Palm Court.
She approached the Maitre d’ and announced “We have a reservation for Barker – Miss Barker”. She was very precise.
We were quickly seated in the posh Palm Court. The large room is ornately decorated with gold embellishments and a dusky rose pink, reminiscent of summer evenings. Wall length mirrors reflected many other tables of couples and small groups. Palm trees stood in every corner and from the large entrance hall you could hear music coming from the grand piano.
The table was set with a delicate blue forget-me-not set of dishes that are the hotel’s own pattern. The dainty silver sugar bowl was filled sugar cubes and matching tongs to serve them with. Two little pots in the same forget-me-not pattern held the clotted cream and strawberry jam.
And So the Ritual Began
We first had to make our choice of tea. Knowing that I may never repeat this exceptional opportunity I pondered carefully over which tea to choose. There was the Ritz’s own Royal English, herbal teas, Earl Grey of course and many others. I finally decided on Darjeeling First Flush. She chose Jasmine with Flowers.
The tea arrived quickly in large silver teapots adorned with the Ritz lion on the top of the lid. The waiter poured our first cup and then we were left to serve ourselves.
Soon the three tiered tray arrived with everything you would expect in an afternoon tea: a selection of small crustless sandwiches, scones, and little cakes and petit fours on the top. It looked perfect!
Let’s start with the sandwiches. They each included the usual ingredients: cucumber, ham, egg, smoked salmon. But the difference was that each sandwich had several added flavours; dill, grain mustard, lemon butter and so on and was served on a variety of breads; rye, onion bread, caraway seed bread. Each sandwich was delicious and I will be adding quite a bit to my sandwiches the next time I serve afternoon tea!
The little cakes included decadent chocolate petit fours, French raspberry macarons, mini cheesecakes and more. The assortment was colourful and elegant, but each little pastry and cake was exquisite in taste.
We took our time. We had all afternoon and I intended to enjoy it thoroughly. We slowly feasted on the banquet that was our afternoon tea and sipped tea. We enjoyed cozy conversation and the music floating across the room. Eventually the waiters brought us new pots of fresh tea and we carried on!
Finally we had consumed nearly all the food, enjoyed much tea and our afternoon tea came to an end. As we left the hotel, we asked the kind doorman to take our photo at the entrance. “Well done, Mum,” he said to me. He would never have guessed that the whole experience was all a gift, generously given by the pretty young woman at my side, my darling daughter.