Monday, February 25, 2013
There is no shortage of places to have afternoon tea in London. Every hotel offers one, from fashion-themed to ingredient-driven and everything in between. But there are a few classics that stand out above the rest, and one of them is the afternoon tea at Claridge’s in Mayfair.
Yesterday was my last day in London for almost a month. My travel schedule will see me in destinations as far flung as California, Australia, and Dubai for the next 30 days, so I thought it would be appropriate to wave good-bye to London with a traditional tea.
Claridge’s invited me and a friend to experience their afternoon tea in the luxurious surroundings of The Foyer & Reading Room on the ground floor of the hotel.
The main room was light and filled with live piano music. The next room, where we were seated, was cozy and intimate, with a fireplace on one end and lamps on every table.
We started our afternoon tea at Claridge’s with a glass of Laurent Perrier and a tray of sandwiches. From orange smoked salmon to chicken with walnut butter, we made our way through a first round and couldn’t turn down seconds. Out came cucumber with cream cheese, egg with cress and tomato, and ham with mustard.
Our savory stomachs sated, we moved on to tea and scones. I had a delicate elderflower infusion, while my friend went with an Earl Grey with lavender. The scones were a mix of raisin and apple, and were served with clotted cream and Marco Polo jam. We particularly liked the apple scones, which were something neither of us had tried before.
Soon the scones were nothing more than crumbs on our plates, and we moved on to the final stage of our afternoon tea: the pastries. A tray of sweets arrived with everything from a creme brulee and chocolate ganache cake to a fresh fruit tart and a choux pastry with white chocolate and cream.
As we ate our way through them, we continually commented on how beautiful the dishes were. Everything from the plates to the tea pots was done in white-and-Tiffany-blue stripes, and I wanted to take it all home with me (I did not, in fact, do so).
The only thing we found peculiar about the table was the brown faux fur lining the bottom of the lamp shade. It seemed oddly retro and a bit out of place.
Apart from the table, we both noticed how attentive the service was. Never did we have to lift a hand to pour our own tea, raise our voices to ask for more hot water, or wait for anything to be brought to us in the appropriate amount of time. As Americans, we felt right at home.
And speaking of Americans at home, this one sadly had to put an end to our afternoon tea at Claridge’s to go home and pack for California. But it was the perfect way to say farewell to England before traveling to San Francisco, and I will savor the sweet memories until I land in London again.